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Common Foreign and Security Policy a Sign of European Independence

(Washington, DC--February 18, 2004) Efforts to develop a common foreign and security policy (CFSP) signal the European Union’s (EU) further progress toward becoming a federal state, said Tomas Valasek, Director of The Center for Defense Information in Brussels. The EU's common defense policy is not designed as a declaration of opposition to the United States (U.S.), rather a sign of European independence, according to Valasek.

Valasek, editor and co-author of "Growing Pains: The Debate on the Next Round of NATO Enlargement" (2002, Center for Defense Information) told a briefing audience at RFE/RL's Washington office that the new Central European accession states joining the EU support much of Washington's foreign policy, yet also desire inclusion within a common EU defense policy. For example, eight out of ten EU accession countries support Washington's Iraq policy, yet are still against the war. The President of the Republic of Estonia, Arnold Ruutel, said that he disfavors a war with Iraq, but sides with the U.S.

The positions that Europe takes on three key issues regarding the war in Iraq will determine whether the accession states can support U.S. foreign policy and also act as a force within the EU. These include use of force, the U.S. role in EU security affairs and international law. Valasek said the new accession countries will have a minimum role in shaping EU Iraq policy because of strong opposition from France and Germany, the countries that currently shape much of EU policy.

Valasek said that sovereignty of individual EU members, or what Valasek referred to as the "800-pound gorilla," is the most important unresolved issue preventing the creation of an effective CSFP. According to Valasek, "There is (still) no consensus of the degree of sovereignty" permissible within the European Union.

Valasek stressed that the EU rapid reaction force, as proposed by France and Germany, could have a destructive impact on transatlantic relations, as it may take away responsibility from NATO. He noted that no formal agreement exists to regulate coordination of EU and NATO defense policy. In fact, Valasek said, if the rapid reaction force is implemented as currently envisioned, cooperation on defense issues between the EU and the U.S. could end. According to Valasek, that the accession countries support the so-called "Berlin Plus" agreement, which would maintain close military ties with NATO while simultaneously develop a stronger European defense capability; France and Germany, however, have their own views concerning this plan.

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