Tags: United | States | Europe | Challenges | U.S.

United States of Europe Challenges U.S.

Wednesday, 11 June 2003 12:00 AM

On June 20, in Thessaloniki, Greece, ministers from the European Union will meet to finalize a draft of a constitution that will further the ambition of those who seek to rein in the sovereignty of Europe's many parts under one superstructure.

A draft of the constitution released on Feb. 20 pledges among other things to further a common foreign policy for the EU's 15 member states and to make the web of agreements governing trade, border flow and finances supreme to the law of the lands that acceded to the treaties in the first place.

Achilles Paparsenos, the spokesman for the Washington Embassy for the Republic of Greece (which holds the presidency for the European Union) told United Press International, "I don't think individual countries will give up their sovereignty under the constitution, so much as the European Union will have a more coherent role in international affairs."

And that coherent role will at least, in part, include a permanent office for the EU presidency, which now rotates every six months.

So far Washington has preferred to have it both ways on the emerging Europe. On the one hand, Washington includes the European Union as one-fourth of the Quartet that drafted the "road map" for Middle East peace. On the other hand, the EU was absent last week from the summit meetings in Aqaba, Jordan, and Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

While U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick negotiated with his EU counterpart, Pascal Lamy, in the last round of World Trade Organization negotiations in Doha, the U.S. State Department continues to seek bilateral trade agreements with the EU's member states.

"It has generally been our view that there is no U.S. blueprint for how Europe ought to proceed with arrangements," one State Department official told UPI on Monday. "We will work with Europe whatever they choose to do."

But this hands-off approach only goes so far. In the lead up to the Iraq war, the United States picked off various European countries from the herd in Brussels. Though France and Germany attempted to muscle smaller European nations to oppose the war against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the Americans successfully swayed Britain, Poland and Spain to not only support the campaign diplomatically but also to send troops.

Earlier this month, the State Department's outgoing director of policy planning, Richard Haass, said Washington preferred to conduct foreign policy with the individual countries of Europe. Nonetheless the United States has quietly sought to engage the EU on the question of Iran's burgeoning nuclear weapons program.

"We have found our cooperation has been stronger, our understanding better of their objectives, and it easier to develop common approaches when we work with Brussels and the individual member states," a State Department official said Monday in an interview.

Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a director for European affairs at the National Security Council under Bill Clinton, said in an interview that the Bush administration behind the scenes, at least, was working to divide Europe.

"To the extent we have a policy today it is to foster divisions within Europe," he said. "We deliberately encouraged countries to break away from the Franco-German consensus on Iraq."

This strategy has to a certain extent continued after Iraq. While Bush attended the Group of Eight summit in Evian, France, he left a day later to talk Middle East peace with friendly Arab nations, while the rest of Europe stayed at the conference. Bush also chose the Polish city of Krakow, in the heart of "new" Europe, to deliver his major address on his European tour.

Behind the scenes, Bush's diplomats have encouraged the Czech Republic, the Baltic nations and other Eastern European countries to reject plans for a EU military force that have been discussed in Brussels and EU departments for the past three years.

The question for U.S. foreign policymakers in the months and years to come is whether the common values that in the past bound Europe and America together are still there. During the Cold War, Western Europe and the United States shared a common enemy in the Soviet Union and a common commitment to democracy and free trade. As a result, the United States encouraged the unification of Europe that it is seeing now.

But the world is now different. Most European governments do not believe, as the United States does, that there are, for example, "rogue nations." While the United States has attempted to isolate Iran in the past, the European Union has increased its contacts. While the United States has prosecuted "charity" fronts for Hezbollah, the militants operating out of southern Lebanon, the EU, unlike Washington, does not recognize the organization as a terrorist group.

Simon Serfaty, the director of Europe Program at Center for Strategic International Studies in Washington, said in an interview that he believed the common ties between Europe and America were stronger than the differences.

"The relationship is like a 50-year marriage. Maybe the love has faded, but it is impossible to get a divorce," he said. "There is too much common property."

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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On June 20, in Thessaloniki, Greece, ministers from the European Union will meet to finalize a draft of a constitution that will further the ambition of those who seek to rein in the sovereignty of Europe's many parts under one superstructure. A draft of the constitution...
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Wednesday, 11 June 2003 12:00 AM
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