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Bush in Europe II

19 February 2005

On the eve of what will hopefully be a new start to trans-Atlantic relations, it may be worth recalling some of the European Union's achievements in helping to shape a better and more secure international order. Not just words and nice declarations, but facts and a real ability to deliver.
In promoting democracy, the EU is certainly the actor with the best record in the last 10 years: There are now more than 450 million European citizens who can be assured of the democratic common destiny of their 25 nations. In the next two years, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania will be added to this group. With a role for the EU in the Ukraine transition, its attraction on the countries born from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s and the beginnings of membership talks with Muslim Turkey, some 800 million people have now been attracted into the sphere of influence of EU soft power.
The initiative vis-à-vis Iran by France, Britain and Germany has grown into a common EU ambition to stop nuclear proliferation, not by military strikes, but by engagement in comprehensive political, security and economic dialogue. Supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency is part of this strategy and reinforcing the universality of the nonproliferation treaty when the review conference opens this spring is another.
In 2003, the EU devoted more than 600 million euros to rescuing people from all kinds of natural and humanitarian disasters. In fighting poverty and underdevelopment, the EU and its member states provide 55 percent of total aid flows - about 30 billion euros per year - to more than 160 countries and organizations worldwide, of which more than a fifth is managed by the European Commission. If poverty, despair and misery feed international insecurity, this EU contribution can hardly be dismissed.
In former Yugoslavia, the Europeans account for about 90 percent of the forces involved, in the NATO force in Kosovo or through the EU operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Afghanistan, NATO runs an international operation involving 8,000 soldiers, more than 80 percent of them from European armies. After the successful Operation Artemis in Congo, the EU has engaged in structural cooperation with the African Union in dealing with the crises in Darfur and Kinshasa. As many as 70,000 EU soldiers are deployed worldwide, under UN, NATO or EU flags.
In the Greater Middle East, the EU has a long record of multilateral dialogue with the Mediterranean countries, through the Barcelona process (2.5 billion euros paid since 1995), and its permanent commitment to a peaceful solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. As a full member of the "quartet," and the first donor to the Palestinian Authority, the EU cannot escape its role in this region.
Finally Iraq. Certainly, the war was a terribly divisive issue among Europeans as it has been between Europe and America. But since the beginning of the war, the EU as a whole has pledged 1.25 billion euros for the reconstruction of the country, adding, a few weeks ago, 200 million euros for political reconstruction and support for the electoral process.
All in all, are these achievements symptomatic of an introverted, irresponsible and parochial actor? Is there any relevance in evaluating the EU only through its defense expenditures and other forms of military "bean counting." Does this latter criterion matter at all when it comes to influencing the deep roots of successful globalization and winning the hearts and minds of millions?
The European Union is playing another game, with another set of rules and principles. But it remains ready to welcome and help the United States to join, in what should become a common trans-Atlantic venture.