Don't count your chickens
This sort of thing is why I think it's premature and dangerous to declare the Franco-German alliance dead. Blair seems to be betting that he can link up with like-minded leaders from both old and new Europe to contain the Franco-German axis, but that's a very dangerous bet.
For one thing, the Franco-German stance is pretty much in line with European public opinion, which places limits on how far leaders who genuinely value the transatlantic relationship will go. Berlusconi has already retreated to the sidelines and Aznar's party looks to be in trouble in Spain, which leaves only Denmark and the Netherlands in "old" Europe. The picture is perhaps a bit better among the accession countries, but none of them sees any alternative to joining the EU. If they were forced to choose between Europe and the US, they would almost certainly choose Europe - even at the cost of ceding their foreign policy to France.
Perhaps even more dangerous is the fact that the EU is undemocratic in the extreme. Real power rests with an unaccountable bureaucracy and a byzantine committee system, both of which are populated by the very EUrocrats and activists that have been gleefully fanning the flames of European anti-Americanism for the past year.
And it's only going to get worse. The large and small countries don't trust each other, so the constitutional convention is constructing a system with competing organs of power, each controlled by one of the warring factions (at last count, there's a council, a commission, a presidium and a parliament, if I'm not mistaken) and given, for the most part, vaguely defined powers. The obvious outcome will be perpetual gridlock, which hands even more control to bureaucrats and unelected committees. A system like that will grind to a halt if it attempts to take any significant action, but it'll be very effective at preventing members from acting "unilaterally."
The US needs to build real, lasting ties to its friends in Europe. Reconstruction contracts are getting all of the attention right now, but they're fundamentally short term and politically charged. Long-term structural commitments like TAFTA are far more important, even in the short term, as they provide a counterweight to the "EU membership at any cost" mentality that currently prevails among the accession and candidate countries. They will (and probably should) eventually join, but they are far more likely to fight Franco-German domination of the EU if they don't feel backed into a corner.
Update: Somebody give this man an alternative!
:: Erik | 4/24/2003 09:21:00 AM | | ::