Dilemma for Europe

The spring EU summit that will take place in Brussels this Thursday and Friday is scheduled to discuss the so-called Lisbon strategy. However, it seems most likely that the meeting will get caught in the clamp of the Iraq war. The Greek presidency is extremely concerned, but it has little room to maneuver on the issue. After yesterday’s meeting focusing on the preparations for the summit, which was chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou tried to set an upbeat tone for EU unity. But the rupture inside the Old Continent is active and may well deepen in the coming weeks. It is indicative of the current climate that London called for an extraordinary summit (with the participation of the 10 EU candidate states) on the issue of the fight against anti-Americanism in Europe. The Foreign Office drops hints against France and Germany and expresses concerns that the impending enlargement could be undermined. The meeting between US President George W. Bush and prime ministers Tony Blair of Britain and Jose-Maria Aznar of Spain on an Azores island is also a crucial indication. On the other side, Paris and Berlin have been working intensively all this time to prevent the legitimization of a US attack by the UN Security Council. With a statement by Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis, the Greek presidency avoided taking a position on the British demand. This means that the thorny issue of transatlantic relations will most likely be raised and dominate the spring season. The Foreign Ministry statement also indicates that the Greek presidency has no option but to seek a compromise, like it did during the previous summit. This time, however, things have come to a head and it is far from certain that a common denominator can be found. America’s «forward flight» inevitably fuels Europe’s internal divide, creating a situation which exceeds the powers of any EU presidency. In truth, the dilemma that every member state and European citizen will be called upon to answer is whether they will condone American hegemony or seek to emancipate Europe from Washington, and thus render the Union an independent player in the international political arena.

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