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Cablegate: Dining with Chris: Random Thoughts From Relex

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



EO 12958 DECL: 04/29/2014

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Kyle Scott. Reason: 1.4 (B )(D)

1. (C) Summary: Over rubbery fish at an Adenauer Stiftung affair on April 27, External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten touched briefly on why the EU will never be a “real power,” the dubious backgrounds of some of the leaders of the EU’s new members, next steps on Cyprus/Turkey, the differences between a union and an alliance, and Russian President Putin’s “killer’s eyes.” His formal remarks focused on the future of the European Commission, where he offered ten recommendations to the next commission. End Summary.

On What It Means to Be a “Real Power”

2. (C) To be a real power, Patten said, a country must be ready and able to adopt and implement a policy, even if the rest of the world considers it unwise. Europeans may agree or disagree with US policy, but they admire that the US is ready to carry out the policies it thinks best, no matter what the rest of the world thinks. Under this yardstick, the EU will never be a “real power” because there is always someone in the room who is overly cautious, and will insist on looking at matters “sensibly.”

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Next Steps On Cyprus/Papadopolous’ Dubious Character...
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3. (C) The next steps for the Commission are figuring out how to spend money in Northern Cyprus. Patten expects the EC to open an office to oversee their assistance. While there will be legal hurdles to managing the process, he was confident the Commission would find a way. Patten doubted the Greek Cypriots would openly oppose any efforts, noting that they were “on their heels” diplomatically after their blatant efforts to stifle opposing views on the referendum. This incident, Patten said, was a sad reflection on the realities of EU enlargement: Some of the new members were people you would “only want to dine with if you have a very long spoon.” Not that the EU should have been surprised by Papadopolous’ behavior, Patten said, since they knew well who they were dealing with: Milosevic’s lawyer.XXXXXXXXXXXX ... And on


4. (C) Patten noted that he was the biggest proponent in the Commission for Turkey’s admission. In his view, based on the technical merits alone, the Commission has no other option but to give a positive avis to begin accession negotiations. Still, he said the political climate in Europe is not receptive to Turkey’s candidacy. The problem, in his view, was not Chirac in France, since “he can change his policies on a whim.” Patten considered the opposition of conservative parties in Germany and Spain the most serious obstacles to Turkish admission.

On the Difference Between a Union and an Alliance
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5. (C) Patten also said he felt at times the US does not fully appreciate the difference between expanding an alliance like NATO, and a Union like the EU. When a country joins an alliance, it becomes a distinct member of a group committed to a common cause -- but nothing more. When countries join the EU, they become part of the whole, formally and practically indistinct in many areas of EU competence. “We have to be ready to trust their food and sanitation standards, for instance.” In this regard, he noted that some of the accession countries were foisted on the EU as part of a larger bargain. Cyprus, for instance, probably should not have been admitted (as Papadapolous’ behavior prior to the referendum indicated), but the Greeks insisted on Cypriot admission as the price of agreeing to some of the northern European candidates. Croatia, Patten said, is probably far more prepared for EU membership than either Bulgaria or Romania, who will likely enter the Union earlier. Romania, in particular, was a “feral nation.” We noted that we were shocked by del Ponte’s clean bill of health on ICTY cooperation while Gotovina still was at large inside Croatia. Patten said he too was surprised by del Ponte’s letter, but once the referee had made the call, the EU was bound by her judgement.

On Russia, WTO, Kyoto, and Putin’s “Killer’s Eyes”
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6. (C) Patten was in Moscow last week, and had just concluded EU-Russia ministerial consultations in Brussels this week. He said the EU had become overly dependent on Russian energy supplies, and should become more engaged with the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia in order to diversify supplies. To do so, however, the Union would also have to become more involved in pipeline politics.

7. (C) WTO discussions had not moved forward substantially during these most recent talks. Patten said the EC was sticking with its positions on energy, but he was worried that they may have taken too strong a line, and would be forced to backpedal significantly at a later stage. In his view, this was unfortunate because he was worried the EC was spending too much negotiating effort on energy rather than focussing on other items that really mattered, such as overflights. Patten also said that Putin had explicitly suggested a possible trade-off between the Russian position on the Kyoto Protocol and WTO negotiations during last week’s talks, although he was not sure how serious the Russians were on this, or whether it was a convincing trade-off for Commission officials.

8. (C) Patten said Putin has done a good job for Russia mainly due to high world energy prices, but he had serious doubts about the man’s character. Cautioning that “I’m not saying that genes are determinant,” Patten then reviewed Putin family history: grandfather part of Lenin’s special protection team, father a communist party apparatchik, and Putin himself decided at a young age to pursue a career in the KGB. “He seems a completely reasonable man when discussing the Middle East or energy policy, but when the conversation shifts to Chechnya or Islamic extremism, Putin’s eyes turn to those of a killer.”

Ten Commandments for the Next Commission

9. (SBU) Patten’s public remarks at the dinner focused on the future of the Commission -- not foreign affairs. He offered ten recommendations for the next Commission to help them improve the EU’s image with Europe’s citizenry, as follows:

-- 1) Deliver substance: highlight areas where the EU can make a difference in the world, such as the rapid changes in Justice and Home Affairs, or external assistance.

-- 2) Go with the flow of the institutional debate: Don’t spend energy trying to stop intergovernmental efforts that have a head of steam behind them. Instead, try to channel these efforts in useful directions.

-- 3) Exploit the “Community Method” where it exists: Make the most of EC strengths, such as on the internal market, trade, or foreign assistance.

-- 4) Be open to new ways of working: The number of regulations passed should not be a measure of success of the Commission.

-- 5) Regulate better: aggesively develop the initiative the Commission launched in 2002. Get serious about consultation and impact assessment rather than just going through the motions.

--6) Get economic management right: There should be no “free riders” in the monetary union, but the EU should seek greater flexibility that takes account of the differences between states. The Commission must also be ready to accept the same sort of management discipline it demands of the Member States.

-- 7) Put more effort into monitoring implementation of EU legislation: use score cards and “league tables” on infractions. Compare best practices. Be ready to be tougher on sanctioning persistent bad performance, perhaps by cutting EU financial programs such as structural funds.

-- 8) Be prepared to scale back or eliminate bad policies: Take a thorough look at the CAP, and focus greater attention on what needs to be done at the Community level, and where “subsidiarity” and national/local administrations would be the better option.

-- 9) Get internal organization right: Create real clusters of issues where
Commission Vice Presidents have real authority.

-- 10) Demonstrate that the EU can make a difference to people’s lives.

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