Euro force ‘no substitute for NATO’

The European Council, which ended yesterday in Brussels, was dominated by two major issues: a common EU defense structure and infrastructure projects which will integrate European transport, energy and communications networks and help boost economic growth across the EU. On the question of defense, the United Kingdom’s decision to approve a decision taken months ago by France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg may have prompted dismay on the part of the United States, but it appears that the majority of current and new members do not view the creation of this force as the beginning of the dismantling of NATO. Greece is one of these countries, as Prime Minister Costas Simitis made abundantly clear. «Greece’s longstanding position is that it is wrong (to believe) that a European defense system is a substitute for NATO,» Simitis said. Other EU leaders, including French President Jacques Chirac, made similar declarations. In a move to placate the United States, the original four states calling for a common European force have shelved their proposal for a Brussels headquarters. Concerning Transeuropean networks, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said that the decision to realize them signified, on the EU’s part, a move away from the simplistic recipe of market deregulation and a shift toward emphasis on infrastructure and cooperation between the public and private sectors in co-financing projects. The idea of Transeuropean networks was first raised at a European Council in 1984 and taken up again by former European Commission President Jacques Delors in the early 1990s. Then, as now, the main issue of concern is whether private investors will find these projects attractive enough in order to contribute to financing them. Asked on the matter, Christodoulakis said he was optimistic that there would be considerable interest from the private sector.