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EU Presidency News EU Presidency News
by Alexandra Pereira
2007-08-31 09:52:28
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The European Treaty and the EU-Africa summit are still hot issues on the table, as Italy alerts to the summer reality of forest fires in Mediterranean countries and asks for EU debate and intervention.

The Portuguese Foreign Minister Luís Amado took the priorities of the Portuguese EU Presidency (among which we can find an EU-African Union summit and the purpose to achieve an agreement on the European Treaty issue) to Paris last Tuesday, for presentation at the annual conference of French diplomats. At the same time, Italian authorities showed some sensitivity as they conveyed the strong will to discuss forest summer fires, considered an urgent matter especially for the southern populations in the Union, as well as the urgent need of a “European strategy” to deal with them in the Mediterranean region.

After the Paris meeting with the French diplomats, Amado travelled to London for a dinner meeting with the British counterpart David Miliband. London's aversion to the participation of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe at the planned II Europe-Africa summit in Lisbon was surely a conversation topic between them. Having organized the first EU-Africa summit in Cairo during its last EU Presidency, Portugal has declared this II summit one of the top priorities of its actual Presidency agenda.

However, Lisbon's attempts to host a follow-up summit in 2003 were aborted by London's refusal to overlook EU travel sanctions against Mugabe for his disrespect for human and civil rights in Zimbabwe. In spite of this controversy, Amado’s team wants to prepare the II summit for December, search for a “diplomatic solution” (many African countries at the summit have good relations with Mugabe, fact which shouldn’t hide his disrespect for human rights…) and find a consensual answer which allows it to move forward.

The Italian Minister of Environment, Pecoraro Scanio, wants to debate the issue of forest summer fires in EU Mediterranean countries at an informal meeting with his counterparts from the 27 EU countries, to be held in Lisbon this Friday and Saturday, and has sent a letter manifesting that wish to the European Commissary Stravos Dimas. This informal meeting of the Environment Ministers was originally prepared to debate a report on the scarcity of water and drought in Europe.

According to that report, over the last 30 years the drought periods have increased to affect progressively more European regions. Pecoraro asked in his letter to the Commissary for a report on the forest fires to be presented as well, since Italy finds important that the EU intervenes and tries to solve and prevent such human-caused environmental crimes or calamities inside its borders, in the future.

Meanwhile, the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner announced Monday that a priority of the upcoming French EU Presidency, set to begin July 1st 2008, will be the launching of discussions on the creation of a European Union diplomatic service.


   
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Emanuel Paparella2007-08-31 11:17:46
To pick up on your last point Alexandra Pereira, France's assuming of leadership in the EU for a more effective role of the polity on the world stage is being applauded in many political quarters of the EU. Renata Goldirova of the online Euobserver put it thus:

"As France prepares to assume the EU's driving seat in July next year, president Nicolas Sarkozy has indicated he wants to turn the 27-nation bloc into a decisive player in the global arena – something he says would result in a fairer and more harmonious world order. 'Europe must progressively affirm itself as a first-rank player for peace and security, in co-operation with the United Nations, the Atlantic Alliance and the African Union', Mr Sarkozy said in the first foreign policy speech of his presidency on Monday (27 August)."

Nobody can deny that those are wonderful concepts, in theory and on principle. Mr. Sarkozi has also proclaimed that "France is not strong without Europe and Europe is not strong without France." Echoes of Napoleon? He too dreamt of a Greater Europe which turned out to be nothing but a greater France to the great disnay of a Bethooven. Eternal vigilance is indeed the price of freedom.


Alexandra Pereira2007-09-01 15:07:23
Dear Emanuel Paparella,

I understand your worries, still I think Mr. Sarkozy should be less diligent trying to annex the rest of Europe to France (even because EU becomes more and more a confederation of states, and no one will be able to stop that... nor do I think it is desirable to stop it...) than with the deep social problems his country faces right now, numerous and important enough to entertain him for a while. Besides, I think a diplomatic service for EU is indeed needed, and maybe Mr. Sarkozy sees there a chance to solve some immigrant problems between France and the African Union, although I think the root of those problems is predominantly located somewhere else.


Emanuel Paparella2007-09-01 23:15:55
Dear Alexandra Pereira,

consider if you will the following statement:

"...by the favor of universal Enlightenment, it might become possible for the great European family, of going the eay of the American Congress...what an outlook then of power, of glory, of well being, of prosperity! What a great magninficient spectable."
--Napoleon Bonaparte

Here is the dream of Napoleon which on the surface looks exactly the dream of the just created American confederacy. I would say that the operative word in that intriguing sentence, is "power." placed on the top of the list. The second is glory. When one visits the mausoleum that is Napoleon's tomb in Paris, one becames acutely aware of how serious French take glory. De Gaulle, whom Chirac echoed, used to say: France cannot live without glory. As mentioned in my piece on Western Imperialism: power and glory have done quite a bit of global damage under the guise of the spread of civilization and inevitable progress. I continue to hope that the EU is indeed a radically different kind of polity, but unfortunately I must remain skeptical. It seems to me that the center does not hold and the cultural glue is missing. All one needs to to is read the proposed EU Constitution. A common army or a common bank will not do the trick I am afraid. Actually, I wrote a book on the subject titled "A New Europe in search of its Soul." You get the idea. See www.newoldworld.com for more information on said book.


Alexandra Pereira2007-09-02 14:36:11
Dear Paparella,

Still I don't agree with you :) The core of european identity is becoming, more and more, a puzzle formed by multiple (national, cultural and ethnic) sub-identities, so no cultural "glue" for uniformity is desirable. On the other hand, most european nations had their time to be "under the guise of the spread of civilization and inevitable progress" before, either 500 years ago or just last century. They didn't work out to be positive experiences, so I'm optimistic to think they can have learned something with failure, and might want to risk a more constructive kind of organization. But perhaps I'm just naïve... and like it.
So diversity is central, but the true glue, I think, must be human rights. But also cultural exchanges, both inside Europe and with other parts of the world become more frequent, and that's extremely important.


Emanuel Paparella2007-09-02 16:53:31
Dear Ms. Pereira,
I sincerely hope I am wrong in my exagerated skepticism and that indeed nationalism and xenophobia will never again raise its ugly head in the new European polity called the EU. In any case to proclaim oneself a citizen of a larger entity than one's nation, one that respects diversity and inalienable human rights, one needs to know first what is it that gives a European its unique cultural identity,i.e., Europa nosce te ipsum. For that, I dare say that its poets and philosophers can be of greater help than today's Machiavellian opportunistic politicians on both sides of the Atlantic pond, perhaps we can agree on that much.


Emanuel Paparella2007-09-02 16:58:15
P.S. I am thinking here of the great mistake made by teh architects of Italian unification. One of them, Benso de Cavour proclaimed in 1861: now that we have made Italy we need to make the Italians. That is nothing short than putting the cart before the horse. I trust the EU will avoid that blunder.


Alexandra2007-09-02 17:26:04
Of course we agree that the people make the Union, not politicians (they have been defeated by their populations once in a while, it's true). German philosophy is miles away from the spanish one, but germans can appreciate mediterranean food as much as the spanish german beer. The portuguese are as shy as the finns and love their technology, finnish people love the spanish sun, the italians love finnish smoked reindeer and almost everybody in EU loves dutch caramel cookies. Mutual appreciation (the same kind of appreciation some europeans need to grow towards non-europeans) and the will to be part of something new and fresh, I think those can be part of the secret. Of course there are economic reasons, Europe needs to be competitive... But even if culture is a good way to affirm itself, its culture is not uniform either (Bergman is not Antonioni, Antonioni is not Almodóvar, Almodóvar is not Peter Kerekes, and they are (were) all european; Lithuanian theatre is not British theatre, and they are both good...).


Emanuel2007-09-03 00:14:33
Indeed, Alexandra, what makes Ovi a better magazine than Newropeans is that in Ovi diversity and even disagreement are freely celebrated even when the mixing it up gets a bit out of hand and crosses the bounderies of courtesy. That is by far prederable to straight jacket ideological uniformity. Look at Newropeans; you will find there great presentations but precious few comments and dissension from the readers at large. Indeed, one can build on diversity and find in it the common values with which to forge a better future, not so with political correctness and elitist intolerance which tend toward the esoteric and the exclusion of people considered undesirable to one's political goals. Philosophy began in the agora via dialogue. Truth can only be found in dialogue. We need to continue the journey toward Truth in dialogue. There is no other way humane and responsible way.


Alexandra2007-09-03 00:58:01
I agree... :)

ps - when i said "miles away", i meant "very different" - didn't mean better nor worst.


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