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Ashton's EU diplomacy
by Thanos Kalamidas
2010-03-11 07:46:18
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The new EU foreign policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton speaking about her plans about the future of the European Union diplomacy in the European Parliament said emphatically that to build a robust new diplomatic service is once in a generation opportunity for Europe. Well the bad news for Catherine is that Solana wasted this chance so we have to wait for the next generation.

I have no problem with Ms Ashton and I have said it before that before start criticizing her we’ve better wait to see what she can do. This is one thing the other thing is that doesn’t mater how inexperience she is – as a lot often mention – she cannot do worst than Solana and this is critical for her future as the European Union’s foreign minister. Her speech was neutral full of euphemisms and diplomatic hopes in other words she said too much saying absolutely nothing but that’s where the EU foreign policy stands on today or to use her semantics for this generation.

We like it or not in Europe the crossroads for the EU foreign policy has been the invasion to Iraq, the relationship with Bush’s administration and the EU expansion to countries with political agenda that not always marching the not clear EU’s foreign policy targets. I said crossroads but the situation in the EU foreign policy after the invasion to Iraq looks more like a dead end that hasn’t solved out yet. Member countries like UK and Poland fully supported the American plans, participated and nowadays they are chained in the aftermath carousel when other members led mainly from Germany and France is keeping their distance. This distance hasn’t been close yet; it is still there and makes the partners look each other with suspicion or better wondering what will happen with the next crisis.

Think of it, for months after the crisis in Iraq and the talk about new and old Europe there was even talk about the unity. The British arrogantly shown that this is it and if you like it, the Polish seemed to have misunderstood everything, they thought they joined the European Union as the first step before becoming the 51st State of USA, the Finns had secret talks with Bush’s administration, the French fries had become liberty fries and all Europe was feeling dizzy.

And that was the point where a political decision, a strong foreign representative was absolutely necessary for the EU. But both men who were holding the political power in EU were absent or better too busy satisfying Bush to do anything. The biggest failure of the European Union policy Jose Barroso was talking about the Europe of the strong and the weak organizing meetings in tropical islands were most of the European members were not invited while Bush was having the head of the table and Javier Solana was replacing his French wines with Californian wines.

The expansion of Europe with 12 new members, countries that were not ready to become full members in a Union that was not ready itself to deal with its new realities and the changes in geopolitics as they have become was another mistake of the Barroso-Solana duo. Think of it, while Germany and France are trying to bring some balance in the relationships between EU and Russia, Poland and some others of the east European countries are ready for a war with Russia just because thirty years ago it was the capital of communism without even caring in what century they live, how many things have changed and what are the interests of the Union they had just joined and the obligations they had to this union.

But then again why should they care? While most of the …old Europe states had agreed not to participate in the Iraqi fiasco, Tony Blair ignored everything including UN decisions and hand to hand with George Bush invaded Iraq. So why Poland should do anything different. I use often the example of Poland but this country is the perfect example of how little EU was prepared for the expansion and how little the new members are prepared of a Union like EU. For them EU is a Union that reminds them the Warsaw Pact but this time they can say no to nearly everything. While in the Warsaw Pact everything they didn’t like was fascist or Capitalist, now everything is …communist and should be illegal, punished, terminated!

That’s the reality Ms Ashton has to deal with. You see before – as many worry – Ms unknown and inexperience Ashton pick the phone and call Barrack Obama, she must be sure that she has behind her a united EU and the necessary political support, the united political support the EU foreign minister needs. That’s why I keep saying that she needs time, because first of all she has to clear the inside EU diplomacy before start doing international diplomacy and I’m afraid after the damage Barroso/Solana and tony Blair have done to the European foreign policy it will take a generation to fix. And the examples I used are just few of the many and we have started seen the failures of lacking a common and strong political support inside EU even in the latest economic events. If things look bad with the Greek economy I’m thankful countries like Poland haven’t joined yet the euro-zone and I’m afraid to ask what’s really going on with countries like Estonia that have.

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Emanuel L. Paparella2010-03-11 11:01:57
In a Machiavellian world where power is everything one can mouth pious prononcements about human rights and respect for life but what will determine the relationship between nations and block of nations will be the assessment of how much they spend on defense, so called. When you make that assessment you begin to grasp the magnitude of what Baroness Ashton has to deal with. What I'd like to know is this. Is she willing to change the Machiavellian paradigm? If not, do not expect much from her.

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