- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

Dutch dismayedEurope faces a period of soul searching after its dismally divided performance during the recent war in Iraq, according to Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.”One obvious conclusion of the Iraq war for us is that Europe does not have a foreign policy, and Europe should have a foreign policy,” Mr. de Hoop Scheffer told a luncheon of scholars, government officials and journalists at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday. Much of the minister’s remarks focused on the inability of the European Union’s leading powers — notably Britain, France and Germany — to present a united diplomatic front in the prewar maneuvering, reports David R. Sands, a correspondent for The Washington Times.As long as Europe cannot develop a coherent policy on the diplomatic and security challenges of the day, “it will be easy for the United States to go its own way,” warned Mr. de Hoop Scheffer, a member of the Dutch center-right Christian Democratic Party.The Netherlands supported the removal of Saddam Hussein and recently offered to send a contingent of Dutch marines to help stabilize postwar Iraq. Mr. de Hoop Scheffer was also bitingly critical of a Franco-German push in recent days to build up a European defense arm widely seen as competing with the trans-Atlantic NATO alliance.”I believe we cannot devise a security structure for Europe without the United States. Some other countries think we can,” the foreign minister said, adding he believed those countries were “in the minority.”He said both the United States and the European Union had made mistakes in recent years that helped push the trans-Atlantic relationship into its current crisis, but he said the onus is on the EU to address the problem, given the overwhelming U.S. military and strategic power.”We have to acknowledge that the multilateral system will not work without the United States,” Mr. de Hoop Scheffer said, “but we also must see that the United States will not work multilaterally if that system is not effective or credible.”He pressed for a major role for the United Nations in the reconstruction of Iraq, but said U.S. concerns about the international body must be addressed.”We realize in Europe that the U.N. without the United States would be the League of Nations. That means we have to give teeth to the multilateral system,” he said.Slovenia’s timeSix years ago, Slovenian Ambassador Ernst Petric watched in disappointment as his country was rejected for membership in NATO.Mr. Petric, now ambassador to Austria, knew Slovenia was qualified, but he suspected at the time that the former Yugoslav republic had become a victim of NATO politics. France was linking Slovenia’s membership to Romania’s, and NATO officials knew that Romania was not ready in 1997.Mr. Petric was replaced by Dimitrij Rupel, now foreign minister, who continued the quest for U.S. support for Slovenia’s membership in NATO.Now Ambassador Davorin Kracun, Slovenia’s third ambassador to the United States since its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, is preparing to celebrate the achievement of the goal.Slovenia is one of seven countries invited to join the alliance. The others are Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.”If all goes well, we will be in by May 2004,” Mr. Kracun told Embassy Row yesterday. He said he expects the U.S. Senate to approve the extension amendments to the NATO treaty next week. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee gave its approval on Wednesday in a vote of 19-0. Mr. Kracun is preparing for Mr. Rupel to return to Washington next week to celebrate the NATO expansion.The ambassador credits President Bush for inspiring NATO members to consider another expansion. NATO admitted Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic in 1999.”When I came to Washington in May 2000, nobody really spoke about NATO expansion,” Mr. Kracun said. “The turning point was when President Bush traveled to Europe and talked about expanding NATO from the Baltic to the Black Sea.”Slovenia is also one of 10 countries invited to join the 15-nation European Union.”These two goals were set forth when we were struggling for independence,” Mr. Kracun said.

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