OPINION

On European defense

The meeting between the leaders of Germany, France, Belgium and Luxembourg in Brussels last month, and their announced intention to form a defense nucleus within the European Union, has given Greece’s political parties a new challenge. The opposition New Democracy party wholeheartedly supports the European effort, and Premier Costas Simitis is favorably disposed, but he has avoided committing himself directly so far, with the alibi of Greece being the current president of the EU. From the outset, the hostile response of British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made it clear that should the initiative go ahead it will not be an overall defense policy of European Union members – old and new – but confirmation of the gap created by the Iraq war between the central European and the majority pro-NATO countries. Any positive step taken toward European unification has always depended on action by Germany and France. But the crucial question is whether Paris and Berlin really want to break away from US hegemony, now being expressed in a fairly primitive fashion, or whether by creating a defense body they aim to enhance their negotiating position vis-a-vis Washington. The attempt to become independent of the US entails risks, as it will gradually lead to ideological changes with the Americans being innovative at the international level and the European powers trying to reaffirm their centuries-long system of values. These differ significantly from that of a state of immigrants who hanker after material prosperity and to export their way of life and world view. But if the effort is aimed at strengthening the negotiating hand of the central European powers against Washington, then it is of no interest and condemned to failure, as the US seems to have no intention of negotiating on political issues for the foreseeable future, but will act alone, without the UN. Regardless of the Europeans’ aims, defending Greece’s interests requires close evaluation of regional issues – especially given that the geographical arc in which this country is situated that extends from Turkey eastward, and includes Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Italy, has come into the American sphere of influence. Thus it would be preferable if Greece’s political leadership behaved prudently and formulated a strategy suited to a country on the geographical rim of Europe, in a particularly volatile environment, and avoided taking a leading role, because while the US may be viewed as an unpleasant entity, the EU is still a relatively amorphous group of states.