- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A NEW EUROPE

When Henry Kissinger was secretary of state in the 1970s, he once quipped, “If I want to call Europe, who do I call?”

Europe now has an answer to that question, as the Greek ambassador to the United States explained this week.

The recent creation of a permanent presidency of the European Union and the appointment of a foreign minister for the 27 member-nations mean Europe can “speak with a single and clearer voice,” Ambassador Vassilis Kaskarelis told the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

He noted that the end of the rotating presidency, under which one country held the office for six months at a time, means EU policies will no longer “depend on the whims and capabilities” of the temporary leadership.

As Greece’s ambassador to the EU and to NATO before coming to Washington in June, Mr. Kaskarelis is well aware of U.S. perceptions of its European partners and the need for Europe to increase defense spending and improve the efficiency of its vast bureaucracy.

“Not all problems will be automatically resolved [with the new EU structure],” he said. “The U.S. will rightly continue to be frustrated over certain things.”

He cited Europe’s “inability to substantially shore up its military capabilities,” its “method of compromise” that often reaches an ineffective “lowest common denominator,” and its “helplessness” in reaching a “strategic vision” to help the United States share the burden of NATO responsibilities. He added that, since World War II, Europeans have grown “accustomed to defense on the cheap.”

“At times, the perception [in Europe] is that Washington’s interest in EU affairs is dwindling, while many in the U.S. perceive the EU as a collection of weak and ineffective states, which are neither malleable nor collectively helpful,” he said. “Both perceptions are wrong.”

Mr. Kaskarelis said EU and U.S. diplomats cooperate on a vast array of international problems, from the Iranian nuclear threat to counterterrorism.

“The European Union is gradually becoming a uniquely equipped crisis-management actor and, consequently, as ideal strategic partner for the United States,” he said.

“Today,” he added, “the EU-U.S. relationship is more crucial than ever. The European Union and the United States are each other’s natural allies. They are each other’s most obvious and important political and trade partners, united by common values and threat perceptions.”

PLANETARY EMERGENCY

Michel Rocard has little patience for skeptics who argue that climate change is not real.

The former French prime minister, who addressed an audience at the residence of French Ambassador Pierre Vimont on Monday night, said the Copenhagen meeting on climate change must lead to a binding international agreement.

“We have to save the planet and this is an emergency,” he said.

Without urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he said, 15 to 20 nations “are sure to disappear off the map in the next 30 years.”

During Mr. Rocard’s premiership from 1988 to 1991, he helped shape an appeal in The Hague that declared “the human right to a safe environment.”

Currently in charge in France of negotiations over the North Pole and South Pole, Mr. Rocard discounted the recent flap over e-mails by climate scientists that suggested that some evidence contradicting dire climate predictions had been suppressed.

“This is stupid,” he told Barbara Slavin, assistant managing editor for national security and world news at The Washington Times, after his lecture.

He added, “I prefer books to e-mails. They are more responsibly written.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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