EU ‘far more united’

European Union foreign ministers agreed on Saturday to draft a common security strategy that would help them overcome damaging internal rifts such as the one over the Iraq crisis. «Europe is far more united today than it was two days ago,» the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana told reporters after the 25 ministers – those of the current 15 members and the 10 that will join in May 2004 – finished their talks on the Greek island of Kastellorizo, in Greece’s southeastern extremity. The 25 ministers, having spent a day in Rhodes on Friday, embarked upon the yacht «Alexandros,» belonging to the Latsis family and which had once hosted Prince Charles and Princess Diana on a so-called, abortive, «second honeymoon,» for a leisurely five-hour cruise to Kastellorizo, where they met with the foreign ministers of EU hopefuls Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. Bulgaria and Romania may gain accession in 2007, but Turkey has only achieved the promise of a review late next year that will determine whether accession negotiations will start. During the cruise, the ministers also discussed the crucial issue of relations with the United States and agreed that close relations were needed. As for the US strategy of unilateral intervention, where necessary, two opposite views were developed – both, interestingly, by British participants. EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten argued that the war in Iraq would not have taken place under a Democrat president, while Foreign Secretary Jack Straw countered that the US had already began making greater use of its power before 2000 and that any US president would have felt compelled to act after the attacks of September 11. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said the EU had to resolve itself first on the appropriate responses to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and whether pre-emptive violence should be used against «irresponsible states.» «If we want to have a substantive discussion with the United States, we first and foremost have to agree what our own priorities are as a Union,» Papandreou said. Papandreou had also asked for contributions from leading thinkers from across the Atlantic to be prepared for this two-day meeting of «reflection» that resulted in no official communication.