EUROPEAN STUDIES CENTRE
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From the Director
Timothy Garton Ash
Europe and the US: Five Frank Thoughts and one Proposal for the Foreign Ministers of Europe.
1. There is no ‘clash of civilisations’ between Europe and America. We belong to the same historical civilisation, and share most of the same values. There are important areas where our models of democratic capitalism differ (e.g. the role of the welfare state), but these are differences within the family. European identity should be defined positively, by what it is for, not negatively, against the United States. As we have seen over the last six months, any attempt to unite Europe against the US is destined to divide Europe not unite it.
2. Americans are not from Mars and Europeans are not from Venus, pace Robert Kagan. The Kantian, internationalist, law-based approach to foreign policy that Kagan identifies with Europe has been repeatedly advocated and embraced by the US since 1945. For Europeans to accept American neo-conservatives’ identification of their own views with those of ‘America’ is to fall into a trap. In calling for a return to multilateralism based on international law we are not calling for a conversion to Europeanism but for a return to the United States’ own best traditions.
3. A strong, united Europe is in the United States’ own interest. The US itself understood this throughout the Cold War. Now it is much less sure. There is a tendency inside the Bush administration to believe that American interests are better served by a la carte alliances with individual European powers (eg. Britain, Spain, Italy, Poland) rather than with EU-rope as such. Divide et impera. This is bad for everyone concerned. It must be resisted.
4. The only way to resist it is for Europe to pull together again. The key to this lies in a compromise between the British and French positions. Britain and France currently represent two fundamentally different strategic views of the right European approach to transatlantic relations: the neo-Atlanticist and the neo-Gaullist. Each stymies the other. No good purpose is served by not acknowledging this deep difference. If the foreign ministers of Europe could have a frank discussion about this, it would be a useful start to seeking what will inevitably be a compromise that satisfies neither the Cartesian nor the Lockean spirit.
5. Where the old, threatening Soviet ‘East’ united the West, the Middle East divides it. This is the most urgent current policy issue between the US and Europe, and the one where there is most difference across the Atlantic. Our response to American proposals for a democratisation of the wider Middle East, starting from Iraq, should not be a mere ‘no’ or ‘what about Israel-Palestine?’
We know that a peace settlement producing a viable Palestinian state and a more secure state of Israel is a sine qua non for progress in the wider Middle East. But this well-established European position should be embedded in a readiness to talk about a whole range of issues in relation to the whole Arab and Islamic world, whose stabilisation, modernisation and eventual democratisation is even more directly in Europe’s interest than it is in that of the US. These issues include immigration, trade, anti-terrorism, aid, cultural diplomacy and the EU’s ever closer relationship with Turkey, as well as policy towards the Maghreb, Iran and, of course, post-conflict Iraq. If one looks at this whole range of policy instruments and relationships, the European role is different from, but not less important than, that of the US.
My proposal is that Europe (acting at 15, but with substantial input from the accession countries and accepted candidate states) should attempt to work out a number of common elements of a broad ‘détente’ approach of constructive engagement in the wider Middle East, as a coherent response to the often one-dimensional American plans. (European involvement in the reconstruction of Iraq would also be placed in this context.) This European position should be worked out privately, rather than being hastily expressed in a public EU declaration which would inevitably have a fudged, ‘lowest common denominator’ quality. It should form the basis of discussions between European leaders and President Bush during his visit to Europe at the end of May/beginning of June. It should then be discussed at the Thessaloniki European Council in June. Thereafter, it should be presented publicly in a form that emphasises transatlantic cooperation in this larger endeavour.