Newsletter June 2003




by Maksym Kovalov

The European Union is preparing for its most ambitious enlargement ever. Reuniting the European continent will not only consolidate peace and democracy, but will also enable the peoples of Europe to share the benefits of progress and welfare generated by European integration. Thirteen countries have applied to become the EU members, and 10 of them have officially been admitted to join in 2004. So far, Malta, Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovakia have ratified the EU accession on the basis of referendum.


In February 2003, the common Western stand against the Iraqi dictator collapsed, thus endangering the health of the Atlantic alliance, the United Nations, and the European Union. The question that arises now is: whom should the Western countries blame for this? Most commentators argue that the West has only itself to blame.

Everything started when France openly declared that it would use its veto power to oppose any new UN resolution that would mean the invasion of Iraq. To appease France and Germany, the EU insisted on giving the UN weapons inspectors “the time and resources”. In a nod to the Spanish-British position, the statement added that “inspections could not continue indefinitely”.


Although both sides claimed some satisfaction, the already wide division appeared obvious.

The victim of this rift among the West is the EU itself. Donald Rumsfeld’s famous division of Europe into a “new Europe” of pro-American Central European countries and an “old Europe” represented by France and Germany entails danger to the future of the union. The solidarity with the American position expressed by the leaders of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, Hungary and Poland was strengthened by other ten European countries which were at that time certain to join the EU in the near future. That support was followed by French President Jacques Chirac’s hints that France might veto the applications by former communist countries to join the EU. Chirac asked Central Europeans to “shut up” in order not to jeopardize the accession to the EU membership. “They have not been very well behaved”, he said, “and have been rather reckless of the danger of aligning themselves too rapidly with the American position”. As for Romania and Bulgaria, whose membership is still to be negotiated, he added that, “if they wanted to diminish their chances of joining the EU, they could not have chosen a better way.”


Is the French president’s position irrational? Not at all, considering the fact that, in his view, Europe should be a counterweight to the United States. If the EU candidate countries side with the United States over Iraq, it is to be predicted that their presence in the enlarged EU will lessen French influence and turn the Union into a NATO look-alike alliance, Atlanticist by conviction and Anglophone by language.


As a result, the Eastern Europeans found themselves to be sandwiched between the French-German and the US-British camps. Eastern European governments supported the Americans in their war campaign, but at the same time opinion polls in these countries indicated that a large majority of the population was against the war. While Western-European politicians are under great pressure from their electorates, the opposite is observed in the East. Therefore, East European governments remained determined to support the US.


The attitude of Eastern European countries towards the U.S. can be better explained by two basic needs for the existence of these countries: security and economic development. Only Washington can provide security, that is, protection against the traditional aggressors in the region. The joint position of Russia, France and Germany over the war in Iraq provides less assurance that Western Europe can garantee the security to the post-Communist countries. While Eastern Europeans seek the security support from the U.S., the European Union is the most credible economic support for them. There is a mutual dependence between the EU and the ten new members: the need for investment and financial aid of the East is balanced by the EU’s need of Eastern European markets and labor. At the same time, people in Eastern Europe feel strongly European.


Staying “between the devil and the deep blue see” is not the best way of building the necessary trust for successful cooperation. The internal conflict in which Eastern European countries find themselves will not entail serious short-term consequences regarding their EU membership. The long-term consequences, however, seem to be much more important. The internal rift within Europe moves Germany away from supporting the EU enlargement to the East, and isolates France. As a result, Europe splits on almost any foreign policy issue. This rift endangers the existence of such international institutions as the United Nations and nobody can be sure that the UN will not have the same fate as the League of Nations. During the first decade of its existence, the League of Nations solved at least thirty disputes, but those disputes involved mostly small and middle powers. Once major powers became involved in the 1930s, the League showed its ineffectiveness and was dismissed. Similarly, during the Cold War, the UN had never been seriously tested as a collective security apparatus; only the future will show the full impacts of the Iraqi crisis on the viability of the United Nations.


The difficulty today is that current arguments within Europe were and are not really about Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, or new members of the European Union. They are about attitudes towards the US, its pre-eminence and its unilateralism. Such differences of opinion are always likely to re-emerge. The antiwar coalition of Russia, Germany and France as well as the Eastern European countries are not hostile to the US goal of instituting more democratic structures in the Arab world. They agree with Americans on the final goal, but argue that the final goal cannot excuse the means. “Democracy cannot be imposed on a People by force”. American tactics are not considered acceptable for Europe.

Maksym Kovalov is a Muskie Fellow 

pursuing his Master's Degree in International 

Relations at Oklahoma State University