OPINION

Schism in Europe over US Iraq policy

The clarifications over the meaning of the op-ed column published by eight European leaders pledging support for the United States on Iraq and the cautious stance by British Prime Minister Tony Blair during his meeting with US President George W. Bush were not enough to alleviate the trauma inflicted on the unity of the European Union. Although the substantive division between the EU’s member states on Iraq had been expressed inside the General Affairs Council, the letter was, diplomatically speaking, an artless move. Superficial as the language of the letter may have been, it was enough to demonstrate the depth of Europe’s divisions. The causes and future implications of these divisions will be a major point of discussion in the coming years. The battle between the supporters of the two trends is currently unpredictable. Even if we exclude Britain, which seeks to use its «special relationship» with the US in order to counterbalance the influence of the Franco-German axis, it remains far from certain whether the signatures of the other four EU members reflected the sentiments of their current, pro-American governments or a deeper distrust toward a united Europe and, perhaps more specifically, of a united Europe under Franco-German leadership. As Europe ages and Asia emerges as the new economic giant, a new set of questions is facing leaders across Europe, such as whether Europe can compete alone as an independent power; whether US hegemony will have any interest in preventing the marginalization of Europe; and whether a Franco-German axis will be preferable for small European states to a US-dominated world – provided Washington can sustain the burden of global hegemony. It is in light of this global context that each country is trying to find the answers which best suit its national interests. The move by eight European leaders confirms this reality. It also confirms that Greece has to try to come up with its own answers to these questions. Greek leaders have to ponder whether a Franco-German leadership, or even domination, of Europe would take a more balanced approach on Turkey than the US one. It’s time the Greek political elite tackled these crucial issues.