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EU: Impact On Policies Will Be 'Enormous'

  • Ahto Lobjakas

While the U.S. decides how to respond to the 11 September terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, governments and observers across Europe are occupied with analyzing the likely impact of different scenarios. Michael Emerson is a Brussels-based regional security expert. He believes EU leaders, while urging the United States to show restraint, also appear ready to use this opportunity to consolidate community policies and possibly speed up the enlargement process.

Brussels. 19 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- While the United States weighs its response to the 11 September terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the precise shape of the "new world order" predicted by most governments and observers remains unclear.

Countries of the European Union -- America's main allies abroad -- have tried to make their views heard through direct contacts with Washington. Yesterday, French President Jacques Chirac visited Washington for talks with U.S. President George W. Bush. Chirac said:

"I wanted to express to him [President Bush] and to them [the American people] our determination, which is boundless, to combat, with all necessary means, this new type of absolute evil, which is terrorism. I wanted also to express France's availability."

Chirac will be followed in Washington today by Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and tomorrow and Friday by an official EU delegation headed by Belgium's Foreign Minister Louis Michel and the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

Yet the repeated acknowledgements by most EU governments that the eventual response to the terrorist attacks is for the U.S. administration to decide indicate that the EU does not expect, or wish to have, a definitive influence on the decision.

Michael Emerson is a regional security analyst at the Brussels-based Center for European Policy Studies. Emerson says EU leaders visiting the United States this week are likely to urge restraint. While Washington's allies have embraced the inevitability of military retaliation, they say it must be precise and clearly justified.

Emerson says that what worries European governments most is the prospect of a protracted conflict with the entire Islamic world:

"The issue is what kind of military actions should be decided. I guess most Europeans are more or less in the same position of saying, 'Think first and be above all aware of the enormous risk that this crisis could escalate into a wholesale confrontation between the Arab-Islamic world and the West.' That hazard is so enormous and obvious."

Emerson says the threat of precipitate action appears to have receded but that it is necessary to ensure that any retaliatory action by the United States, when it comes, goes beyond revenge.

In the long term, Emerson says, a "cocktail" of military, political, and economic measures is needed to stabilize the situation in the Middle East. One of the main aims of such a "cocktail of measures" should be the easing of tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

Regardless of what course of action the U.S. administration eventually decides on, Emerson says the impact of recent events on EU policies will be "enormous."

"I think it will have a very significant impact. I think a whole set of EU policies will be given a new thrust, boost, prioritization. This certainly relates to the development of the ESDP [the European Security and Defense Project] or the rapid reaction capability [of having a 60,000 man unit on standby from 2003 onward]. It certainly relates to justice and home affairs, [where] this week there are proposals on terrorism to be adopted by the European Commission."

Indeed, a declaration adopted by EU leaders on 14 September underlined the need for the EU to speak "with one voice" in world affairs.

Emerson also sees a possible upside for Eastern Europe in the terrible events, especially for those countries aspiring to EU and NATO membership. He says the EU enlargement process is likely to receive an unexpected boost:

"Whenever there is major instability on the edge of Europe, the political case for going ahead with these acts of consolidating the European political structures is, of course, underlined and strengthened. [There's no direct leverage for enlargement], but it's broad political support, confirmation that the EU has to go ahead [with enlargement]."

The same, Emerson says, applies to NATO expansion.

Emerson's views received support on 17-18 September from the EU's enlargement commissioner, Gunter Verheugen. Visiting Lithuania, Verheugen said the events in the United States "have changed everything."

As far as enlargement talks are concerned, Verheugen said, "There will be an impact, but it will have a positive effect."

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