Thursday, July 15, 2010

Why would the US trust the EU

Today we have the front page of the Times completely dominated by the headline,
Europe warns Obama: This relationship is not working

Ok, so that is a plug for an interview with Barosso inside, buit given what I have just seen via Teresa Küchler (@teresakuchler) a Brussels based Swedish freelancer, I can hardly think that the US cares a great deal.

The whole debate about the ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) is arcane and I will not go into it here but for someone involved in the European Parliament's LIBE Committee to have leaked the negotiating positions of all parties is a disgrace, which I doubt will be forgotten by the State Department.

Why should the US trust the EU?


Andrew Zalotocky said...

Wrong question. Lasting relationships between states are based on shared interests not anything as intangible as "trust". During the Cold War the US and the nations of Western Europe both had a vital interest in resisting Soviet aggression, so for a few decades NATO had the illusion of being something permanent and inevitable. The threat was so great that all other concerns became trivial.

Now that the Soviet Union has gone the relationship between the US and EU has naturally changed because there are fewer issues on which they can immediately agree. That's no biggie for the US. It just has to negotiate to find the common ground with the EU like it has to do with everyone else. But it must expect conflicts of interest on everything down to technical agreements like ACTA.

The problem is in getting the members of the EU to agree a common position on anything important. Consider how divided they were about Yugoslavia, let alone Iraq. The national governments that make up the EU have different interests and ideologies so they disagree more often than not. In any future international crisis the EU will probably be paralysed by internal conflict.

So the US has to assume that when the next crisis comes the EU will adopt the Father Ted position - "down with this sort of thing (careful now!)" - and not actually do anything.

In short, the US has to assume that the EU has effectively withdrawn from the world. US foreign policy has to be made on the assumption of European hostility, indifference or impotence. So the Obama administration has to make it clear that it recognises this reality.

Of course, a McCain administration would have had to face the same facts. The wider lesson is that most Presidents - and Prime Ministers, Generalissimos, etc. - have far less freedom of action than they would like to claim. They inherit a world situation and they have to adapt to it as best they can.

Gawain Towler said...

Andrew, thank you for that.

A very thoughtful, if slightly depressing comment.

Sadly i feel you are right, indeed so do most eurocrats. Of course we would have differing approaches on how to solve the basic "who do I call" problem.

Mine would be to revert to nation states acting in their own interests. Theirs would be to force the EU nations to have a single voice (despite being aware that this would be false). In the meantime America must act generally as if Europe didn't exist. Today's latest stuff from the EU on Iran is a case in point.<