Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, November 05, 2002


The internationalist crowd, especially in EU legal circles, have been very quick to argue that America is "unilateralist" - even when the United States simply declines to submit to a treaty by which it was never bound or withdraws from a treaty which provides for withdrawal. For example, The Kyoto Protocol was overwhelmingly rejected by almost the entire United States Senate and never bound the United States. Similarly, while the Clinton Administration signed the "Rome Statute" for the International Criminal Court, the United States Senate - and therefore, the United States - never approved the treaty, and the Bush Administration withdrew Executive approval. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was also decisively rejected by the Senate. The Biological Weapons Convention is another bad treaty the United States has properly resisted extending. And, of course, the United States exercised its rights as specified in the Anti Ballistic Missile treaty with Russia to terminate that treaty in full accordance with its terms. All of these acts have been savaged as examples of American "unilateralism," even though the United States acted as of right in each case.

The recent German election gave a pungent wiff of European unilateralism.

But the German fuss was surely just the petite chose a commencer compared to a new ruling of the European Court of Justice that holds that eight EU states acted illegally when they signed bilateral air deals with the United States offering advantages to their national flag carriers. That EU high court held in an unappealable decision that the bilateral ``open skies'' accords with Washington violated EU law since they infringed on the power of the EU head office to regulate and negotiate air transport accords with non-EU nations. The ruling overturns valid and binding "open sky treaties" the United States has entered into with Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Britain and Germany. The court is "still considering" similar cases against Italy, France and the Netherlands and Portugal.

"The agreements ... are now null and void," EU Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio told a news conference.

Eight fully negotiated, ratified, binding treaties in a blow! Talk about unilateralism!

This EU court case is another example of an increasingly common European shell game: when it suits their purposes, the Europeans insist that they all be treated as separate entities, but increasingly it is the emerging unified EU dirigiste interests that really count. Like an old Monopoly game played at a family Christmas, this European shell game is often unpacked for purposes of assessing "international opinion." For example, when the issue of the death penalty arises, the Europeans discuss the matter in terms of every European country (many) abolishing the death penalty where the United States (one) has not - even though the basic EU treaties require that member states abolish the death penalty where the United States Constitution leaves that decision to the 50 States. Often the EU-wide coordination is imperfect and informal - as with the European "position" on Iraq, but certainly real enough to strip the European countries of any reasonable argument that their decisions are independent. By way of example, the world should not count the decisions of France and Germany to oppose an American Iraq invasion as "separate" if those decisions depend on coordinated Franco-German commercial dealings with Iraq - if that is indeed going on as rumored.

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