Monday, April 14, 2003
Iraq: A spur to European integration - 14th April 2003, 22.32

Daniel Hannan, writing in the Daily Telegraph, takes the temperature in Brussels and assesses what the effect of the war on Iraq on the attitudes of politicians and civil servants in the European institutions. First of all, he summarises the excitable consensus that viewed the diplomatic revolution in February as a revolution of sorts.

A false and dangerous idea is taking hold in Britain, especially among Euro-sceptics. It goes something like this. The Iraq war has wrecked plans for closer European integration. It has set Old Europeans against New ones, driven Britain back on the Anglo-Saxon world, reminded everyone of how much they rely on the Americans, and made the idea of a European Army seem laughable.

What lessons do the European elites actually take from the 'war on Iraq'? The answer is not good.

The trouble is that Euro-fanatics are prone to the same impulse. For them, the war is the strongest demonstration to date of why Brussels needs a unified foreign policy. Never again, they say, should the EU be enfeebled by internal divisions. Never again should Europeans be forced to watch in frustration as the Americans give some tinpot dictator a good kicking. Never again should London be allowed to behave in so non-communautaire a fashion.

Almost everyone I have spoken to in Brussels says the same thing: we need majority voting in foreign affairs, a unified diplomatic service, a harmonised defence policy. Even the most pro-American MEPs, those who loudly backed the war, feel that Europe ought to have been in a position to act on its own.

My point is not that either interpretation is right or wrong. Rather, it is that the Euro-zealots, unlike the sceptics, are in a position to act on their concerns. A poll last week of the staff who work in European institutions showed that, by two to one, they wanted the British and French places on the United Nations Security Council to be replaced by a single EU seat.

Last week, the European Parliament voted to establish a joint procurement agency, that will degrade their defence capacities even further. They also wish to control the European Space Agency and set up a mutual defence clause in the Constitution.

The war on Iraq has reinforced the determination of Europeans to create a 'counterweight' to the United States'.


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