April 1, 2008
10 years after the Franco-British St Malo accord, President Sarkozy’s successful visit to London brings hope for a strategic consensus between France, Germany and the UK, supported by most Member States. Beyond diplomatic initiatives, this could encompass energy policy, climate change and also development aid. This is the conclusion of an interesting article by Thierry Chopin of the Robert Schuman Foundation. The timing is right, with the Treaty of Lisbon, if all goes well, coming into force in eight month’s time.
The UK and France play a key role in security and defence. Hitherto, their attitudes towards the US have prevented a meeting of minds. However, the British experience in Iraq, coupled with Sarkozy’s dramatic reversal of the traditional French view of the US, now make this possible. Participation in European defence consolidation, international crisis management and the fight against climate change could herald a real emergence of the EU on the international scene.
While there remain policy differences between France and the UK, an acceptance that a Union speaking with a single voice will exercise real influence internationally is a major benefit to both countries. Following the French policy shift on NATO and the corresponding softening of Washington’s attitude towards the EU in the defence field, one can envisage the EU and NATO working out a constructive and long term system of cooperation.
British and French visions of European construction and the transatlantic partnership philosphically differ, but given political will and goodwill, a compromise can be achieved. A new Administration in Washington should facilitate this.
The forthcoming French Presidency – just ahead of the coming into force of the new treaty – is the obvious opportunity to launch an initiative to define and implement a realistic European external strategy. A pre-condition is a real strategic consensus.
I look forward to the day when Europe will have a single, independent foreign policy, rather than 27 national policies defined in the main in relation to US policy.Author : Stanley Crossick