EU Has to Take Real ResponsibilityInterview with Lasse Lehtinen

Posted in Europe | 08-May-08 | Author: Jukka Aminoff

Lasse Lehtinen

A member of the European Parliament, Lasse Lehtinen wants to see more cooperation between NATO and the EU. The EU should be a member in NATO and also in the United Nations Security Council.

WSN: Should every EU member state also be a member of NATO?

LASSE LEHTINEN: Every EU member state should also be a member of NATO. This would make it easier to have a common foreign and security policy and avoid double security structures.

WSN: Is the EU a convincing security political player on a global scale?

LL: Sometimes the EU can act as a mediator in places where neither the US or even the UN are accepted. The EU needs a wakeup call when dealing with real global security issues. It has to take on more responsibility. The Kosovo crisis was an example where the EU had a serious security problem near its borders and it was too weak to do anything.

The United States, under the leadership of President Bill Clinton, came to rescue Europe from its lack of competence and leadership. Europeans were arguing and the Americans were doing the real work.

WSN: Do Europeans have a short memory of history or why is there so much anti-Americanism in Europe?

LL: "Anti-Americanism" today means opposing the war in Iraq. Europeans are still watching American movies and television series, listening to American music, buying American products, studying in the US and doing business with Americans.

WSN: Should the EU challenge the US or engage in more cooperation with the US?

LL: There is no need to challenge each other. We need more transatlantic cooperation. Relations between Europe and the United States are like an old marriage - where husband and wife complain about every little issue.

If the Americans leave Europe and let Europeans handle their security on their own, Europeans would cry to the Americans not to leave because we would have to spend more on security and defense, but we also have to take real responsibility and leave pure populism behind.

WSN: Hard power US and soft power EU - does this sound right?

LL: In Europe there is the belief that in crisis management, the United States uses hard power and Europe uses soft power. Finland's Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said that there is no soft power in the field of crisis management. Crisis management operations are always hard and dangerous. The soft power of the EU lies in the temptation of a potential EU-membership, which makes applicant countries behave better. Another source of soft power is of course trade agreements and on the other side boycotts.

WSN: The EU seems to have a slow decision making process. Isn't this frustrating?

LL: The EU can only be a convincing global player when the decision making process is quick and clear. The EU must move from unanimous decisions to majority decisions; this is the only way to avoid crisis and frustrations when dealing with international issues.

Americans should also understand that they have to listen to the EU. It is totally understandable that Americans become restless when dealing with the EU, but the EU has lots of different opinions and the decision making process is sometimes slow but transparent.