Europe’s House Divided

Politique Etrangère (Foreign Policy), April-June 2001, Paris "For the first time since 1947 there is a real risk of decoupling between the United States and Europe." Thus states Dominique Moïsi in a recent issue of the 66-year-old quarterly journal Politique Etrangère, France’s premier international-affairs publication. Moïsi, the journal’s editor in chief, contends that European criticisms ...

Politique Etrangère (Foreign Policy), April-June 2001, Paris

Politique Etrangère (Foreign Policy), April-June 2001, Paris

"For the first time since 1947 there is a real risk of decoupling between the United States and Europe." Thus states Dominique Moïsi in a recent issue of the 66-year-old quarterly journal Politique Etrangère, France’s premier international-affairs publication. Moïsi, the journal’s editor in chief, contends that European criticisms of the United States stem from the Bush administration’s refusal to recognize "the realities of the new Europe" — a Europe that is "much more confident in itself, dynamic and strong" and aware of its "unique character." How delightfully French!

The only trouble with Moïsi’s analysis is that it overlooks so much: Denmark’s initial spurning of the Maastricht Treaty and the euro, Ireland’s rebuff of the Nice Treaty, Switzerland’s rejection of European Union (EU) entry negotiations, France’s 49 percent "no" vote on Maastricht, Great Britain’s lowly 24 percent turnout in elections for the European Parliament, and the election by Britain’s Tories of a leader who openly discusses Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

Fortunately, other articles in this issue of Politique Etrangère flatly contradict the thesis of its editor in chief. (Perhaps he did not read them before writing his introduction.) For example, Hans Stark of the French Institute of International Relations reports that French-German relations are experiencing their most severe "crisis of confidence" in nearly 30 years. The great clash came at Nice last year, when Germany demanded, but failed to obtain, more votes than France in the EU’s Council of Ministers. The French regarded the conference results as a "diplomatic Suez." The two nations now disagree sharply over the potential shape of a future European constitution.

Tensions between the traditional EU members are shadowed by disagreements over the union’s potential enlargement. Recalling the costs of German unification, nobody, particularly the Germans, wants to shoulder the burden of modernizing Eastern Europe. Officially the EU is on the verge of expansion, yet only 38 percent of Germans and 34 percent of French citizens actually favor enlargement. Meanwhile, states like Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Ireland remain loath to share their access to the EU’s "structural funds" with poorer new entrants. Indeed, at Nice, Spain succeeded in maintaining a veto on this issue until 2007. Meanwhile, European agricultural policies — another key issue in any enlargement negotiations — have not even been broached with candidate countries.

In their article "The Difficult German-Czech Reconciliation," East European specialists Jacques Rupnik and Anne Bazin explain how decades-old tensions between Germany and the Czech Republic (a leading EU hopeful) threaten to undermine the binational goodwill fostered by Czech President Vaclav Havel during the 1990s. Despite a treaty of cooperation in 1992 and the Common Declaration of Reconciliation five years later, the two countries remain at odds over issues dating back to World War II, including the rights of Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia between 1945 and 1946 and the compensation still unpaid to Czech victims of Nazism. Fear of Germany has resurfaced in the Czech Republic, while Austria, the European Parliament, and some German parties have asked the Czechs to declare the 1945 and 1946 decrees expelling Germans illegal — a course of action most Czechs refuse to contemplate.

Far from becoming stronger and more confident, the EU appears increasingly fragile. In their essay "Secession and Permanence at the Heart of the European Union," Spanish journalist Andrés Ortega and law professor José M. de Areilza even speculate on the potential consequences if an EU member state suffers an internal secession. (The authors are clearly considering the Basque and Catalan situations in Spain, although the Scottish case is analogous.) They maintain that such an occurrence would serve no one and would prove very complicated and costly. Interestingly, however, they do not take seriously the possibility that a member state would want to secede from the EU itself. Yet time will tell. Perhaps the true danger of "decoupling" looms not between the United States and Europe but rather within the weakening model of European federalism.

<p> Alan Sked is a professor of international history and a former convener of European studies at the London School of Economics. </p>

More from Foreign Policy

Newspapers in Tehran feature on their front page news about the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, signed in Beijing the previous day, on March, 11 2023.
Newspapers in Tehran feature on their front page news about the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, signed in Beijing the previous day, on March, 11 2023.

Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America

The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.

Austin and Gallant stand at podiums side by side next to each others' national flags.
Austin and Gallant stand at podiums side by side next to each others' national flags.

The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense

If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.

Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at the Moscow Kremlin Wall in the Alexander Garden during an event marking Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at the Moscow Kremlin Wall in the Alexander Garden during an event marking Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow.

Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War

Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.

An Iranian man holds a newspaper reporting the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, in Tehran on March 11.
An Iranian man holds a newspaper reporting the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, in Tehran on March 11.

How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests

And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.