- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 27, 2001


Remarkable yet unexamined is the significance of President Bush's (a) travel schedule and (b) White House visitors from abroad. This schedule is informing European leaders that a new American foreign policy is in the making, one which the statist bureaucrats of the European Union (EU) may have every reason to distrust.
Here's how the presidential schedule has shaped up:
The first Bush trip outside the United States was to meet Mexico's new head of state, President Vicente Fox Feb. 16.
The first foreign leader to have visited the White House was Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
The first European leader to have visited the White House was British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Feb. 23. Unlike Germany, France and Russia, Britain is offering cautious support for U.S. missile defense even as French and German official opinion is against it.
No leaders from Germany, France or other West or East European countries are scheduled at this writing nor is any presidential overseas trip imminent. The charter members of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) the United States, Canada and Mexico get the first White House go-around.
That was President Reagan's concern make sure of your friends on the North American continent. Then Britain and the "special relationship," the long-standing Anglo-American partnership which, for example, finds American and British fighter planes in a joint operation over Iraq while continental Europe France and Russia look on disapprovingly. And it was noted that in his press conference Feb. 22 that Mr. Bush said that "Britain and the United States have got a special relationship."
Today, some are asking, why not make it the "North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement," to include Great Britain, whose biggest export market is the United States, its closest ally? The question is quite relevant since British public opinion is divided both on continued membership in the existing EU and on whether to give up the pound sterling in favor of a new single currency, the euro, scheduled to start circulating next January within 12 of the 15 EU countries. One in three Britons wants withdrawal from the 15-member-state EU and there is even more division on the pound versus the euro. The influential Euroskeptic London Daily Telegraph has been pushing a reorganized NAFTA to include Britain.
Conservatives are sharply divided about EU membership. Former Prime Minister Lady Thatcher was prepared to deliver a speech earlier this month calling upon Britain to get out of the EU, which she has called the "Brussels superstate." William Hague, the Conservative leader, prevailed upon her not to make the speech. But she'll make it sometime. This lady's not for squelching.
At stake in this triangular relationship the United States, Britain and the EU is the future of NATO which during the Cold War was a guarantor of Western European security against the Soviet Union. Now the EU is planning a 60,000-strong European rapid reaction force by 2003 prepared to go anywhere in EU or non-EU countries to keep the peace or to keep local quarrels local. National missile defense has been a target in continental Europe led by the EU. That opposition by the EU has openly concerned Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who, at a European meeting in Munich a few weeks ago, managed in his address not to mention the EU's existence.
It's too early to tell what the Bush administration's attitude will be toward the EU. There is certainly a difference between the political culture of the Eurocrats, almost all of whom are social democrats, and the Bush administration, particularly on such issues as trade unionism, labor costs and social benefits, arms control, free market economics. There is a latent anti-Americanism among the EU leaders headquartered in Brussels because of its successful capitalist economy.
The real crisis in the EU will come when the 15 state delegations sit down sometime next year to write the "loi fondementale," the constitution for European Union. Such a document when ratified by the member states would consummate their integration as the "United States of Europe." That was the phrase of Aristide Briand, a French foreign minister, whose idea it was three-quarters of a century ago.


LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide