The EU's Place in US Foreign Policy
14. We were warned by Mr Quentin Peel
before our visit to Washington in February 2003 that the US "do
want support from the Union but they do not want competition and
This proved a sound prediction: we left the US capital with the
impression that the US attitude to the EU was "if you agree
with us, fineif you don't then get out of our way".
We heard "neo-conservative" voices in Washington happy
to say that whenever it became clear that the Union as a whole
would not back US action, as in Iraq, they would want the US actively
to pursue a policy of dividing Europe either along the line of
the English Channel or by exploiting a supposed dichotomy between
"old" and "new" EU Member States. This is
a marked change from the traditional US preference from that for
a united (but preferably also compliant) EU.
15. Nothing as stark as this was said to us from
within the Administration, but we detected some traces of that
attitude. It is driven in some degree by the suspicion that certain
EU Member States are minded to oppose what the US is doing in
order deliberately to create a "counterweight" (a term
apparently established in Washington discourse as implying opposition
for its own sake) rather than because of reluctant, if unavoidable,
differences of policy. This suspicion may well be overblown, but
it is evidently felt in some quarters of the Administration although
strongly repudiated in others.
16. The current US Administration also appears
frustrated with the EU's inability to pull its weight militarily.
They see the EU as lacking the military power as well as the cohesion
to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, with many
Member States failing to meet goals agreed in NATO to improve
the capability of their armed forces. Such perceptions have been
reinforced by the recent infelicitous proposal by Belgium, France,
Germany and Luxembourg to set up a new EU military planning headquarters.
This appears to be a duplication of current assets rather than
an increase in practical capability. The Policy Director at the
Ministry of Defence noted that "the US have been strong supporters
of Europe improving its capabilities and of buying the necessary
they want to see Europe doing more".
But some in the United States believe that even if European capabilities
were improved the EU would mostly be unwilling to use them in
"hard" military situations.
17. This is combined with a widespread view in
the US that the Union is preoccupied with its own internal development
and is more concerned with process than with practical results.
It has been noted that in the spring of 2003 the European Convention
was hard at work on the wording of foreign policy articles for
the new EU constitution at the same time as the biggest substantive
crisis ever in EU foreign policy was taking place.
Mr Klaus Becher from the International Institute for Strategic
Studies agreed; "I think European governments cannot simply
be in the institution-building mode. They also have to deliver."
18. There is a very low level of US understanding,
even in Washington, about what the European Union is and does.
Many Europeans are frustrated at US ignorance, and sometimes the
deliberately dismissive attitude, about the nature of the Union,
its remarkable advances, and its achievements over the past several
We suspect, for example, that few in the US are aware that the
EU and its Member States give much more in development aid (whether
measured by governmental inputs or by the aggregate of these and
private giving) than does the United States, both in absolute
terms and as a proportion of national wealth.
Mr Quentin Peel noted "the degree of ignorance
there is [in Washington] about what Europe as a whole and European
countries do on the aid front".
The US's Place in EU Foreign Policy
19. As yet EU Member States rarely deal with
the US through the Union on foreign policy issues. Member States
have, moreover, different visions of how the EU should work with
the US: Mr Charles Grant
noted that "the British philosophy is if we get our act together
as Europeans and become more effective
then we can help our
partners across the Atlantic
and then they will respect us
we are useful.
The French philosophy is that Europe needs
to get its act together so that it can stand up when necessary
and indeed challenge the US."
This divergence reinforces the general preference of many Member
States for conducting foreign policy relations through long-established
bilateral links. At the same time, they see no contradiction in
wanting the US to deal with the Union when there is a common EU
mind. As CFSP matures this ought increasingly to be the case,
though NATO should remain the main focus for EU/US dialogue on
security and defence issues.
20. It is widely believed in Europe that US scorn
for the EU's activity in foreign and security policy reflects
both a lack of awareness of the extent to which common EU positions
have been developed (for example over the Israeli/Arab problem)
and unreasonable expectations of the pace and breadth of progress
in an enterprise challenging the methods and outlooks of long-established
US ignorance may in some measure reflect shortcomings in the presentation
and co-ordination of EU foreign policy in Washington. Our visit
there left us uneasy about this.
21. There is an impression within the EU that
the US, especially under the current Administration, is much less
interested than it used to be in listening to and taking account
of the views of others. Furthermore, it is perceived as being
less sympathetic to the concepts and structures of international
order, particularly where rules and procedures are in place which
might constrain US freedom to use its power to act at will. Europeans,
by contrast, remain united in their attachment to such concepts
22. Generalised anti-Americanism in Europe and
matching anti-Europeanism in the United States, while still minority
sentiments, are at disturbingly high levels, with offensive caricatures
If this is allowed to fester, the damage to the EU/US relationship,
already severe, will get worse, to the serious disadvantage of