America’s support for Europe


President George W Bush

The visit of President Bush to Europe this week has opened same interesting discussions about what American policy really is towards the EU.

In the past, of course, the Americans were strong supporters of European integration. Twice in the last century, they were dragged into wars in Europe that arose precisely because of the lack of European integration and they were understandably keen to see such a possibility prevented in the future.

As time wore on and the possibility of war in Europe became more and more remote, there was also the idea of haw a united Europe could contribute more towards promoting peace and stability because it would itself be more powerful. The division of EU defence expenditure among so many different national military establishments is certain to be much less cost-effective than if it were all concentrated together. Of course, there are big hurdles to be overcome if this is ever to happen, so the European constitution wisely leaves the development of a European army to a subsequent decision on another occasion (to be taken by unanimity, Europhobes please note).

But the importance of the EU as a means of harnessing European resources to the full is still there. And the Americans know that they need it on their side.

When the Iraq crisis was at its height, things looked rather different. Donald Rumsfeld toured central and eastern Europe in June 2003 voicing opposition to the International Criminal Court.

“We must take care to not damage the core principle that under girds the international system – the principle of state sovereignty,” he said. Readers of this blog will know what that means. But since then, the pendulum seems to be swinging back again.

Condoleeza Rice spoke warmly about the EU during her tour here two weeks ago. And President Bush said himself in Brussels on Monday:

“America supports Europe’s democratic unity for the same reason we support the spread of democracy in the Middle East — because freedom leads to peace. And America supports a strong Europe because we need a strong partner in the hard work of advancing freedom in the world.”

It is good to know that adopting the European constitution will not damage our relationship with America.

The position of Atlanticist anti-Europeans in Britain is, of course, now ridiculous. They are defending a vision of America that even the Americans don’t have.

There is a stand of British political opinion that is, in effect, more pro-American that it is pro-British. They remind me of British Communists in the 1930s who backed whatever it was that the Soviet Union did, whether opposing Hitler or signing a pact with him. “My country right or wrong” is bad enough: “someone else’s country right or wrong” is truly insane. These people are now left high and dry.

The pro-European case, as I have remarked in this blog before, is fundamentally a democratic case. Donald Rumsfeld, on the other hand, rates national sovereignty above all else. If you have that view, then I guess that the European constitution is not for you.

This blog entry first appeared on The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Federal Union or of the Yes campaign.

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