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Informal General Affairs and External Relations Council 2-3/5/03: Contribution on the issue of EU-USA Relations by Professor Stanley Hoffmann

On EU/US Relations

by Stanley Hoffmann

The present crisis in EU/US relations cannot be ended by EU measures aimed at "appeasing" the Bush Administration. This crisis results from a major shift in American foreign policy and strategy. The postwar policy of leadership (or primacy, after the fall of the Soviet Union) through multilateral cooperation has been replaced by a quasi-imperial policy,justified by the notion that the U.S. is at war since 9-11-2001, that deterrence must be replaced by preventive action, that the constraints exerted by alliances, international organizations and international law areno longer acceptable, and that the concept of terrorism must be extended tous azimuts--to states that support terrorism and to states that want to obtain or build weapons of mass destruction A potent symbol of this momentous shift is the predominance of the Department of Defense over the State Department.

In the crisis over Iraq, the US has "succeeded" in provoking a division of NATO and of the EU, and in devaluing the UN, deemed insufficiently supportive. In the case of the EU, Washington was unfortunately helped by Tony Blair, eager to isolate France and Germany.

The lessons seem to me extremely clear. If the EU wants to be taken seriously by the Bush Administration, there is only one way: the reinforcement of the EU as an organization capable of playing an important
role in world affairs (and thereby capable of serving, in fact, as a counterweight to a US whose understanding of other countries' outlooks and concerns remains often cloudy or limited). This means

A. that Britain, whose participation in the "coalition" has not brought to Tony Blair all the benefits he had expected (and certainly not a genuinely "central" role for the UN in postwar Iraq), must now emphasize
again the role of the EU instead of undermining it, and be able to present itself in friendly Washington as a powerful advocate of the EU.

B. that France must draw the consequences of the fact that its opposition to the US has put it in a very delicate situation vs. Washington and that the ideas that it has tried to promote (including that of preventing a confrontation between the Muslim and the Western "civilizations") have a chance of being heard only if France also gives priority to the reinforcement of the EU, in cooperation especially with London and Berlin. 

C. that the EU, in order to be taken seriously in Washington, must give priority to:

         (1) the streamlining and strengthening of its institutions, which  have, alas, often proved their insufficient efficiency: i.e., a quick conclusion of the Convention, and a project of institutional reform whose  two main features would be the priority of effectiveness over perfect representativity, and a greater association of delegations of the national parliaments with those of the European Parliament, so as to close the all too frequent gap between national politics and the EU.

         (2) a major effort to develop:

a. the common security policy that was promised by St. Malo, but derailed by the combination of German budgetary policy, often shrill US opposition, and the crisis over Iraq.  Only serious progress here could
persuade the pragmatists who still exist in Washington that the EU could actually be useful in Iraq as it is beginning to be in Afghanistan or in the Balkans.

b. common foreign polich positions on key issues in world politics, such as the Palestinian problem, relations with Muslim countries many of which may feel threatened by the US war on terrorism, North Korea
(which is not just, as the Americans say, a regional issue, but a global one), the development of weapons of mass destruction--a central problem of world politics for the near future, and finally the issue of "regime
change" when a regime violates human rights on a massive scale at home. (This is an issue that should not be handled by unilateral intervention, for obvious reasons, and is not likely to be handled by the UN Security
Council  as we saw in the case of Kosovo.)

One of the links between institutional reform and the urgent development of a common foreign and security policy is the importance for the EU of having a strong and experienced Minister of Foreign and Security Affairs. Mr. Solana, who was secretary general of NATO before becoming the key figure of the EU in these areas, would be the ideal person. Given the Bush Administration's lesser emphasis on NATO than any previous Administration, I believe that those new members of the EU that appeared during the Iraq war, to be "Atlanticists" first, and "Europeans" only for economic and social questions, will, if treated with genuine respect by the other members of the EU, rapidly become convinced that the EU is not only an enhanced free trade area.



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