Mon, May 26, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Europe sees gradual rise in its strengths

By Wu Chih-chung 吳志中

On Sept. 11, 2001, the most serious terrorist attack in history took place in New York City when several thousand people lost their lives at the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. French President Jacques Chirac was the first head of state to fly to the US and express Europe's firm commitment to aligning with the US in the war against terrorism. However, when the US-Iraq war broke out, a united front led by France and Germany, in contrast to the one led by Britain, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, showed the most opposition to US military action against Iraq.

For the EU's future, what is the significance of the changes, from consensus in 2001 to division this year, in its common foreign and security policy?

First, we must understand that the EU's common foreign and security policy is an important part of the Maastricht Treaty signed by all member states in 1992, and also one of the EU's three pillars (the European Community, a common foreign and security policy, and justice and home affairs). The main objectives can be classified into the following categories: preserving Europe's common values, fundamental interests and independence; strengthening the security of all member states; preserving peace and international security; strengthening international cooperation; developing the rule of law and democracy; respecting and defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

However, this common foreign and security policy, because it involves the highly sensitive issue of national sovereignty in international politics, has been the most difficult part of the process of European integration.

When various European countries prepared for the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in late 1980s and early 1990s, they gradually reached a consensus on a common foreign policy.

In December, 1991, Germany was the first country to break this consensus when it ignored other European countries' foreign policies toward the conflict in Yugoslavia and took the lead to recognize Slovenia and Croatia, thereby leading to a breakdown of foreign policy consensus among European countries. The setback in the EU's common foreign policy in the case of the US-Iraq war is not the first one and it does not touch upon the basic principles of the EU's existence.

On the question of Iraq's reconstruction after the war, the UK's position has gradually come in line with those of Germany and France. These countries hope the international community and the UN, not the US alone, will get involved as soon as possible. Therefore, the EU's future attention will not focus on the division between member states over the US-Iraq war but will gradually turn to possible problems concerning its eastward expansion.

At the same time, France and Germany have held the moral high ground with their anti-war position. On top of this, the gradual rise of Europe's political and economic strengths is an indisputable fact. The new world peace, therefore, will need to rely on the common efforts of various international organizations and major powers.

The EU's integration is based on respect for the national sovereignty of member states and the differences in economic strengths and cultures. After the Treaty of Rome, it took 45 years for the EU to give birth to the euro. The integration of the EU's common foreign policy, however, has only been in place for 10 years. It also involves the most difficult level of high politics in international politics. By broadening the analytic outlook, an international order that is more respectful of human rights, more democratic, more prosperous and more peaceful can be expected.

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