The cost of going it alone

The decision by the United States and Britain to strike Iraq, snubbing international law and the United Nations, no doubt, has pushed the EU states – and their ambitions for a common security policy – into a corner. France and Germany, who have been spearheading the group of EU states that dislike the idea of being little more than Washington’s transaltantic extension on the Continent, came to loggerheads with their Atlanticist peers. The real victim of this spat was the prospect of a political union within the EU. The so-called Franco-German axis is said to be planning to forge a European force with the ultimate aim of setting up an autonomous defense and foreign policy, and overhauling the current system of unanimous or majority voting within the EU. A lot has been said about this venture; many European leaders have welcomed the idea, and many observers stress the need for a common European policy, independent from American objectives – even if it is an a la carte one. The entire matter, however, raises one very simple question: Do Europeans have the power to shoulder the cost of weaning the Continent from the USA? Or is this cost, as some analysts say, prohibitive for the EU? If the latter is true, if «Old Europe» is unable to provide the requisite funds to go it alone, the plans for a decent, purely European defense structure (to support a serious common European foreign policy) will remain on paper. Therefore, the purported ambitions of the Franco-German axis should not be taken too seriously by anyone. If the leaders of «Old Europe,» which is now scorned by the US president, truly want to blaze a new independent trail for Europe, they will have to shoulder a huge economic and social burden.