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Research Report

Toward a More Independent Europe

Michael Brenner
Copyright Date: Mar. 1, 2007
Published by: Egmont Institute
Pages: 61
OPEN ACCESS
https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep06708
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 3-14)

    “What is to be done?” is the question Europeans are grappling with. A response requires us to clarify “about what” and “by whom.” The simple answer to the former is the European Union’s malaise – post-Constitution defeat, post budget bust-up. Malaise is undeniable. A mood of depression pervades the continent’s political elites. Its symptoms are flagging confidence and anxiety about the future. The state of mind is understandable in the light of the disunity on a daunting agenda of institutional change, reinvigorating continental economies, and solving the Turkish conundrum. All of this in an atmosphere made tense by chronic fractiousness...

  2. (pp. 15-18)

    The transatlantic dependency relationship never was a garden of roses. European reliance on the United States for its post-war security was interspersed with bouts of criticism: from Suez to Vietnam to the American avocation of toppling inconvenient governments to the nasty Soviet natural gas pipeline dispute. Several European leaders (a greater fraction of political elites generally) took potshots at Uncle Sam. In the last mentioned case, they even managed to best Ronald Reagan in a unique show of unity and will. These notable exceptions to the leader-follower model had multiple identifiable sources: European parochialism (who really worried about a Red...

  3. (pp. 19-24)

    On the greater Middle East, on closer examination of the much trumpeted transatlantic concord it is seen to conceal as much as it reveals. For there are serious, not easily reconciled differences about how to approach every one of the high agenda items. The inhibition of governments in Europe to broach them, even to hint at them, testifies to two distressing realities: many European leaders do not believe, deep down, that Washington has mended its maverick ways and, therefore, it is hazardous to do or say anything that could provoke the beast; and, America thereby continues to denature Europe by...

  4. (pp. 25-32)

    The current state of the so-called “war on terror” is most instructive as to how distorted the Euro-American partnership is. There are several bases for this claim. First is problem definition. From 9/11 through the intervention against the Taliban, a strong consensus existed that al-Qaeda’s use of Afghanistan as a multipurpose base posed an intolerable, immediate threat of great gravity. That consensus began to dissolve with the group’s fragmentation. The change was hidden by a common vocabulary, sloganeering, and the European governments’ desire to stay on the same wavelength as the Bush administration. As case in point, the Salonika Declaration...

  5. (pp. 33-38)

    In the economic realm, Europe is America’s equal. Particularly on commercial matters, its strength balances that of the United States. The two powers are not symmetrical, but of matching weight. The size of the aggregate economies of the European Union, their larger share of international trade, their enormous direct investment in the American economy and – above all – the authority lodged in the Commissioner for Trade to negotiate for the community means that the dynamic is quite different. The deference, the evasiveness, the defensive mentality so prominent in the security sphere gives way to a relatively high level of...

  6. (pp. 39-42)

    American and European politics are coming to resemble each other more and more. This is obvious to any casual observer – especially to a casual observer. Here is a domain where form can be as important as substance; and it is matters of form that are most easily exported across the Atlantic. Nearly everywhere in Europe, one encounters features of what used to be a distinctly American style of electoral politics: eager use of professional experts in the art and science of electioneering, the stocking of government offices with political operatives to spin policy issues, stress on techniques of communication,...

  7. (pp. 43-46)

    This paper has argued that undue deference to America and things American by European elites is pervasive, often subtle and damaging to the health of the Atlantic relationship. It is rooted in the psychology of both parties, affecting in myriad ways how they interact. Is it likely to change? What are the conditions for it changing?

    One conclusion is clear. There will be no initiative from the American side to modify the relationship. Washington enjoys too many advantages from it to want significant behavioral changes. The practical benefits of having what is potentially the world’s second strongest power center unsure...

  8. (pp. 47-50)

    In the light of the glaring fact that Washington is handling them for the worse, especially in the Middle East, will that complacency be shaken? What practical political cum policy meaning attaches to the fact that public opinion in every Western European country outside of Britain views the United States as the main threat to peace?; that negative feelings about the Bush presidency are eroding positive attitudes toward America and Americans generally? Do the endangerment of access to Gulf oil due to civil strife in Iraq and the nuclear standoff with Iran augur a rethink of deference to American diplomatic...

  9. (pp. 51-56)

    The path that Europe takes in its relations with the United States depends in greatest measure on the orientation of its major countries. Brief synoptic appraisals of the outlook in France, Germany and Great Britain follow.

    Many French leaders can envisage a more autonomous relationship with the United States. So, too, can a large slice of France’s political and intellectual elites. It is unique in this respect. Yet the country’s potential leadership of a Europe moving toward that end is curtailed in two critical respects. One is internal, the other external. They intersect. The French are highly pragmatic when it...

  10. (pp. 57-57)

    An emergent generation of continental leaders has no direct experience of the war or its aftermath. Nor do they view the tragic drama of the interwar decades as anything but ancient history viz. Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy.52 The tribulations of building a new Europe on the rubble of its twentieth century ordeal are deemed irrelevant to the present. Thus, they are not sensitive to the conditions that spawned class conflict, ideological combat and a raucous democratic politics (where and when it was democratic) on the brink of lapsing into something quite less civilized. This cultivated amnesia contributes to the less...