EU Continues to Expand Diplomatic Role
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, June 4, 1999; Page A30
COLOGNE, Germany, June 3 European leaders long have been frustrated that their union can agree on a free-trade zone and a common currency, but can't formulate a joint foreign or defense policy.
So today's announcement in Belgrade that the Yugoslav government had accepted NATO's terms for a settlement in Kosovo was a particular joy to such leaders as Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany and President Jacques Chirac of France, who have pushed to expand the European Union toward those frontiers. The EU played a crucial role in achieving an agreement with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that may end the fighting in Kosovo.
"Today is a good day for Europe, and in that I include the people of Yugoslavia," said Schroeder, the current EU president, as he congratulated Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari for his mediation success. Chirac said he wanted the EU to play a "central role" in the postwar transitional administration of Kosovo.
At its summer summit that began today, the EU is also working on a "stability pact" for southeastern Europe, including the injection of funds and the naming of a full-time EU representative for the region. The idea is to lure the fragile countries of the Balkans in the same way the nations of eastern and central Europe were enticed to undertake economic reforms in hopes of qualifying for EU membership.
Perhaps more important for the future of the European Union, leaders of its 15 nations agreed today to establish a common military capability in hopes of preventing future Kosovos.
The structure would include a rapid-reaction force that would concentrate on immediate crises within Europe. Officials said the new military cooperation is not intended to supplant or circumvent NATO but to allow Europeans the ability to deal with European issues.
"It has never been our objective to replace NATO. The EU does not intend to become a defense alliance," said Guenter Verheugen, the German minister of state for foreign affairs. The purpose, he said, "is to engage in active crisis management in Europe with its own resources and under its own responsibility."
Envisioned in the new order is a permanent secretariat in Brussels, a military committee, a military staff and a "situation center" for when forces need to be mobilized. Defense ministers from EU countries would meet regularly. (In the 42-year history of the EU they have met only once, last November.) The proposed structure would include EU countries not in NATO, such as Sweden, and also would accept NATO countries not in the EU, such as Norway.
At the same time, leaders of EU nations for the first time appointed a senior official who will be responsible for European foreign and security policy. The post went to NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, a former Spanish foreign minister, whose term as NATO chief expires at the end of the year.
He would oversee not just European conflicts such as Kosovo, but trouble spots around the world.
Solana's appointment is complicated by his current role at NATO, and by negotiations over his successor there – likely to be German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping – as well as other ongoing EU nominations.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company