By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Media Deputy Editor
A geopolitical power confrontation between an expanding European Union and the USA is drawing to a head. Build-up to the EU/U.S. Summit scheduled for June 25 has seen threats fired across the Atlantic with ferocity more akin to foes rather than friends. Is there more to this US-EU stoush than the USA demanding compliance from a formerly subservient diplo-partner? Are we seeing the emergence of a new world EU superpower and the inauguration of a Cold War Clash, 21st Century-style?
Pictured: French President Chirac and UN secretary general Kofi Annan - While the United States would wish to present a co-operative partnership between Europe and Washington, the reality is cultural divisions and polarised self-interest. The EU and the United Nations however have forged a closer and compatible alliance.
Europe is amassing a unified population set to dwarf the USA. With over 500 million citizens an expanded European Union’s economy will be almost equal to that of the USA’s. The EU is expanding geographically too, drawing into the fold economies rich in tradition, history and culture. This burgeoning superpower, with all its diversity, already dominates the United Nations, commands a diplomatic rival position that challenges the United States of America’s pursuit of total global dominance.
Yet the European Union in reality is in its nascency. Politically, EU expansion will forge together the power and determination of states and institutions to speak with one voice. For the first time in history, a Unified Europe will command wealth and power, militarily too, that certainly will counter the globalisation aspirations of the USA.
Militarily, Europe is currently using NATO, already acknowledged by many politicians and commentators on both sides of the Atlantic as a tired and spent force, as a body in transition. From NATO a European armed force will emerge, freed from its trans-Atlantic component, this new EU armed force will be charged to provide security and means to Europe’s aspirations and provide peacekeeping roles in hotspots about the world.
Already we see the EU considering placing a peacekeeping force in the Middle East and representative nations like Germany deploying troops in peacekeeping roles to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Likewise on the Ivory Coast and in Liberia the French have been effective in rescue and moderated ease to violence enflaming that region of Africa.
But the future holds much more for Europe.
It is likely, from the United States of America’s point of view, EU expansion will instigate the advent of an awesome military force, the rise of an entity that US policy [the National Security Strategy document] expressly forbids. The U.S. therefore can be expected to counter the EU’s ability to form an autonomous military force at every juncture.
Most recently we have seen the USA throwing its weight around Brussels, insisting Belgium abandon laws that permit charges laid against foreign nationals for war crimes and crimes against humanity, or face consequences.
The EU/US Summit in Washington on June 25 will raise hackles again over U.S. claims that Iran is developing Weapons of Mass Destruction. It is all too similar to the Pre-Iraq-War-Rhetoric for much of Europe to stomach. Europe's leaders are desperately trying to ensure there is no repeat of the debacle over the war in Iraq.
The United States of America however, is quietly raging over an self-awareness within Europe of having become a global power and its potential of directing the show as opposed to being subservient to U.S. interests.
All this festers beneath the surface of trans-Atlantic diplomacy.
KEY FACTS: The EU and US - economic and trade indicators 1999
Trade in goods and services (billion Euro):
Information courtesy of eurostat/
The USA would term Germany’s Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer as an enemy of U.S. national security interests. Fischer is earmarked to be the united European Union’s foreign affairs head.
The United States certainly has allies within the EU. The U.S. eyes Italy and the United Kingdom foremost among its European friends. It forges diplomatic ties, especially on foreign affairs and trade, to assist each respective nation’s interests. The U.S. also levers persuasion via Britain and Italy within the backrooms of the old establishment of which Europe is renowned.
It has used these ties when attempting to dampen strains over Iraq, and can be expected to play the friendly nation card in future when the need to stymie specific institutions within the EU arises.
In particular, the U.S. appears firmly resistant to the EU becoming a federalist union or to put it crudely, a United States of Europe. A federal conglomerate of persuasive nations on the global landscape, with all outward perceptions as being one super nation, is contrary to the USA’s global aspirations.
The United Kingdom for example is refusing to embrace the Euro [its Prime Minister Tony Blair, known to be in favour of Britain taking on the single currency, has been out politicised domestically]. Britain resists compromising its right to pursue independent foreign affairs and taxation policy and wishes for nations to be more autonomous and independent within a new expansive EU structure.
The USA’s and the UK’s main opponents, France and Germany, favour of a true Federal structure – a position that is fast winning favour with those smaller states such as Spain, Czech Republic, Romania and the Balkan states. Spain had concerned centering on how smaller contributing economies with smaller populations would observe influence within an European federation. Would these economies be overshadowed by the powerful north-western troika? The EU policy boffins are currently working on degrees of college vote and block power allocations that minimise negatives from both extreme points.
But European unity is the momentum, the pace of this movement is staggering.
Ironically, while differing positions over the USA-UK’s invasion and occupation of Iraq drove a wedge between those southern European economies and their northern counterparts, that wedge has in the past few months brought about focus and haste to advance a Europe with one common purpose. It is almost like those nations looked into the abyss of trans Atlantic crisis and have turned to their European market partners for solace.
Diplomatically, diversions, and indeed divisions, exploited by the United States over aggressive foreign and global security propositions, are being settled among the emerging EU nations and common ground is being forged.
Suspicion of American motives behind Roadmap peace talks is rife, especially while Israel continues to kill Palestinian civilians and innocents with American supplied arms.
KEY FACTS: The European Union formed from six founding member states in 1950. By 1995 its member states had grown to 15. Now, it is poised to nearly double its membership by 2007. There are challenges in bringing in this new wave of members - the countries of central and eastern Europe, Cyprus, Malta and Turkey and new Balkan states of the former Yugoslavia.
But the pace of expansion is swift. And Europeans are embracing a new found identity playing a crucial and almost bilateral role in world affairs with and against the United States of America.
The European Union is now preparing for its biggest enlargement ever in terms of scope and diversity. 13 countries have applied to become new members: 10 of these countries - Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia are set to join on 1st May 2004. They are currently know by the term "acceding countries". Bulgaria and Romania hope to do so by 2007, while Turkey is not currently negotiating its membership.
In order to join the Union, they need to fulfil the economic and political conditions known as the 'Copenhagen criteria', according to which a prospective member must:
The EU assists these countries in taking on EU
laws, and provides a range of financial assistance to
improve their infrastructure and economy.
Information courtesy of the European Union.
This back-drop, of a burgeoning European Superpower, is constricting the United States into being less relevant, less intertwined in European affairs, and indeed as recent weeks have displayed, alien to the European way.
It is all cause and effect, with the United States characteristically battling friend and foe to deliver its own domestic self-interest via unilateralism on the international stage. We have seen this tactic with Kyoto agreement non-compliance, we have seen it over Iraq, Afghanistan, on liberalised Free Trade Agreements with compliant nations, trade blocks with nations that do not embrace the George W Bush style of global peace. We have seen it in areas of global intelligence, we have witnessed the freeze creeping around a polarised world: where from the USA’s point of view there are nations “that are with us” and nations “that are with the terrorists”.
We have seen European countries like Germany and France eyeball the United States at the United Nations. We have been witness to threats of inciting insecurities within the borders of “unfriendly” nations.
EU forces are providing security and aid to trouble spots, like this German contingent in Afghanistan.
Compare European peacekeepers to the USA’s military heads. EU generals are embraced by nations in need, American generals are charged with war crimes. This drives deep-seated resentment from the USA.
For example, Belgium has been forced to defend its right to bring war crimes charges against U.S. Gen Tommy Franks, Colin Powell, George H Bush, Norman Schwartzkoff.
This Belgium law drew into the spotlight just how fragile NATO has become.
During the US-UK invasion of Iraq, Rumsfeld threatened that NATO was almost past its use by date. Rumsfeld’s outbursts on Thursday June 12 exposed how deep trans-Atlantic rifts over military alliances between Europe and the U.S. had become.
The issue displayed due to Belgium's Universal Competence Law. Under this law, U.S. Central Command chief Army Gen. Tommy Franks has been charged with war crimes for his actions in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Former President George H.W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and retired Army Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf, former CENTCOM commander, have also been charged for their roles in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
June 12 03 - U.S. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld drives home his position at NATO: “The United States rejects the presumed authority of Belgium courts to try General Franks, Colonel McCoy, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Powell and General Schwarzkoff, as well as former President Bush.”
Rumsfeld used the NATO summit platform to deliver a stern and uncompromising threat to foreign ministers.
Rumsfeld threatened that the USA no longer is willing to send uniformed and civilian officials to NATO HQ in Belgium while war crime charges continue to be laid. He further threatened that the USA will withhold its contribution toward a new HQ unless Belgium removes the law from its legislative books.
“Belgium needs to recognize that there are consequences to its actions and this law calls into serious question whether NATO can continue to hold meetings in Belgium and whether senior U.S. officials, military and civilian, will be able to continue to visit international organizations in Belgium. I would submit that could be the case for other NATO Allies as well,” Rumsfeld said.
“If the civilian and military leaders of member states cannot come to Belgium without fear of harassment by Belgium courts entertaining spurious charges by politicized prosecutors, then it calls into question Belgium's attitude about its responsibilities as a host nation for NATO and Allied Forces.
“Certainly until this matter is resolved we will have to oppose any further spending for construction for a new NATO headquarters here in Brussels, until we know with certainty that Belgium intends to be a hospitable place for NATO to conduct its business, as it has been over so many years,” Rumsfeld said.
The threats drove home the terms: Rumsfeld demanded Belgium abandon the laws and insisted that should Belgium fail to determine those laws obsolete then the U.S. would refuse to contribute to a new NATO HQ on Belgium soil.
The EU/U.S. rift is most obvious in areas of international law. The United States refuses to be held subservient to legal egalitarian charters that level recourse and consider citizens of the mightiest of nations equal in legal status to those of the tiniest of nations.
And consequently, diplomatic pressure has been mounting over the International Criminal Court in recent weeks, with the United States threatening the European Union that its promotion of the ICC will place “more strains” on trans-Atlantic relations.
Associated Press obtained confidential notes passed from U.S. diplomats to EU governments that warned further support from the EU for the ICC would create “discord and disharmony” at the June 25 summit between the United States and the European Union.
The Boston Globe reported the Bush Admin’s accusations: “In the memorandum, the Bush administration accused the Europeans of trying to subvert US efforts to protect Americans from prosecution by the court and said that such interference must stop.”
The Globe quoted directly from the notes: “’This will undercut all our efforts to repair and rebuild the trans-Atlantic relationship, just as we are taking a turn for the better after a number of difficult months,’ said the note, which was obtained by the Associated Press.”
The United States’ insular obsession, particularly on matters of international law, was mapped out in bold terms in the National Security Strategy, released in 2002. Within that document the U.S. stated: “We will take the actions necessary to ensure that our efforts to meet our global security commitments and protect Americans are not impaired by the potential for investigations, inquiry, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept.” On this issue alone, tension is now almost as high as it was when the North European troika threatened to veto U.S. war plans against Iraq. (see… Euro-Troika Threaten To Veto US War Plans) And in the heat-stakes it is relative to when Donald Rumsfeld said: “Now, you're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the east.” (see, DoD News Briefing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Wednesday, January 22, 2003 )
Northern Europe and the United States are most polarised on issues of International Criminal Law.
Europe is the backdrop for the new International Criminal Court (ICC), first embraced by the USA’s Clinton Administration, but later rejected by the George W. Bush Administration as being contrary to the United States’ interest.
Indeed, U.S. diplomats have actively sought to destroy the ICC’s ability to function by first soliciting exemption certificates from signed up nations that prevent those nations from charging or arresting U.S. citizens accused of crimes against humanity and other war crimes.
In recent weeks Europe has been forced to consolidate as the United States weighed an anti-ICC campaign through those smaller European economies [considered coalition of the willing nations by the U.S.] urging them to ratify each signed exemption certificate.
This has all come about due to Washington insisting the ICC will be used to bring politically motivated prosecutions against Americans, and points to Belgian law as an example of what could capture the International Criminal Court.
The U.S. has openly undermining the establishment and effectiveness of the International Criminal Court, firstly by pressurising mostly former Warsaw Pact states to sign exemption certificates that expressly prevent United States citizens and military personnel from being tried for international crimes.
Romania, Albania, Bosnia, the Czech Republic and 36 other nations worldwide have signed bilateral exemptions with the United States. The U.S. argues bilaterals are legally permissible. It plans to enforce accords designed to prevent countries from taking U.S. citizens into custody and transporting them to the ICC for trial.
There are complexities: while the executives of south east states like Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia signed bilateral exemption certificates, the state parliaments had not ratified them.
Russian Federation President Putin and Germany’s Chancellor Schroeder have brokered a symbiotic EU-Russian relationship that rocked United States diplomats during the build up to the US-UK invasion of Iraq. Russia is building closer ties with the expanding EU. The politically astute Putin almost willingly toys with U.S. President George W. Bush in a staccato-styled exchange of hot and cold diplo-speak.
In short, this month, the European Union struck back. Retaliation from the United States was yet to come.
Early in June the EU strategically moved to draw rogue continental states into line. The time was right, the Czech Republic was going to the polls, Czechs returned a decisive 77.8% yes-vote to joining the EU. Anticipating this, the EU had moved to persuade politicians to abandon bilateral exemption certificates, that would in effect block ratification and eyeball the U.S. on ethical and legal-egalitarian grounds.
The European Union wrote to the governments of the ten nations scheduled for EU assertion, and select Balkan states seeking entry to the EU, urging them not to sign, nor ratify, exemption certificates with the United States beyond guidelines already laid down by the EU.
The EU guidelines permit member countries to exempt US military and government personnel from ICC trials if Washington guarantees that individuals charged would be investigated and bought to trial in the United States.
U.S. retaliation spilled over at the United Nations late last week. Tensions between the United States and Northern European foes, France and Germany became more taut at the United Nations when the U.S. pressured a resolution before the Security Council that rolled over a further 12 month exemption from ICC prosecution for U.S. citizens taking part in peace keeping operations.
Under this resolution the International Criminal Court treaty is binding on all nations. But the United States insists its nationals should be exempt because Washington has not ratified it. Russia and China have also yet to ratify the ICC, so if one accepts the USA’s stance, these two nations are also exempt. Hence the motivation that saw both Russia and China support the resolution. France and Germany however walked out forcing an abstained vote, but with France, as a permanent member of the security council, falling short of using its veto. Consequently the resolution passed which in turn drew anger from UN general secretary Kofi Annan.
The stoush drew reaction stateside.
Again on June 13 03 the Boston Globe reported tensions between the U.S. and Europe again had frayed: “Washington's dealings with Paris and Berlin had seemed to be on the mend after the fractious debate over the Iraq war plunged relations to their lowest level in decades. President Bush sought to smooth over the rifts during a recent visit to Europe. But at the Security Council yesterday, France and Germany joined UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in decrying US immunity as contrary to the international treaty that set up the court. The resolution authorizes a yearlong exemption from arrest or trial for US peacekeepers before the International Criminal Court.” For more see… boston.com/dailyglobe
Annan criticised the U.S. move stating hope that the USA would not repeat the exemption-tactic annually: “If it (the USA) did so, I fear the world would interpret it as meaning that this Council wished to claim absolute and permanent immunity for people serving in the operations it establishes or authorizes,” the Secretary-General said. “And if that were to happen, it would undermine not only the authority of the ICC but also the authority of this Council, and the legitimacy of United Nations peacekeeping.” For more see… Annan concerned on peacekeepers'immunity from ICC - Friday, 13 June 2003, 11:39 am
Delightfully buoyed, United States President George W. Bush greets cheering U.S. troops in Oman.
On June 25 United States President George W. Bush will host a European Union/United States Summit in Washington. There will be smiles for the camera, handshakes for public measure. But between the players from both sides of the Atlantic will be the stare of cold-tempered-steel.
The United States reaction is predictable. European diplomatic sophistication commands complex interpretation. But by degrees we are witnessing the rising of a global superpower that will command due respect from the brash and self-convinced American who thinks Imperial PAX Americana is here to stay.
EARLIER CHAPTERS IN THIS SERIES
Chapter 1. See Imperial PAX Americana…
Chapter 2. See Lessons In Justice…
Chapter 4. Is Germany about To ‘Stiff’ Bush?
Chapter 5. The Diversion of Rhetoric Over Reason