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Home > Special Topics > Europe Report Last Updated: 15:16 03/09/2007
Europe Report #47: March 20, 2003

Hopes in Europe Crushed by War in Iraq

John de Boer (GLOCOM Platform)


Thus far, Europe seems to have borne the brunt of the conflict over Iraq. After six months of diplomatic wrangling over the use of force to disarm Saddam Hussein, the continent finds itself split in half. While the extent of the damage remains uncertain, a survey of analyses on the subject indicates serious and long-term consequences for Europe's future.

Perhaps, the only exception to this estimation was the commentary provided by Gareth Harding (diplomatic editor UPI). In an article published on 18 March, Harding argued that "only half-a-dozen or so EU, or future EU member states, were categorically opposed to war". In light of this, he concluded that the rupture between Europe and the US had been exaggerated and that talk of the division "merely panders to the views of those who see Americans as from Mars and Europeans from Venus".

Despite Harding's analysis most authorities on the EU and EU-US relations evaluate developments over the past six months as having destroyed the very fabric of trust and partnership both within the EU and across the Atlantic. John Palmer, director of the European Policy Center in Brussels, was quoted by Paul Reynolds of the BBC recently as stating that, "the EU's cornerstone project of building a Common Foreign and Security Policy lies in disarray - if not yet in total ruin". The 18 March editorial in the Independent (UK) started off by warning that, "the consequences (of the division over Iraq) are that multilateral institutions from NATO to the EU and long-standing alliances are in tatters". David Calleo, expert on US-European relations at John's Hopkins University, claimed that, "what is being put at risk (over Iraq) is infinitely more than what is being achieved. We now seem to be in a sort of semi-warfare with the EU, which puts at risk 50 years of American foreign policy" (Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, 19 March). Cristoph Bertram (director of the Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin) and Francios Heisbourg (director of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris) wrote in the International Herald Tribune that, "the crisis in Iraq was a catalyst of change not in the Middle East but in the trans-Atlantic relationship". They went on to argue that this change had been so radical that, "restoring the trans-Atlantic relationship is no longer a matter of repairing damage and then acting as if nothing had changed. The US has ended the old relationship. It can be reborn only if Europe is reborn" (18 March).

With two of Europe's leading members, Britain and France, having turned on each other, the likelihood of the European-US relationship being reborn through greater coordination and integration is thought to be dim. Already talks over the EU Constitution have been delayed, and a great deal of mistrust has developed towards the US. Just yesterday, the French daily Le Figaro reported that a bugging device had been found in the headquarters of the European Union in Brussels with as many as 6-8 delegations (including the French and German) having been wire-tapped. Although, there was no official confirmation, Le Figaro indicated that all evidence pointed to the US (El Mundo, 19 March).

The outcome has been that 8/9 European citizens support weaker ties with the US (Guardian). French and German businesses are now worried that trade with America will be affected. Reflecting this sentiment, Accor (the French hotel conglomerate) removed French flags from seven of its ten Sofitels in the US (New York Times, 19 March). The divide, both within the EU and across the Atlantic, has become so wide that Blair, whose original ambition was to lead Europe towards a strong partnership with the US is now forced to "choose between the two" (Irwin M. Stelzer, The Weekly Standard, 18 March).

Until recently, Europe aspired to unite itself so as to emerge as a counter-balance to US unilateralism. However, today, this project has been all but terminated. In light of this, the question that we must ask ourselves is whether the need to use force against Iraq was so imperative as to cause a massive rupture in practically all multilateral institutions throughout the world, and in particular in Europe? The answer to this question will be answered in the near future as we all witness and bear the consequences of the war against Iraq. Obviously, Iraqi civilians will suffer the most, however, Europeans will have to struggle harder than ever before to repair the damage, which now seems almost irreparable.


Articles:

  • Paul Reynolds, "Widespread Iraq fallout", BBC, 18 March 2003
  • Editorial, "A divided world stands on the brink of a war that could have been avoided", Independent, 18 March 2003
  • "Descubierto un sistema de escuchas ilegales en la sede del Consejo de la UE en Bruselas", El Mundo, 19 March 2003
  • Jim Lobe, "On eve of war, U.S. image in Europe and Russia plummets", Inter Press Service, 19 March 2003
  • Gareth Harding, "Europe backs US stance on Iraq", United Press International, 18 March 2003
  • Christoph Bertram and Francois Heisbourg, "Europe's role: A new trans-Atlantic relationship", International Herald Tribune, 18 March 2003
  • Gary Younge, "Europe poll sees US falling from favour", Guardian, 19 March 2003
  • Mark Landler and Eric Pfznner, "Split on Iraq may harm US-Europe trade ties", New York Times, 19 March 2003
  • Irwin M. Stelzer, "London's bridge falling down", The Weekly Standard, 18 March 2003
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