Waiting for Extase

The always readable Timothy Garton Ash has another good column in today’s Guardian discussing how Europe’s inability to speak with one voice on the international stage weakens its impact. As he points out, the sheer number of people waiting to meet with President Bush this week help to show what the problem is:

Who knows what is Europe’s agenda for the world? The question always attributed to Henry Kissinger – “You say Europe, but which number should I call?” – remains posed. The baffling multiplicity of people the American president had to meet in Brussels, including heads of large-minded small countries and small-minded large countries, as well as those of competing institutional parts of the EU, not to mention Nato just up the road, shows how far we still are from an answer.

However, the situation isn’t quite as bad as that might make it seem. On some issues, there is unity and focus of action:

Yet despite, or perhaps even because of, the enlargement of the EU, we are moving in the right direction – both in theory and in practice. In Ukraine, the EU’s designated foreign minister, Javier Solana, worked with the Polish and Lithuanian presidents, in an ad hoc trio, to help secure a peaceful outcome to the orange revolution. In relations with Iran, three countries – France, Germany and Britain – are taking the lead, in close cooperation with Solana. There will surely be more of these improvised intra-European coalitions of the willing.

And the Extase of the title? That’s the fledgling European External Action Service a diplomatic corps with a name diplomatically chosen not to cause offense. (And hands up everyone who thinks Extase will quietly over time be replaced by EAS) The example of Ukraine is probably the most pertinent right now as it showed how the EU is capable of agreeing on a position and then deploying the diplomatic strength necessary to push that position forward. Solana had the authority of the whole EU behind him and was able to represent that common position.

Obviously, the future development of the EAS and the position of EU Foreign Minister depends in the short term on the approval of the Constiution and the formal creation of the role. In the medium to long term, however, it’ll also be a question of individuals and how they use the powers that are given to them. Solana, of course, has a good stock of personal credibility, not just from his work in Ukraine, but all the groundwork he did before that to build his reputation. The question is whether he and his potential successors as Foreign Minister/High Representative can build on this and establish an EAS that national governments will be happy to turn to when its required.

And finally, Garton Ash may have reported on a very rare event – a memorable quotation from a Prime Minister of Luxembourg:

“If ridicule could kill, there would be bodies piling up in the streets in Brussels”

10 thoughts on “Waiting for Extase

  1. Solana had the authority of the whole EU behind him and was able to represent that common position.

    The problem with one voice is that it will be occasionally right, mostly wrong, but always superior. At least with many voices one can usually claim in hindsight that one voice was right and always claim disunity is preferable to arrogance.

    My personal feeling is that Solana will go down as one of the “influentials” of European (Union) history.

  2. External Action Service sounds unfortunately as if it might be some kind of intelligence or covert operations outfit. I’d change it to External Relations Service, which doesn’t sound at all threatening and is based on existing EU terminology.

  3. Good point, Michael D.

    Nick, what do you have against the PM of Luxembourg? (Of the considered candidates, I would have preferred him in place of Barroso, BTW)

  4. I don’t have anything against him – I was just playing on the stereotype that Luxembourgeois tend to be rather dull and don’t produce many notable quotes. No offence was intended.

  5. OK. What has Solano, the EU or AFOE to say about Lebanon, Egypt’s sudden opening up of voting for the Presidency, or the sudden wave of change in Palestine and elsewhere in the Middle East???

    France will soon make a move – opportunity knocks. What about the EU?

    If things carry on, and the authoritarian-dictatorial governments continue to modify or collapse, Europe,the UN, and other regional power blocks of the world – will be condemned as non-participants.

    Say again, why Europe and the UN wish America to consult with them on matters in the Middle East? The silence that has extended to even the BLOGGERS is simply stunning.

  6. What … the EU … to say about Lebanon

    “We hear your request for less foreign interference in your affairs.”


  7. Re: Mr Lobold saying Maybe…”We hear (american) your request for less foreign interference”..

    My post, which was a little broad, and perhaps smacked of truiumph (I apologize)was aimed more at the element of dismay, probably emotional, among the people of many European countries concerning the apparent possibility that the Middle East just might become a lot better place to live in as a result of the Iraq war and other evolving events. I think this is a mistake, not moving forward, and having bitter or vindictive thoughts. When are such emotions useful?

    I understand the dislike for Bush and the fact that he had other motives (same ones as France, Russia and Germany ) that ‘fueled’ these European emotions .. pun intended… but as happens in many important wars (ie WWl and WWlll), how the aftermath is dealt with is often more important than the war itself…

    If the EU is to attain credibility in the Arab and Islamic world,it will need to change its position. The Middle East issue is more important to Europe than America, despite GW Bush’s assertions.

    Europe ought to respond with important support of the aspirations of Arab people (and Iranians)….

    Example: 100 million Euros for each million inhabitants, up to a maximum of 2.5 Billion Euros, plus military support, for each of several named Arab countries (include Iran) that politically attain certain measures of democracy, specific to each nation, within a 12month period.

    Of course, the EU hasn’t this outward reach..its own member countries object to foreign largess, arguing their own needs, and that the EU must tend to them first.

    This is the problem in a nutshell. The EU, lacking outward reach, finds its member countries getting in each others way when one does look outwar. Then jurisdiction is introduced…

    So what are americans to think?

    Forgive me for pointing out, because I am sure you all are very sick of hearing it… but americans ARE COGNIZANT that Europe asks unashamedly for our help when in a mess (huge messes, such as WWl, WWll,WWll’s aftermath, USSR, Bosnia etc)… Perhaps the US ought not to have gone into WWl..or others….

    Now, 3 major objecting EU nations that supported the Iraq dictator, stand in the way of EU support for progress in Iraq and the Middle East. These 3 were the only ones of Europe’s 10 largest not to send troops to Iraq, and DID INTERFERE as best they could ..

    I grant,it is fair to ask, “Why should these 3 countries act, since their apple carts were upset by the US”. So, you write,

    ” We (they)hear your request for less foreign interference in your affairs”.

    I would respond thusly; “It has gone beyond all that now. Those 3 were mostly wrong to begin with, and the american government probably meant little good going into Iraq”.

    The EU ought to rationally support a better life for Arabs. The EU ought to function as if it realizes that it has major problems and interests regarding its own national-racial-theistic compositions, social poverty and employment, subversion and terrorism, peace in its surrounding environs, oil, political development and hegemony …that all can be served by an improvement in the conditions of living in the Middle East.

    The genie is out of the bottle. Islam will march, and if it’s followers are largely from impoverished underdeveloped nations, Islam will become the sole voice for these people, who ultimately demand parity!!

    Europe will not grow in a healthy way if it ignores unpleasant realities. Looking inward is not something tht Europe ought to do so much… its member states have not a rock solid relationship such as exists in the US.

    Europe ought to build and build and build. Just do it…the way america did in the beginning.

    By being doers, member states will be motivated to tag along for the ride. The Euro worked out really well, so has the breakdown of protectionism and the enhanced interstate mobility of its people…keep it up!

  8. Craig: My post, which was a little broad, and perhaps smacked of truiumph (I apologize)

    As this is almost an admission of trolling, and despite you getting my psuedonym wrong, I will apologise for a little joke at your expense: FDK is bad German for Feed the Troll. (The e-mail address was correct, though.)

    Having said that, we haven’t had a good trans-atlantic barney for a while and, for those of us that thought fermions was French for “shut up!”, we’ve had little controversy at all on afoe beyond splashing toilets.

    The subject was Lebanon. I thought the US was pushing it by taking all the credit for Libya even though Gahdafi’s change of heart pre-dated the invasion of Iraq. (But, who knows what that guy thinks? Maybe he really did think the US was going to invade his country.) However, none of this applies to the events in Lebanon which have more in common with Georgia and Ukraine than Iraq.

    …Europe asks unashamedly for our help when in a mess (huge messes, such as WWl, WWll True. Also true that in WWII the US unashamedly refused to help for 3 years until they themselves were attacked and were forced into it. Not that people weren’t thankful when help did arrive…

    Islam will march,… Really? You seem to forget one very important detail: Islam has no feet. The members of the religion are people just like you, me and everybody else in the world. And, generally, as marching is hard work, people don’t march readily. They need a very, very good reason. But, feeling under attack will do it for a large disaffected minority.

    Just do it?the way america did in the beginning. I don’t think that Europeans want to be latter-day Americans. Even though Americans are largely latter-day Europeans. And, if I recall, what America did in the beginning was perpetrate one of history’s greatest genocides and fight a civil war that claimed a million lives. Not up to Europe’s bloodshed record, I admit, but pretty good for a brand new state.

  9. Michael, indeed I was trying to change the subject matter a bit… so trolling seems perhaps fair.

    My dad used to say that the white man was the most bloodthirsty. I’d come in from the discos in Quebec at 3 a.m. on a Friday night, my brother would return from the rock bars, and the 3 of us would watch westerns until 5 a.m.
    Dad thought he was viewing great drama, I saw it as light entertainment, Darrell laughed the whole way through what he viewed as comedic masterpieces.

    So, this ‘western’ background has me wondering if perhaps dad was referring to the slaughter of the american indian, not the European ‘exploits’, as the basis for his view that the white man was singularly militaristic.

    Sorry the americans sat back so long…and only the Canadians, farm hands from the west and such, went running merrily to England’s wars, (Quebec abstained) but after all , England held Canada’s constitution at Westminster until 30 or so years ago…..

    My dad’s family were Mennonites living 50 miles up the Knieper river in the present day Ukraine, when fear of the German army lead to their uprooting in 1917 and a 10 year indenturement to a Mr Hildebrand of Manitoba, since Mr Hildebrand paid the $625 passage for each family member(they spoke German in the Ukraine and did not intermarry, though they lived there since the 1700’s). As a 15 year old lad, dad got put in a potato sack and peed on by a bunch of older boys in western Canada for not fighting, or just being of Germanic stock.

    He group up into a big man and looked all 9 of those boys up.

    Mom had a ship captain Allen (English-mid 60’s to Canada, died in fire), Nellie Gammon from Aberdeen, Scotland, Great Grama Wiedenhammer from Germany and the Ariss family (her maiden name)..it was really hard to peg them..they surely landed in the early 1760’s in Philedelphia..because Rotterdam was the main exit port, and people commonly altered their names, you never knew if John or Johanees was German, Engish, Dutch or Scandanavia..in any case, they disappeared from the census in the US in 1790 but appeared as pioneers west of present day Toronto..mary the daughter of one John Blinko….
    It is really neat looking up the development of every Hamlet and town in North America.

    Since many never got overrun by war.. we have historical records that outline every name, every survey, evry dollar spent, every argument and battle with the local Indians…it is fascinating. These early transactions were basically by people affiliated (citizens of)with European nations.

    You know, you may not want to become americans over there, but in a way, we ARE Europeans over here.

    By the way, there was and is some truth to our lack of sophistication. Having worked out most the kinks, our decendents of pioneers still lack an awareness of the variety of foodstuffs etc that exist, and chees manufacturers, for instance, can still get away with inferior offerings. However, foreigners are making up for that with the variety of cultural achievements they hand us.

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