Quo Vadis, Europe?

Posted in Europe | 13-Aug-03 | Author: Christian Hacke

Today, Europe stands at a crossroads where it has to choose between two contrasting visions. On the one hand, is the vision of an atlantic Europe, forcefully expanding to the East and led by England, Spain, and Poland, who explicitly welcome America's stabilizing dominance on regional and global level. Because of the Bush administration's dynamism and America's increasing superiority, however, this transatlantic alliance has a more and more unipolar character. This vision of an "atlantic civilization" builds on the anglo-saxon "special relationship" and new partners, such as Spain, Italy, Poland and others. Germany has no important role in this—except maybe the role of the troublemaker.
The "Carolingian" vision on the other hand develops a Europe led by France supported by Germany and Russia. This model meets harsh criticism in Washington and Middle and Eastern Europe, but also in some parts of Western Europe.

Both, the continous atlantic vision and the neo-Carolingian, clash without any room for compromise. Hence, it seems illusory to understand the Iraq crisis as an catalyst for further advances in the EU—even if all member states could muster up the will for political reform. Despite this situation, the delegates of Paris and Berlin to the EU-convention try to evoke the impression as if business as usual was an option. The "new independence" of Europe which Paris and Berlin postulate is, however, not based on facts but rather on wishful thinking. Criticism of America's Iraq policy does not make an independent European foreign and security policy; instead, an EU of 25 member states will be less and less able to agree upon a unified foreign and security policy. This is particularly true since in Western and Eastern Europe an uneasiness is on the rise about a peculiar logic of integration that just opposes the US without developing original perspectives or policy options. Integration does not come from spite alone.

This view contrasts with the political dynamism that shook world politics since the Bush administration took center stage. No matter how one judges Bush's policy, one has to acknowledge that it deeply affects Europe and even makes the continent's stalled policies look anachronistic. NATO enlargement and the new partnerships with states in the Eurasian area in particular are proof of a strengthened American willingness to lead. America remains a European, by now even Eurasian power. Therefore there is no other alternative but to reconstruct the transatlantic relations by honoring America's achievements and its ability to create order. That means that whoever in Europe is advocating further detachment from the US is not gaining influence over America's decisions but is in fact abandoning it, turning the US into an enemy Europe cannot afford to have.

Although the history of European integration is a history of weathered storms and crises, the only reason why Europe's common foreign and security policy did at least slowly move ahead was because the US created security and stability in Europe. Europeans have tried and have failed for decades to achieve a higher military standard, more modern national forces, and a common foreign and security policy. These efforts failed while the Europeans were limited in their ambitions to their West-European core and while they were cooperating with the US. How shall such a task be fulfilled with an even larger, divided Europe that antagonizes the US? Especially the estrangement between France and Germany on the one hand and the Middle and Eastern European countries on the other will prove to be a crippling handicap. The plans for common European arms projects and a harmonizing of the diverse national defense structures for example are thus regarded by most EU-members as an anti-American conspiracy of the "group of four" rather than as an expression of a common European approach.

This is why the Schroeder/Fischer administration is carefully trying to take the anti-American edge out of this project. It was not about creating a counter-weight to the US or the structures of NATO, said Chancellor Schroeder. Instead, it was about forming a European-American partnership "at the same eye level." Well, Schroeder's words would have had more weight if Germany had made better use and had taken better care of its military capabilities in the past few years, if Germany had strengthened NATO and European defenses accordingly, and if Germany had forcefully supported American ideas for NATO reform. But the German chancellor and his foreign minister neglected the military necessities in their European and security policy. Thus, the suggestion France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg could form the core of a European army, is nothing but cheap rhetoric that might exacerbate the division of Europe. Italy already proclaimed it was working on political alternatives with Spain, Great Britain, and other states.

Where does Europe end up in terms of structural organization, political integration, and standing in world politics? Where does Germany end up? There is a growing insight that Germany has a large responsibility—if not the main responsibility—for the disastrous developments of recent months. The German government helped foster the anti-American atmosphere in Germany and Europe. This led to a poisoning of all of Berlin's current suggestions about Europe's future shape and role. Ideas that might seem interesting and reasonable in the abstract become questionable when linked with the Iraq crisis; they invite abuse and wrong interpretation. Paris and Berlin give the impression they want to punish and humiliate pro-American Europeans from London and Madrid to Rome and Warsaw. They accuse the Bush administration of employing a policy of division while in fact, it is France and Berlin themselves who make use of that policy. Who can honestly believe Schroeder's declaration, the initiative was supposed to strengthen the European pillar of NATO when at the same time, he is talking about a "process of emancipation." This "emancipation" means a harsh renunciation of decades of tried and tested structures of the transatlantic alliance and common institutions. In contrast to all former German governments, the Schroeder/Fischer administration does not understand transatlantic partnership and European integration as a double-track approach, but as mutually excluding alternatives: Instead of promoting the transatlantic partnership, Schroeder and Fischer work for a transatlantic separation.

Hence, the governments quickly have to come to an agreement on how and in what direction the transatlantic partnership of the 21st century shall be rebuilt. In today's Berlin, two views compete: On the one hand, the administration seems to be interested in a renewal of the good relations with the US, while on the other hand officials do not take back any of their sharp criticism towards the Bush administration and thus keep in France's political slipstream. In addition, Germany's leading politicians do nothing to counter the rising anti-Americanism in the country. To the contrary, it is about to become the new signature of the Berlin Republic. This is a further indication that the historic achievements of the United States for the development of Germany in the last fifty years are being just as ignored as the possible parallels between Germany 1945 and Iraq 2003. In 1945, the Americans were welcome liberators, today they are—in Berlin's eyes—war-mongering imperialists. It is all too easily forgotten that German democracy was an imperialist imposition as well.

All these lingering prejudices complicate a rational and forward-looking debate about the guidelines for German foreign policy after the American war in Iraq. In that context, more self-criticism in Berlin is desirable. Moreover, the question about the legitimacy of the war in Iraq is not as crucial as Germany's need to regain its old role as a guarantor of transatlantic ties and as a balancing power within the European Union. Traditionally, Germany acted as a mediator between French and British interests in Europe—and as a mediator between European and American interests. Now that Schroeder allowed himself to be taken in tow by Chirac, the European family becomes increasingly dysfunctional, with every member acting on its own, often erratically. It is a family which would embarrass even Ozzy Osbourne.
Europe is not a conflicting alternative to the transatlantic partnership, but remains an integral part of it. There is no way uniting Europe against the US. He who tries to unite Europe against the US will split it—that is one of the lessons from the Iraq crisis. Furthermore, the Europeans will be unable to achieve a lasting stabilization of Middle, Eastern, and Southeast Europe without or against the US—just as they failed at pacifying the Balkans in the 1990s. The integration of Russia into European and transatlantic structures needs to remain a central goal of European policy. Because of its geostrategic position in the heart of Europe, the accession of Germany's eastern neighbours to the EU and NATO is in Germany's interest. The Franco-German tandem can only play a vital part in this process of European integration if this cooperation works differently than during the Iraq crisis; that is, with more sensitivity towards the interests of the other European countries—in Middle and Eastern Europe in particular—and with full acknowledgment of the transatlantic alliance.

Under American supervision and with American support, there are many new powers developing in Europe. Especially Poland profits from its solidarity with the US during the Iraq war, when Polish soldiers helped to secure oil-producing facilities. Poland continues to strengthen its traditional ties to the Anglo-Saxons. Together with Great Britain, Poland forms a transatlantic bracket, holding an expanded Europe on course. Accordingly, Poland will probably run one of three occupation zones in Iraq. It is a bitter irony that the Polish are now suggesting that Germany could participate in their mission, providing manpower and money without assuming a central role in leadership. To make things worse, Berlin does not even seem to understand this shift in power structures; instead, a clueless minister of defense, Peter Struck, celebrates the fact that the Americans talk to him at all - about minor issues. From America's point of view, Poland, not Germany, is about to become Europe's central power. Germany, however, becomes a problem.