EU's growing influence in foreign policy, but...
Agence Europe - 3 April 2004
By Ferdinando Riccardi
The fact of existence. To those who keep saying that Europe does not exist in foreign policy, I would like to point out just how politically effective the EU is by the very fact that it exists. Its existence directly influences the behaviour of many third countries, in Europe and elsewhere, and in the right direction, by determining the actions of countries and populations. How many years did the countries of central and eastern Europe come on in their evolution, with the aim of being ready to join the EU? The consolidation of borders and the complex problems of minorities would not have been resolved so quickly and consensually without the prospects of accession. Hungary may still not have concluded this question today, had it not received assurances that Hungarian minorities in neighbouring countries would be duly protected by Community provisions which can still be enforced.
But this now goes down in the annals; in four weeks' time, all these countries will belong to the Union. Let us, therefore, look at the EU's direct influence elsewhere. The chances of a solution in Cyprus one of these months are clearly linked to the deadline of accession; if the last wall splitting a European city into two ethnic communities is to fall, it's thanks to the existence of the EU. And what of Turkey? The concern of respecting the Copenhagen criteria with a view to opening accession negotiations has been the spur to the Turkish authorities to speed up political reform. If it succeeds, the transformation will be unparalleled in the rest of the Muslim world. Furthermore, it is not just in Turkey, but throughout the Mediterranean basin that the existence of the EU holds sway. And the same goes for the Ukraine and other eastern countries.
What about the Balkans? Here, I reach a weighty point-the Balkans. The EU effect has already been felt in Slovenia, and is making itself known in Croatia. I am not questioning the sincerity of the authorities, which say they are carrying out political reforms for the sake of the progress and wellbeing of their countries, accession or no accession. I am merely pointing out that prospects of accession bring powerful positive pressure to bear on both political and economic forces, and on public opinion. However, it is true that in certain parts of former Yugoslavia, we are still a long way off the objective; recent events in Kosovo bear this out. But even, or especially, there, salvation can only come from a united Europe. The EU is taking on ever greater responsibility in these areas; fortunately, we are no longer in the position we were in when the Union had no power, and when NATO's indispensable involvement went beyond what was necessary or reasonable (the destruction of bridges on the Danube!). When the Constitution is approved and projects on rapid reaction forces in place, we will be able to avoid any unpardonable steps backward in these regions. As long as you don't get the wrong policy. Let me explain.
Kosovo: mistrust demagogy. Certain recent statements by Jean-Claude Juncker (the Prime Minister with the most European experience) and two or three MEPs have inspired me to put together a few observations, albeit cautiously and hesitantly. The EU is calling for a "multi-ethnic Kosovo"; that's its official position, and the Summit has just called on the local authorities to show "the proof of their commitment" to this formula. I have no quarrel with either the legitimacy or the political orthodoxy of this position. But the events of the past, as well as recent ones, show that the people want none of it. A shame, but that's the way it is. The Serbian authorities themselves have suggested starting by creating various "homogenous" provinces, which would gradually become more and more autonomous. Those opposing this for reasons of principle would be running the risk of sharing the responsibility for future troubles (and carnage). Mr Juncker criticised the "weak and contradictory speech" of the EU on Kosovo's European perspectives, calling for a debate on "our conception of the scale, future and development of the region" (see our bulletin of 27 March, p.7). Three days later, British Conservative Charles Tannock spoke of "a partition of Kosovo". After the declaration of the Summit, the British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon could only reject this hypothesis, but said that the EU must "protect the Serb minorities more and more" (and the same firmness used when the minorities to be protected were on the other side). On Tuesday, several MEPs came back onto the subject, Joos Langedijk talking explicitly about an independent Kosovo (see our bulletin of 1 April, p.4). Does anyone need reminding that in the meantime, Kosovars have started to destroy orthodox churches and monasteries, precious and irreplaceable heritage of our civilisation? We must stop this kind of thing, whatever the cost, and look for solutions which take account of what the people want, as far as possible; even in foreign policy, one must guard against demagogy.