Sun, Jun 03, 2007 - Page 8 News List

New EU an opportunity for Taiwan

By Chen Shih-min 陳世民

Former French president Jacques Chirac left office on May 17. His successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, may be the most US-friendly French president since the creation of the Fifth Republic.

In his book Testimony, Sarkozy tells readers of his positive feelings for the US. During a visit to New York City in September to participate in a Sept. 11, 2001, memorial, when he was still interior minister, Sarkozy criticized Chirac's foreign policy, saying he believed France had made a big mistake by opposing the war in Iraq in 2003, promoting his political opponents to mockingly call him an American.

In his victory speech, Sarkozy said he would make an effort to improve France's relationship with the US and that the US could count on France's friendship.

Following changes in the political map of Europe in the past few years, Chirac had become the only European leader to insist on lifting the EU's arms embargo on China.

Although Sarkozy will introduce changes to France's traditionally Gaullist foreign policy, there may also be some changes to Chirac's policy of joining with China to counterbalance the US. This would make the EU's recent efforts to reach a compromise with the US over cross-strait policy clearer.

Thus, in the short term, the EU is unlikely to lift its arms embargo on China.

The controversy regarding the EU's potential lifting of its arms embargo on China originates from the Iraq War of 2003, a war that lead to a good deal of controversy between the US and the EU and during which the US seriously damaged the UN's authority.

It has also expressed a willingness to use its status as the only remaining superpower to pursue a unilateral foreign policy prioritizing US interests. This has generated a backlash among some European countries working toward a multipolar world. France worries that the world will become unipolar, which would damage its pursuit of a powerful and independent foreign policy.

In order to prevent a unipolar world dominated by the US, France has been actively engaging China. The two countries share policy goals such as the pursuit of a multipolar world and strengthening the UN's role. Under the direction of France, the EU also seeks to strengthen its relations with China and tries to improve their strategic relationship.

Both states try to co-opt and use the other to counterbalance the US.

Given these circumstances, France in 2004 pushed the EU to lift its arms embargo on China, which has always been seen as a major obstacle to the Sino-European relationship.

However, at a time when the EU was about to reach a unanimous agreement on lifting the embargo, the US strongly opposed the decision, which lead to a half year-long conflict between the US and the EU. During this process, many EU countries that value their relations with the US changed their past China policy mindset based on economic considerations to review the Sino-European relationship from a broader strategic view. It is clear that the the Atlanticist view weighed more heavily.

The embargo debate came to an end after Beijing officially passed the "Anti-Secession" Law (反分裂國家法) in March 2005. The law, together with the issue of human rights in China, created a highly unfavorable political atmosphere for lifting the embargo. The EU could hardly ignore the opposition of the US and Japan and many Atlanticist EU members insisted that a consensus be reached. As a result, the EU decision-making body is now boycotting lifting of the embargo.

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