- The Washington Times - Friday, July 18, 2008

MALAISE IN EUROPE

The foreign minister of Finland is worried about a widespread feeling of despair settling over the half-billion citizens of the European Union, many of whom feel isolated from the power center in Brussels and dissatisfied with its accomplishments.

“The mood in Europe has turned sour. I don’t like it one bit,” Alexander Stubb told an audience Thursday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“I’m actually worried about the current mood in the EU. It has repercussions for U.S.-EU relations and EU relations with Russia and China.”

Mr. Stubb, foreign minister since April, said the malaise is caused by different issues in the 27-nation bloc but EU officials in the Belgian capital share the blame for failing to communicate EU successes with its citizens.

“We have a communications deficit,” he said. “The big problem is that we haven’t been able to sell enlargement as the success it is.”

The EU has expanded six times since 1951, when Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands formed the European Coal and Steel Community the forerunner of the current organization. The most recent enlargements came in 2004, when 10 new countries joined and increased the EU to 25 members, and in 2007, when two new nations joined. Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey are now engaged in membership talks, and Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia are considered potential candidates.

“Countries are knocking on the door of the EU because it has been a success,” he said.

However, the Irish rejection of an EU reform treaty dealt a blow to future expansion, Mr. Stubb said. The defeat of the Irish referendum June 12 has been called an “earthquake” that rattled the “Eurocrats” because the treaty needed unanimous approval from all member nations.

Some European leaders are so angry with the Irish that they are talking about creating a second-class membership for nations that refuse to adopt all EU institutions. Others are trying to pressure the Irish to have another vote on the measure that would streamline some EU functions and create an unelected president and foreign and defense minister.

Mr. Stubb urged caution.

“I call for everyone to be cool and calm about it,” he said. “We need to bide time and come up with a creative solution. The solution must come from the Irish. It cannot be imposed on them.”

Mr. Stubb, a former member of the European Parliament, endorsed all of the measures proposed in the treaty, which runs nearly 500 pages. He said the EU should function more akin to a super-national government and establish embassies to support the diplomatic missions of the member nations.

He even suggested removing Britain and France as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and installing one ambassador for the entire EU bloc. British and French seats on the council are “relics of the past,” he said.

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