Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Diminished - 30th April 2003, 23.50

Sixty years ago the conflicts of the European powers reverberated across the globe, their empires dominated most of the Third World, and they sank to a depth of savagery and moral despair rarely seen since except under communism. Now, their long reaction to these dark times has culminated in a neutered military forces and a moral relativism that seems unable to distinguish tyranny from freedom. However, they have finally realised their weakness when they measure themselves against the power that they identify as their rival: the United States. They are choking on their impotence. That is why Germany, France, Belgium and Luxemburg took the first steps towards a military union in order to create a counterweight to the hyperpower.

Spurred on by Europe's glaring divisions over Iraq, the mini-summit's host -- Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt -- wants the 15-member bloc to set up a permanent force of "tens of thousands" of troops capable of intervening at short notice anywhere in the world. He also backs setting up an EU central command outside Brussels, creating a centralized European arms procurement agency and signing a "one for all and all for one" security pact among Union states modeled on the infamous Article IV of NATO's founding treaty. Verhofstadt insists the mini-summit is not directed against the NATO military alliance or Washington, but like French President Jacques Chirac, he is in favor of Europe acting as a military counterweight to the U.S. "hyperpower."
"The Iraq crisis has perhaps played the role of a catalyst, in the sense that it has once again shown that, if Europe is not coherent in defense and foreign policy matters, it will not play a large role," he told Belgium's Le Soir newspaper.

At the moment, their attempts appear to be as realistic as their rhetoric about increasing the competitiveness of their economies. Without the reforms, this will just prove to be a step down the road towards a 'two speed Europe' and result in armed forces that prove as inflexible as all other aspects of the European project, an ossified baroque regiment.

As we all know, sometimes European leaders speak the truth...

Verhofstadt -- who is in the midst of an election campaign in fiercely antiwar Belgium -- defended his proposal in a series of weekend interviews. "If we had said 'we can't make the monetary union without Britain,' Belgian citizens would have continued to use the Belgian francs today," he said.

..but it's the opposite of what they mean. More's the pity.


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