Man Without Qualities

Friday, February 07, 2003

Wither The EU?

A number of commentators have raised the possibility that the current Iraq mess may result in the end of the United Nations - at least in the form it now exists. But the respected German newspaper F.A.Z. suggests that the EU itself may self destruct - or at least destroy its current form:

With their rejection of a U.S. attack against Iraq without a further UN resolution, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and, to a lesser extent, his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, have forced European Union countries to pledge allegiance, either to Washington or to Brussels. ... Countries such as Great Britain ... have long kept the EU at arm's length, while embracing the United States both as an economic, political and military ally. ... The conservative Spanish prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, has also worked hard at fostering his special relationship with U.S. President George Bush. No wonder, then, that these two countries spearheaded the open revolt against Germany and France, convincing three other EU countries and three eastern European EU candidates to sign a declaration underscoring their full support of the U.S. Iraq course. The implications of this declaration, hammered out behind closed doors without the knowledge of Germany, France or Greece, currently holding the EU's rotating presidency, had even hardened Brussels diplomats gasping for air.

The declaration came three days after all 15 EU member states had agreed to recommend prolonging and intensifying arms inspections in Iraq, a joint stance that was supposed to express a unified EU foreign policy. More ominously, the declaration was made public just two days before the newly ratified Treaty of Nice came into effect. The vision of a common foreign policy was a key provision of the Nice Treaty. It bars any EU country from actions that contradict a common EU position on foreign affairs.

In public, Berlin has played down this act of revolt. In the halls of Brussels, its diplomats have been thinking aloud about the possible consequences. Why, they ask, should Germany remain the main financier of Europe, lend an ear to the monetary demands of EU hopefuls Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, all of whom co-signed the letter initiated by Spain's Aznar. Going further, the SPD EU representative, Ulrich Stockmann said: “These countries have to decide which starred banners they want to stitch their stars onto.“

It didn't take eastern Europeans long to decide. Just hours after U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell held his long-awaited speech before the UN Security Council on Wednesday, 10 small eastern European countries slated for EU membership published a fresh declaration supporting the U.S. and its plans to attack Iraq. ...

Isolated internationally and in the EU, Schröder is counting on French support to uphold his position in the UN Security Council ... [But] it is doubtful whether Chirac will risk further burdening France's relationship with the United States.

Ulrich Stockmann has an interesting ability to make Donal Rumsfeld seem like a pussyfooter.

There's more.

In a separate but related editorial, the F.A.Z. also notes that the recent disastrous SPD election performance some observers said, ... forces the government into something approaching a de facto coalition with the CDU. And, returning to the first editorial cited above, the opposition Christian Democrats are apparently already making preparations for German reconciliation with the United States, perhaps under a new government. Seeking to assure the United States of her party's loyalty, Christian Democrat party whip Angela Merkel plans to fly to Washington to pledge the CDU's unwavering support of that country's Iraq plans.

That doesn't seem to give Mr. Chirac much to rely on the other side of the Rhine.

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