OPINION

Europe divided

The fact that the 15 did not even attempt to find a lowest common denominator as regards the war in Iraq proves that the breach in the European Union is deep and not merely due to circumstances. The Greek EU presidency proposed skirting the contentious issue so as to avoid the worst; and at the time this was probably an intelligent move, but this does not change the heart of the matter. The European Union, as it is today and as it will be after its expansion, does not seem to be able to take the major step of emancipating itself from American guardianship, of mapping out its own common foreign and defense policy. The USA exerts a decisive influence not only on Eastern European countries but on what US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld terms the countries of «old Europe.» Certain governments consider their relations with Washington a top priority even if they object to US policy. In an effort to transcend the political immobility of the EU, France, Germany and Belgium decided to go ahead with something the Union in its entirety was unable to agree on. In other words, they decided to cooperate on the level of security and defense – a cooperation which other member states are welcome to join. The crucial question, however, is whether this «initiative of the three» will generate the necessary critical mass. If not, it will constitute a major political defeat for the Franco-German axis and the venture to unify Europe will be frozen, if it does not break down altogether.