- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2008

U.S. and EU

A socialist member of the Greek Parliament yesterday posed what he called a “deliberately provocative” question:

“Is the United States already a European Union member?”

Washington might be nearly 4,000 miles from Brussels, but decisions in the White House have a major impact on actions at EU headquarters in the Belgium capital, Evangelos Venizelos told foreign-policy specialists at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“The U.S. must understand it operates as a de facto member of the EU,” he said.

Mr. Venizelos, a member of the Panhellenic Socialist Party, known as PASOK, added that the United States considers the 27-nation EU an economic bloc, not a foreign-policy or military actor on the world stage.

“It wants a single European market,” he said of the United States.

However, he added, Washington does not want an EU with a common foreign-policy agenda that could challenge the United States in NATO or the U.N. Security Council, where the only EU members with permanent seats are Britain and France.

Currently, the EU functions more like a common market than a super-state with a European government divided between a ruling party and opposition party, said Mr. Venizelos, who has served Greece as minister of justice, minister of development and minister of culture.

While the U.S. influence is strong in Brussels, it is not absolute, Mr. Venizelos said, pointing to the case of Georgia and Ukraine as the latest example of trans-Atlantic tension. At the NATO summit in Romania earlier this month, President Bush ran into European objections to his proposal to begin NATO membership talks with the two former Soviet republics. Europe cited Russian objections.

“President Bush proposed an enlargement [of NATO] which was unacceptable to Europe,” Mr. Venizelos said.

He added that the United States must understand that Europe will pursue its own relationship with Russia, which is a major energy supplier to much of the Continent.

Aside from some disagreements, he argued that EU and U.S. goals are quite similar.

“Despite differences,” he said, “the relationship between the two continents is genetical.”

Diplomatic security

When terrorists bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the State Department faced the reality that most of its overseas missions were vulnerable to attack, often located on busy streets in restive Third World capitals.

Since then, the United States has embarked on a massive renovation and construction project to secure its embassies and consulates.

The Office of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO), working with Diplomatic Security, completed 56 new embassy or consulate complexes between 2001 and 2007, the State Department said this week. More than 16,000 U.S. diplomats were relocated to the secure locations, sometimes in the suburbs of foreign capitals and always surrounded by buffer zones to prevent car bombings.

“OBO currently has 34 new construction projects in design or under construction and 80 more in the long-range overseas facilities plan,” a department spokesman said.

During the same six-year period, OBO completed 24 major renovations and 197 “major physical security upgrades” for existing embassy buildings, “retrofitting them to the maximum extent feasible,” the department said.

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

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