European Affairs

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 Europe's Strategic Dilemmas

 As the European Union prepares to extend its borders deep into Central Europe, and establish itself as a continental-scale economic and political power, it faces difficult geopolitical challenges. One of the most daunting has been presented by the publication of President George Bush's New Security Strategy in September. Another unwelcome test, hardly less fateful for Europe's future, has been set by Turkey, where a party with Islamic origins, the AKP, emerged victorious from national elections in early November.


As the first section of this issue of European Affairs makes clear, the so-called Bush doctrine presents Europeans with some hard choices. As a matter of principle, it asserts America's right to take preemptive action against potential threats in a way that worries many Europeans, who believe that Washington risks upsetting an international order painstakingly developed since World War II. As a practical matter, the doctrine paves the way for possible U.S. military action against Iraq, about which some European governments - and much of public opinion - have deep reservations.

The extent of those reservations was illustrated in September by the winning reelection campaign of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, which successfully appealed to pacifist and anti-American feelings in Germany. While some Europeans want an enlarged and institutionally revamped European Union to be a global partner of the United States, Transatlantic strategic differences are making that prospect less certain, and to some Europeans, less desirable.

Turkey is a case in point. While the United States wants Turkey to be admitted into the European Union as soon as feasible for strategic reasons, EU leaders are expected to resist Turkish demands for a date to begin entry negotiations when they meet in Copenhagen in mid-December. As Philippe Lemaître explains on page 78, the Copenhagen summit is likely to risk further offending Turkey by offering membership to ten candidate countries in Central and Southern Europe, including Cyprus - even if no settlement is reached to the long-running dispute between the island's Greek and Turkish communities.

The election victory of the AKP party in Turkey further complicates the European Union's dilemma by drawing attention to the rising strength of Islam in the country's officially secular society. EU leaders will be reluctant to rebuff a new Turkish administration that could set an important new precedent for reconciling Islamic beliefs with democratic government. If, however, the European Union were to admit Turkey, it would acquire common borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran, drawing Europeans much further into the Middle Eastern cauldron than many of them want to go.

The European Union is already setting itself a stiff challenge by opening its doors to eight new members in the Baltic and Central and Eastern Europe, with Bulgaria and Romania still to come. Contributors to this issue's special report, beginning on page 50, agree that this massive enlargement will be of great benefit both to Europe and to the United States. But the European Union is still groping toward its final destination, and the simultaneous absorption of so many new, and poorer, members will be costly and at times controversial.

One positive development was the approval of the EU's Treaty of Nice by Irish voters, who had previously rejected it, in a referendum in October. That clears the way for the EU institutions to admit the new members. But the initial Irish No to the Treaty was a salutary warning against governmental complacency on European issues. The warning deserves particular attention given that the treaties admitting the new members will have to be ratified in all 15 EU member states, and in referendums in each of the 10 candidate countries, over the coming year. This will present Europe's political elite with yet another leadership challenge.

 

This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number III, Issue number IV in the Fall of 2002.

 
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UMD Jean Monnet Research Project

The University of Maryland has received a Jean Monnet grant from the EU to conduct a series of policy exchanges between Europe and the US on filling infrastructure needs and the utility of public/private partnerships as the financing mechanism. If interested in participating in or receiving more information about these exchanges, please contact Rye McKenzie (rmckenzi@umd.edu).

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The Bertelsmann Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit think tank in Washington, DC with a transatlantic perspective on global challenges.

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