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The things that surprise them

Posted by Helen Saturday, October 09, 2004

Speaking as someone who has been predicting this for a while, I cannot understand why the International Herald Tribune should start an article with the words:

“European Union foreign policy is emerging as an unexpected casualty of expansion, as new members are using their weight in the 25-nation bloc to settle scores with their non-EU neighbours, senior EU diplomats said this week.”
Unexpected? By whom? Not by anyone who knows any European history. After all, the main reason most East European countries joined the EU was to protect themselves from Russia. Now that they are in, they want that protection.

More than that, they want the EU to be on their side in some of the centuries’ old disputes they have been having with their neighbours or members of previous European or federal states.

Just about a week ago a completely incomprehensible border dispute blew up between Slovenia, already a member, and Croatia, a potential member. Wisely, Javier Solana refused to intervene. Next time he might not be able to stay out of matters.

The Greeks and the Greek Cypriots have been trying to throw their weight around to ensure that the EU strangles Northern Cyprus, but, unfortunately for them the Greek Cypriots overplayed their hand during that double referendum.

Hungary, who has borders with both Serbia and Croatia, and keeps an eye on ethnic Hungarian populations in both those countries and Romania had been very quiet about all of that until May 1. Now, it feels the EU should intervene to protect its people in those countries.

And so it goes. Personally, I cannot wait for the day Romania joins the EU and the question of Transylvania raises its head again.

Of course, one can see what the problem is. The older members, particularly France and Germany, have been labouring mightily and, on the whole, unsuccessfully to create the concept of a common security policy that is based on a common foreign one, largely defined in terms of opposition to the United States and the need to be a powerful presence on the world stage. The new member states are not anti-American – something I remember saying first at a conference in Oxford three years ago, long before Donald Rumsfeld did – and their idea of a security policy is to protect them. As for a common foreign policy, they have not the slightest interest in it. That is not why they joined the great European leviathan.