TCS Daily


Policy Vacuum

By Helen Szamuely - August 17, 2006 12:00 AM

There is one player missing from the stage. While the "international community" talks long and loud about Israel's "disproportionate" response (now known to have been invented or, at least, exaggerated by the media) and the need for a cease-fire, without quite explaining how that would to be put into effect, there has not been a great deal forthcoming from the European Union.

Individual European countries have made their position sort of clear. British Prime Minister Tony Blair first gave his support to Kofi Annan's suggestion of an immediate international peacekeeping force, then changed his mind and continued to proclaim Israel's right to self-defense and the need for a speedy cease-fire. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government have supported Israel and the United States in a call for a cease-fire but with various conditions, such as the disarming of Hezbollah (fat chance with Iran and Syria in the game).

The French position has been what one might call nuanced. Almost immediately after the outbreak of hostilities on the Israeli-Lebanese border, President Jacques Chirac made grandiose pronouncements about the disproportionality of Israel's response, clearly forgetting that he had threatened the use of nuclear deterrent against Iran if needs be. Then Foreign Minister Philippe Douze-Blasty went off to Teheran and burbled about Iran being a force of stability in the region. He rapidly recanted in the wake of President Ahmadinejad's unsurprising pronouncement that the solution to the Lebanese crisis was the elimination of Israel. Finally, France became the co-sponsor with the United States of the draft UN resolution for a cease-fire - though, as Nidra Poller has pointed out, with somewhat dubious arguments. And now that some kind of a cease-fire resolution has been adopted and accepted with various provisos, the same Douze-Blasty tells us that French troops as the main component of the proposed UN troops have no intention of disarming Hezbollah, which is part of the agreement: "We never thought a purely military solution could resolve the problem of Hizbollah. We are agreed on the goal, the disarmament, but for us the means are purely political."

Denmark came out squarely on the side of Israel, while, according to an article in the International Herald Tribune, foreign ministers from France, Germany, Spain and Italy as well as senior EU officials, have been shuttling among Beirut, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Cairo and Damascus. To no noticeable effect, one may add.

All this is a little old-fashioned. For some time now we have been told that the European Union will have its own common foreign and security policy that will give Europeans a stronger voice on the international scene. To the inevitable question of what is that voice going to say, the answer was always rather weak. Ultimately, it seemed that the voice would say whatever it takes to oppose the United States.

The idea of a common foreign and defense policy had been there from the very beginning of the project but it foundered in the early 1950s on the French reluctance to link the country's defense policies to that of West Germany's. For a couple of decades European integration, always imposed from above, proceeded along economic lines. The common foreign and security policy reappeared in the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, was defined in greater detail in the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997 and became a separate protocol in the Treaty of Nice in 2001.

It has, in theory, continued to grow, with a commissioner in charge of External Affairs (at present the Austrian Benita Ferrero-Waldner) and the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (Javier Solana). The latter reports after a fashion to the Council of Ministers, so there is an immediate clash between the two competing institutions of the European Union. On top of that there is the foreign minister of the country which holds the rotating EU presidency, at present Erkki Tuomija of Finland. He, too, thinks he is the man to articulate the EU's common foreign policy and did so by telling journalists that the EU's "soft power", unlike the US's military power (supported, incidentally, by numerous European countries), was greatly respected in the Middle East. When pressed for an explanation he muttered about humanitarian aid but could not explain what the EU could achieve.

There was one meeting of the foreign ministers that came to no real understanding and no decision. Tuomija and Solana could not really articulate what the EU's position was because there was no position to articulate.

This has been the basic problem with the whole notion of the CFSP. The usual method of integration, as laid down by Jean Monnet, engagement, does not work. Creating structures that will produce an integrated policy without anyone fully realizing what is happening does not apply to foreign or defense policy (though big steps are taken in the latter field through the integration of defense procurement). But a foreign policy needs to have some interests to back it up. There are no common European interests and a common European foreign policy becomes an impossibility. A slightly smaller problem is the fact that, as the result of that famous post-Cold War "peace dividend", the European countries would struggle to provide sizeable numbers of troops. Even the requirements of the agreed cease-fire will be hard to comply with.

Another international crisis - another failure on the part of the European Union. Undoubtedly, we shall be told again that this is a disaster for Europe and that next time the member states had better make some kind of an agreement that would show their strength in the world. The real truth is that this is never going to be a possibility, partly because of the structure of the EU and partly because there is no basis for an agreement. The clear answer is this ill-conceived attempt at a common foreign policy should be abandoned and the European countries work on defining their own national interests, forming alliances on the basis of that. Given the enemy we are fighting, this is becoming more and more vital.
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2 Comments

rsvp
...

Living In Weasel Europe
After living here in Europe for almost 4 years, I can state for a fact that Europeans will never physically fight for a cause. They are not only appeasers, but cowards. Nothing has changed here in the last 60 plus years when America, Britain (and even Russia) had to come to their aid.

The average European has been brainwashed into believing everything negative about America. That is all they see on the media here and in the newspapers....anti-America, anti-Bush and anti-Israel rhetoric. Mosques have popped up everywhere and there are Muslim areas that even the police refuse to go into. Sheeps are being slaughted in the streets, and Islam is beginning to dominate all factors within these countries, even the politics.

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