European Affairs

Letter to the Editor: The EU Should Gets Its International Act Together     Print

As the articles by Antony Blinken and others in the last issue of European Affairs explain, the war on terrorism is helping to redefine and give new purpose to the Transatlantic relationship. The aftermath of September 11 is also shaping European integration and the European Union's drive to become a more in§uential international actor.

Unfortunately, the European Union has not performed very well as a foreign policy actor during the current crisis. EU member states displayed impressive solidarity with the United States after September 11, and some of them are making important military contributions to the war effort, but the European Union itself has a long way to go to make itself a credible political-military power.

On the whole, Europe's response to September 11 has had mixed effects on European integration. Police and judicial cooperation has accelerated, including agreement on a common definition of terrorism and an EU arrest warrant. EU member states are increasing their cooperation through Europol, the §edgling EU police agency, and plan to create Eurojust, an EU prosecution agency.

British police have proposed the formation of a pan-European anti-terrorism task force to go after the al Qaeda terrorist network. At the same time, recent progress in these areas could slow down EU enlargement, which could be delayed by the addition of yet another requirement for EU membership (the European Union's new standards in the areas of police and judicial cooperation and border controls).

In addition, the war on terrorism led to increased intra-EU rivalry. Some Europeans have been concerned that Britain has overshadowed other EU countries and that Britain, France, and Germany have been breaking ranks with the rest of the European Union by seeking to coordinate their military role without other EU leaders. This gives the impression that the European Union is not fully united in this con§ict, despite numerous statements noting the European Union's unified response to terrorism.

The European Union still does not speak with one voice internationally despite the appointment of Javier Solana as EU foreign policy chief. It is represented overseas by Solana as well as by the country holding the EU presidency and the EU commissioner for external relations. This system tends to send confusing and contradictory messages.

During an EU summit meeting at the end of last year, for example, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said the European Union was going to deploy a peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. At the time Belgium held the rotating EU presidency. Solana and other EU leaders had to correct Mr. Michel.

The International Security Assistance Force currently being deployed to Afghanistan is UK-led and includes troops from a number of European countries, but it is not an EU force, and the European Union is not ready to deploy such a force.

Above all, EU member states need military force to back up their diplomatic pronouncements, if they want the European Union to be more than an economic power. It will not do simply to declare the EU defense force operational, as EU leaders did at the end of last year, especially since the force is not actually ready for use other than possibly for the least demanding missions.

This means Europeans will have to spend more on defense than they have been spending recently and allocate current spending more wisely through less duplication of effort. Otherwise, they will not be able to procure the military capabilities that the EU force, NATO, and the war on terrorism will all require, nor will they be able to raise Europe's international profile.

Louis R. Golino
Atlantic Community Initiative
Washington, DC


This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number III, Issue number I in the Winter of 2002.