NEWS

EU overtures for US rapprochement

The first overture for a US-European rapprochement was sent by Europe to Washington from Halkidiki. The new dogma for strategic security, as presented by EU security and foreign policy chief Javier Solana, brings the two sides of the Atlantic much closer together as regards their priorities in dealing with modern threats and strategies to tackle them. The second signal was conveyed to US President Bush by Prime Minister Costas Simitis and European Commission President Romano Prodi, on the mandate of European member states, during yesterday’s summit in Washington. Essentially, what Germany and France and the remaining EU member states are aiming for is a return to their habitually friendly relations with the USA. As president of the EU, Simitis is in the position to steer efforts in the right direction – according to acceding EU member states in central Europe – as he is not being treated so arrogantly by Washington due to the moderate stance he maintained during the Iraqi crisis and the facilities he lent US forces, on behalf of Greece, over the course of the war. Europeans are now acknowledging that significant «public relations» mistakes were also made by the EU during the crisis in Iraq. In particular, the escalation of the conflict due to public statements, which alienated both sides, is today regarded as an erroneous tactic which deprived Europe of the ability to maneuver freely on the diplomatic level. In Paris, there is growing concern about a particular problem which enhances the need for determining a common language with Europe’s transatlantic partner. This is the sensitive Balkan region (the former Yugoslavia in particular), where foreign interventions to date have caused the formation of various small statelets which do not look as if they will stand the test of time. In the absence of an understanding with the USA, the threat of a unilateral intervention by Washington on European soil – which could mark the onset of major tribulations for an extended, and currently sluggish, Europe of 25 member states – looms large. This is another reason for urgent rapprochement. But according to Germany, Washington’s current treatment of Iran shows that its swift military victory in Iraq has made it even more aggressive than before. The US leadership now feels that it can exert pressure on Tehran even in the face of disapproval by its former allies, such as Britain. For its part, the EU accepts that no country can develop nuclear programs without being liable to inspection by international organizations, but it has yet to clarify a proposed technique for persuading Iran to agree to this. Even though no common criteria and procedures exist for dealing with such matters, there is still the risk of another communication breakdown between the two sides as was the case with the Iraq war, which caused severe damage to the EU-US relationship.