Monday, September 13, 2004

Views from the edges

So the finance ministers' meeting broke up with not very much agreed at all, except for an agreement to have a working party on the contentious issue of "tax dumping", enabling Gordon Brown to claim that the "argument was going Britain’s way" – where have we heard this before?

Meanwhile, two prime ministers from the opposite ends of the EU were making their views known on wider issues.

At the eastern edge, Polish prime minister Marek Belka declared that Europe should not build its identity on anti-American sentiments. "An attempt to define European identity in anti-American categories is no good, or even - from the point of view of present world challenges - it is silly, short-sighted, leading to Europe's marginalisation and making a fool of itself," he said.

EU member states should clearly specify their foreign policy, which should be compatible with US policy, towards, for instance, the Middle East, which is particularly important in view of Turkey's plans to join the EU.

At the western extreme Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was writing for the French weekly Journal du Dimanche, stating that "preventative" war was not the best way to combat terrorism - a clear criticism of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"The fight against terrorism, hunger and poverty that are devastating a large part of our planet must follow the roads of dialogue and justice… I don't believe the correct method for fighting international terrorism is conventional war, even less one of a preventative nature," Zapatero added.

And while Brown went home to do battle with the Blairites - or not – Zapatero was preparing to host an informal, three-way summit in Madrid with Chirac and Schröder, two leaders of the anti-US alliance.

He has expressed a desire to work with the French and German leaders to develop a new UN framework to end the American occupation of Iraq and calling for "greater European unity". "There is no 'old' or 'new' Europe, but one Europe that, to be heard, must speak with a single voice and act with a single hand," he argues.

Nonetheless, hedging his bets, he added, "The world is more safe and more prosperous when the United States and the European Union work jointly to achieve international peace and stability."

But, as my colleague pointed out, soon it will be Belka’s turn to have a summit. What will he be saying then?

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