February 25, 2004
SUMMIT MEETING OF EUROPE'S 'BIG THREE' GETS
** Europe's Big Three
acting together could be a "new force of European integration."
** The summit's secondary
purpose was to "close the bitter divisions exposed" by the Iraq war.
** Skeptics say policy
differences will distance the UK from the "Franco-German axis."
** Smaller states assail
would-be EU "board of directors," will not be "bossed
'The Three Junketeers'-- Reaction
to the Feb. 18 "mini-summit" of German Chancellor Schroeder, French
President Chirac and British Prime Minister Blair varied considerably in their
home-country press. Some French and German
dailies declared the three "the natural leaders of Europe" who can,
"by working together," give Europe the "direction and
unity" it lacked during the Iraq crisis.
Germany's independent Financial Times Deutschland contended that
there is "no alternative to the trilateral leadership." Another German paper argued that making
Europe "function in the era of unlimited enlargement" required
leadership lest there be "eurosclerosis." French papers argued that the
"Franco-German axis no longer carries sufficient weight" to maintain
its influence in an expanded EU and that bringing Britain's Blair into the mix
"brings an Atlantic seal of approval that will appeal" to the EU's
To skeptics, EU's Big Three 'have little in common'-- Other commentators in France and Germany
judged that the association of Chirac and Schroeder with Blair was a
"tactical" one by "three politically weakened leaders"
aimed at putting "an end to the quarrel over Iraq." The former "want to embrace Great
Britain in order to embrace America" while the latter, in the words of an
Italian analyst, hopes to "influence the Union with British
logic." A conservative French paper
averred that "the sole credibility of this troika" lies in EU
defense. Britain's left-of-center Guardian
agreed that "underlying differences remain" between the three states
and noted that the "Franco-German marriage" remains "fundamental
to French European policy."
Britain's conservative outlets chided the prime minister for being
"over-anxious to repair relations with France and Germany" and said
Blair "should be casting Britain's lot" with the EU's "ten
newcomers" who are "pro-American converts to free markets and open
A 'vain and conceited triumvirate'-- Spanish and Italian dailies detected
"widespread mistrust" of the summit, seeing it as an attempt to forge
an EU "directorate" that "officially promoted itself as the
government of the enlarged Europe."
While one Italian writer allowed that in "what seems to be a
confused and disorderly Europe" such directorates are
"inevitable," others saw "no added value" in a troika to
solve Europe's problems of "red tape...market inelasticity and
over-taxation." Claiming that the
Big Three were "trying to impose their point of view" on other EU
partners, Spain's conservative ABC stated that "division is not the
best way to secure a strong Europe," contending that "agreement
through dialogue on the big issues" would best guarantee a "more
prosperous, integrated and supportive Europe." Austrian and Danish writers counseled
against "overreacting" to the summit, noting that closer coordination
among the Big Three "could greatly simplify" EU decision-making.
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: This
analysis is based on 35 reports from 10 countries, February 15-23, 2004. Editorial excerpts from each country are
listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Focusing On
Wolfgang Munchau commented in the independent Financial Times
(2/23): "Economic reform is about
improving an economy’s productive capacity, nothing more, nothing less. Everything under the headline of economic
reform should be judged in this light, including the five-point communiqué
issued by Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder and Tony Blair at their summit last
week. They promised more money for
research and development; more employment; cuts in welfare spending; cuts in
the budget of the European Union; and new European commissioner for economic
policy coordination. But none of these goes
to the core of what is wrong with Europe’s economy.... Europe’s leaders should instead focus on the
causes of the steady fall in economic growth.... Politicians can do little to reignite
consumer spending--another source of economic weakness--given the various
constraints that come with economic and monetary union. But they can do something about
investment.... There is increasing
evidence that regulation is one of the main factors holding back private-sector
investment.... What Europe needs,
therefore, is a narrower focus on product markets--modern competition laws,
less bureaucracy and lower barriers of entry."
"The Three Junketeers:
France And Germany Had Blair For Dinner"
The conservative Times took this view (2/23): "Mr. Blair has been over-anxious to
repair relations with France and Germany and is still too keen to claim policy
victories when none are visible to the naked eye. They are Europe’s biggest players, but
economically France and Germany are also its weakest links. They need Britain more than Britain needs
them; by bending over backwards to please them, Mr. Blair himself looks weak
and has not done Europe a favor."
The independent Financial Times editorialized (2/20): "It is probably as well that Germany,
France and Britain did not achieve much at their first fully fledged trilateral
summit this week, given that 'achievements' in the form of diktats to the rest
of the European Union was just what many of their partners feared most.... The choice of that successor will be one of
the big issues at the next summit of the Big Three, expected this summer. Harmony is by no means assured in this tricky
trilateral relationship but, compared with the rift between them a year ago
over Iraq, it is remarkable it exists at all."
"Blair Must Not Blow His European Triumph"
The conservative Telegraph editorialized (2/19): "Never did Britain appear more at the
heart of Europe than at yesterday's trilateral summit in Berlin.... For his part, the prime minister seeks to
convince a skeptical domestic electorate that his 'passionate' commitment to
both the transatlantic relationship and the union is paying off. Events of the past year--the invasion of
Iraq, the imminence of enlargement--have handed him a diplomatic coup.... The seismic shifts which are taking place
offer Britain an opportunity to reassert Europe's vocation as a union of nation
states rather than a would-be federation.
France and Germany, the old motors of integration, have alienated many
of their partners by their behavior over Iraq and the stability pact.... The problem is Mr. Blair's
ambivalence.... This may be the hour of
Britain within European councils, but it is far from certain that he is the man
to match it."
"Tony's Berlin Love Fest Is A Doomed
Rosemary Righter wrote in the conservative Times
(Internet version, 2/19): "The ten
newcomers to the EU this May are all pro-American converts to free markets and
open societies. Mr. Blair should be
casting Britain’s lot with this new Europe, not the old."
"Who Rules Europe?"
Timothy Garton Ash judged in the left-of-center Guardian
(Internet version, 2/19): "The
Berlin summit was trial, not error.
There are two reasons why it won't be the beginning of a permanent
directorate. First, it brought together
three politically weakened leaders of states that still have very different
approaches to Europe and to each other.
An adviser to Chirac says the Franco-German marriage remains fundamental
to French European policy; many Germans agree.
So long as they stick to the marriage metaphor, this makes Tony Blair
either lover or mistress.... The
underlying differences remain. It was
very noticeable...that Chirac was effusive in his...praise for the Franco-German
special relationship, while not mentioning Blair or Britain once. Meanwhile, Britain has many other hands
tugging at its sleeve: those of its Iraq
war allies, such as Spain and Poland, and its allies in economic
liberalization, such as the Scandinavian countries; the long arm of the U.S.
and the tweedy paws of domestic Euroskepticism
So Berlin was just a beginning.
The new, enlarged Europe won't work at all if everything depends on the
conclusions of 25 heads of state sitting round that vast new table in the
Council of Ministers building in Brussels.... It remains true today that if
France and Germany don't act together, nothing much will go forward in
Europe. However, it's no longer true
that if they do, it will. Not even the
big three, on their own, are enough to secure such outcomes. Starting today, the morning after Berlin, we
have to explore how Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and other member
states can be directly involved in setting the strategic directions for
"Europe Cannot Be Split Into First And
The center-left Independent editorialized (2/18): "If Mr. Blair had hoped that by reviving
relations between London, Paris and Berlin he would close the bitter divisions
exposed by the Iraq war, he must now be aware that he risks opening a new set
of fissures. Among the signatories are
Poland, Spain and Italy, three of Mr. Blair's closest allies on the war. These governments are now dismayed that
today's summit might mark the launch of an informal 'directorate' of Europe's
three biggest states. For implicit in
the exclusive nature of today's meeting is that there is a first and a second
division.... For now, they are at one in
demanding such things as a cap on EU spending.
But it will surely not be long before national interest rears its head
FRANCE: "Two Plus
Charles Lambroschini commented in right-of-center Le Figaro
(2/19): “The association between Chirac,
Schroeder and Blair is a tactical one.
On the eve of important transatlantic meetings, France and Germany want
to embrace Great Britain in order to embrace America.... The G8...and the elections in Baghdad are
excellent opportunities to put an end to the quarrel over Iraq. Especially now that President Bush, in a
difficult position with his own public, has chosen to lower his tone.... But the fact is that the Big Three have
little in common.... The sole
credibility of this troika is the EU defense.... The Treaty of Rome continues to play an
important role: it confirms that against
America, the European identity is a reality.”
"The 'Big Three' Seek To Boost European
Pierre Bocev commented in right-of-center Le
Figaro (Internet version, 2/19):
"Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder, and Tony Blair...presented
proposals to improve the economic competitiveness of the European
Union.... It is all rather an
anticlimax. If the
Franco-Germano-British 'triumvirate' wanted to prove...that they were no threat
to their European partners, the operation looks like it succeeded. The 'seminar'...produced a stream of good
intentions but few innovative proposals.
Italy, Spain and other EU members that had protested loudly against the
emergence of a 'directorate' of the three large countries can feel
reassured.... Apart from economic
concerns...Chirac, Schroeder, and Blair were to discuss future EU policy and
the major international problems of the moment.
But on that front too, few proposals were expected. EU reform has been blocked since the
stalemate of discussions on the Constitution at the Brussels summit two months
ago. There is little likelihood that
they will be able to resume over the coming weeks, despite the imminence of EU
enlargement, on 1 May.... On the subject
of Iraq, differences remain between Great Britain on the one side and France
and Germany on the other. Paris in
particular does not want NATO troops to be deployed for the moment on the banks
of the Tigris and the Euphrates."
"A New Balance"
Gerard Dupuy commented in left-of-center Liberation
(2/18): “The EU’s political dysfunction
is creating a new and urgent situation.
Barely a year ago the EU experienced one of its worst rifts over its
Iraqi policy but mostly over its policy towards the U.S. The EU’s big three have personal reasons to
want to glue the pieces together.... But
the Berlin summit also reflects the positions on Europe adopted by each. The summit reflects Chirac’s idea of a
coalition of pioneers based on shared areas of interest, such as military
interests. The three men meeting in
Berlin may not totally consider themselves as the natural leaders of Europe, as
some are saying. But the circumstances
of their meeting favor this interpretation....
Even if this group came together somewhat accidentally, it is clear that
the Franco-German axis no longer carries sufficient weight to safeguard its
European role. A three-way pact of
non-aggression would be a way of safeguarding that role. To achieve this the heavyweights will be
walking on eggs.”
"Paris, Berlin And London Want To Lead Europe"
Luc de Barochez judged in right-of-center Le Figaro
(2/18): “With their initiative, Paris,
Berlin and London are addressing two of their major handicaps: their weak economic competitiveness and their
military and political insignificance on the international scene.... By working together they feel that they can
bring Europe what it lacked in the Iraqi crisis: direction and unity. In a way the war in Iraq was a failure and a
lesson for each of the three men: Blair
did not succeed as Europe’s Atlantic leader; Schroeder did not manage to stop
the war from happening; and Chirac failed to rally Europe against the U.S. Today these three men feel they have
everything to gain from working together....
The Franco-German couple has taken stock of its limited influence in an
expanded Europe. Great Britain’s
participation brings an Atlantic seal of approval that will appeal to Northern
P. Sappok commented on regional radio station Suedwestrundfunk of
Stuttgart (2/20): "The idea of a
'super commissioner' only serves to emphasize Germany, France, and Britain's
claim to lead the EU.... On the one
hand, the three are now interfering with the EU Commission's responsibilities,
and, on the other hand, we cannot assume that they seriously consider occupying
this vacancy with a member from a smaller, not their countries. This could create some unease in the EU. The fact that this unease has not yet come to
the fore could also be based on the smaller member states being happy that the
larger EU nations again feel committed to showing their responsibility and
strive for unity. If we are realistic,
it is Germany, France and Britain that have the power and influence to push the
EU ahead. Nobody should feel ignored,
since if decisions are to be made, the word of Malta counts as much as
Germany's in processes where unanimity is the principle. Nobody should feel pushed in the corner by
this summit...since too little came out of it."
Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine judged (2/20): "Time will tell whether Messrs.
Schroeder, Chirac and Blair and Schroeder will get their super commissioner for
economic reforms, but it is clear why the trio introduced this new EU figure in
the debate: Germany and France in
particular want a counterweight to a policy of the EU Commission that restricts
their intervention possibilities and makes their industrial policy more
difficult. This policy has nothing to do
with the formulated goal of improving the [EU's] economic potential but much
with satisfying particular interests....
Many EU governments have got stuck with economic policy shortcomings;
these shortcomings cannot be repaired with a number of EU initiatives.... The real goal for a European economic policy
is easy to define: the EU bodies must
create open markets and competitiveness--especially against the member
states.... But this is something,
Schroeder, Chirac, and Blair do not like.
They are pursuing a double goal with their super commissioner
initiative: on the one hand, they know
that the EU Commission is much more susceptible to a discretionary intervention
policy if it can pursue it on its own.
Bureaucrats in Brussels think much of focusing competencies and
coordination. On the other hand, the
three want to transfer the role of a Trojan horse in the EU Commission to the
super commissioner. To put it
differently: the 'reform commissioner'
is to act as the preserver of interests of the big three and represent their
industry policy problems. It is to be
hoped that these calculations will fail."
Right-of-center Nordsee-Zeitung of Bremerhaven noted
(2/20): "It is important to see how
reasonably and to the point the three nations use the power they doubtlessly
have. This is why they did not only cause
criticism; smaller nations in particular like Luxembourg, which feel especially
committed to the European idea, expect greater impulses from this cooperation
than from the big palaver rounds among all EU countries. The larger countries like Italy and Spain
must be opposed to in principle, since they are excluded from this circle. But wounded vanity plays the considerable role
with Italy's Berlusconi."
Margarete Limberg commented on national radio station
Deutschlandfunk of Cologne (2/18):
"This [trilateral cooperation] is more necessary than ever before
if the union of 25 member states wants to survive and resist the pressure of
globalization.... If the three will talk
about the big problems first, others could benefit too.... Irritation and polarization can only arise if
the three lack the necessary caution but try to press through their special
interests aggressively.... It remains to
be seen whether the actions speak louder than the words. Anyway, the impression remains that the tree
are overestimated.... The summit does
not nurture the suspicion of a directorate treating others like
children.... One reason for this is that
Germany, France and Britain are only cooperating in a few sectors.... Domestic difficulties will restrain Blair
from promoting European unity too much.
This also means that French-German cooperation still carries a special
responsibility for Europe. The trio is
"The Tousled Three"
Guenther Nonnenmacher opined in center-right Frankfurter
Allgemeine (2/19): "Those who
feel that they belong to the leadership of the EU protested most against the
British, French and German summit. That
is hypocritical. Only two days ago the
Italian and Spanish interior ministers were sitting at a table with the
interior ministers of the three countries without wondering how Belgians, Greeks
or Danes felt about it--because they know that this is the only way to get
forward in a specific matter. However,
one can understand the annoyance. First,
Schroeder and Chirac demonstrated their leadership brutally in relation to the
Iraq war. Now, they have included Blair
to overcome this impression. But the
other Europeans don't want a few countries to rule over the EU or a
triumvirate, particularly as the three look pretty tousled at home. What the others want is indirect and
well-meaning leadership trying to find fair compromises."
"Europe Needs Leadership"
Wolfgang Proissl opined in business daily Financial Times
Deutschland of Hamburg (2/18):
"German-French leadership that brought forward the smaller EU up to
the 1990s is the yardstick. There would
not have been any internal market or currency union in Europe without the
initiatives from Paris and Berlin, but their power is not sufficient for a EU
with 25 members. Similar strong impulses
for Europe can only come about if the two unite with the British, who are
unlike the Germans and French but like many new members more Atlantic and
skeptical about integration. There is no
alternative to the trilateral leadership."
"Trio Instead Of Tandem"
Stefan Kornelius opined in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung
of Munich (2/15): "It is one of the
great European hypocrisies that, if the big nations join forces, the other
nations will cry out loud and speak of a forced policy, diktat, and naked
interests. But if nobody takes over
leadership, we can read something like eurosclerosis, standstill, or national
intrigue in the headlines. Europe only
works if all parties involved are of the same opinion, something that is very
rare, or if opposition to a certain policy can be dissolved with money and nice
words. This is called a policy of
consensus or compromise. But this policy
cannot be established any more in a Europe of 25. The meeting...between Germans, French, and
British on Wednesday is an example of how Europe can function in the era of an
unlimited enlargement. It can function
because the trio, unlike the Franco-German tandem, has more credibility. Mainly the eastern Europeans, but also Spain
and Italy will feel better represented in foreign and security policy if the
British are abroad. This is why we
should get used to this constellation.
It only reflects the position of Europe with its unfinished instruments
in the balance between giving up sovereignty and pursuing one's own national
policy.... Otherwise, the trio should be
satisfied by playing the role of a supervisory council: to design great strategies, spread a good
mood, and by showing cohesiveness thus hushing up that everything is upside
down in this extended board."
Directorate’s Warning: Immediate
Paolo Valentino noted in centrist, top-circulation Corriere
della Sera (2/19): “The Berlin
summit of the big three marks the birth not of a directorate but of a new force
of European integration, a sort of maieutic group that does not hide the almost
pedagogic ambition to restore a driving force and to indicate the future road
to a Europe that is just around the corner from yet another appointment with
history.... And while the federal
chancellor is giving assurances that they 'don't want to dominate anyone,’ the
strong symbolism of the scenario, with the open letter to the presidents of the
Commission and Council, which was signed in front of TV cameras as if it were a
treaty, suggests that everyone else will be obliged to go along with it.”
Adriana Cerretelli opined in leading business daily Il Sole-24
Ore (2/19): “Whether we like it or
not, the Anglo-French-German triumvirate officially promoted itself as the
government of the enlarged Europe....
After having put the European defense issue back on track, for which it
had and has all the necessary requirements, it is now trying to address the
economy, a rather slippery terrain because of the difference in views.... The idea that the enlargement will make the
EC model untenable and that throughout the years Europe stifled the
competitiveness of its industry due to red tape, overly regulated binding
forces, market inelasticity, and over-taxation is now almost a tautology. We do not see the added value that the
triumvirate can give to the solution of both problems. [The triumvirate’s] vanity and conceit risks
greatly complicating these problems, by damaging everyone, including itself.”
"The Directorate Was Born Dead"
Elite, classical liberal daily Il Foglio observed
(2/19): “The only tangible result...is
Germany’s decision to forego the veto on the reduction of the VAT for French
restaurants. If this is the way things
stand, then we can say that there was a mighty effort for a small result.... Nothing was said on the controversial points,
like the institutional treaty and relations with America.... For the time being, no directorate was born,
especially because the others made it understood that they have no intentions
of being bossed around.”
"The Europe Of Three That Excludes Italy"
Bernardo Valli opined in left-leaning, influential La
Repubblica (2/18): “The most evident
novelty in the Berlin summit scheduled for today is the participation of Great
Britain in a meeting which is normally reserved for the French-German couple.... This is not only about an important change in
the community framework that causes anger in those who have been excluded. The co-optation of the British prime
minister, champion of Atlantic Europe, on behalf of the German chancellor and
the French president has a precise meaning.
It is impossible not to interpret this as a mending of the fracture that
was blatantly caused one year ago by the famous ‘letter of the eight’ on Iraq
and signed by Blair, Aznar, Berlusconi and others who had taken sides with the
U.S., in opposition to Chirac and Schroeder who were against Bush’s preemptive
war. It’s clear that inviting Blair to
Berlin is equivalent to a willful opening or a propitiatory gesture toward the
other side of the Atlantic. This is one
of the many gestures that have been made recently. Blair is a bridge between the two
worlds. He can be a messenger. He is a European figure who guarantees
fidelity to the Superpower.”
"Small Ambitions For The Great Union"
Adriana Cerretelli judged in leading business daily Il Sole-24
Ore (2/18): “Those who are well
informed claim that the idea for a directorate of three came from London, for
domestic policy reasons, and for international prestige. On one side there is Tony Blair’s secret hope
of converting pounds into euros in the next legislature and to...influence the
Union with British logic and by watering down the French-German one: starting with fiscal and social policy,
budget and defense. On the other side is
his anxiousness to put an end to Britain’s solitude, to have more weight in
Europe in order to gain respect in America by bringing the Franco-German
military ambitions back under NATO’s umbrella.... In a Europe that is lacking a precise
identity, ideals and long-term strategies, it is once again inevitable that the
British vision and a more American than European economic model are destined to
prevail.... Directorates are not liked
by anyone, especially by those who are excluded from them. But in what seems to be a confused and
disorderly Europe, these directorates are inevitable. Whether they will serve to govern the Union,
to give it a voice, weight and credibility on a global level remains to be
seen. For the time being, in Berlin
there are three weak leaders who are trying to gain the consensus that they do
not have at home. If this is the way
things stand, the great Europe that will be born on May 1 seems condemned to
become smaller and smaller.”
RUSSIA: "A New Entente
In The Making"
Nikolai Paklin filed from Paris and Rome for official government Rossiyskaya
Gazeta (2/20): "The meeting in
the German capital completed the forming of a new Entente. The results of the two-day talks among French
President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and British Prime
Minister Tony Blair are set forth on eight pages in writing. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. The Berlin summit, in effect, is more
evidence of the Big Three striving for leadership--not only economic but also
political and military--in united Europe.
As the EU's enlargement entails ever more problems, Paris, Berlin and
London believe that the Union needs a 'hard core' and different countries will
follow different time-tables to integrate into it."
Anatoliy Anisimov reported from Berlin for official parliamentary Parlamentskaya
Gazeta (2/20): "Even before it
started, the summit came under heavy fire from most EU members who saw it as an
attempt to usurp power. But the reason
Schroeder, Chirac and Blair met was really to consider issues that are vital to
the European Union as it is preparing to accept new members, some of them
wishing to try their mettle the way Poland does in attempting to block the
adoption of a constitution."
"Trying To Save The EU"
Vitaliy Makarychev said in reformist Izvestiya (2/20): "It was more like a conference of
specialist doctors concerned over the state of health of their patient, the
European Union. In describing the
Troika's position in his opening statement, Gerhard Schroeder suggested the
following formula, 'what is good for our three countries is good for all of the
EU.' The Berlin meeting attests to a
rapid rapprochement among the EU's three major states. A new Paris-Berlin link came into being
during the Iraq crisis. But it proved
incapable of leadership in the big EU.
Partly, that was due to strong opposition from the United States, which
contributed to forming a pro-Atlantic party, with London, Madrid and Warsaw at
the head, inside the
Union.... Foreign policy
problems have made Tony Blair turn to Europe.
London wants to be more independent and seeks a compromise with France
on key issues. For their part, France
and Germany realize that, without support from Britain, they can't get the EU
to follow them. As the interests of the
three countries coincide, the Berlin summit seems in order."
Yury Shpakov reported from Berlin for reformist Vremya Novostey
(2/19): "The Berlin accords, to a
varying degree, are binding only for the parties involved. Most of the EU's other members and candidate
countries have mixed feelings and fear that Big Troika's 'separatism' may
affect the current balance in inter-state relations."
"Chirac, Schroeder, Blair Meet Again"
Yevgeniy Grigoryev remarked in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta
(2/18): "With the situation over
Iraq defused, the French and Germans are eager to bury the hatchet in a dispute
with Washington and its chief ally London once and for all. Schroeder is leaving for Washington on a
'fate-making' visit shortly. A chill is
being predicted with Russia this time....
The chief reason for the Anglo-French-German Troika meeting now is that
the EU is in trouble. It is about the
Constitution. Without it, the Union,
with a membership of 25 countries, may become unmanageable."
AUSTRIA: "The Bonfire
Of The Vanities"
Foreign affairs editor Martin Stricker commented in independent
provincial daily Salzburger Nachrichten (2/19): “Enter the critics during the run-up (to the
EU big three’s Berlin meeting): As
expected there were warning cries of a ‘directorate,’ of the three most
powerful EU members forming a clique, of a Europe of two or more levels, and
even of the entire project’s failure.
The critics were overreacting....
As long as the new ‘triumvirate’ resigns itself to acting within the
European Union, there’s no need to worry.
Actually, the EU constitution could have provided the institutional
safeguards and guidelines necessary--if it had not been killed by just those
nationalist hypocrites, who are now lamenting the loudest.”
"Directorate Without Threat Potential"
Senior editor Joerg Wojahn wrote in liberal daily Der Standard
(2/19): “No need to fret over the ‘big
three’ summit in Berlin--the trio’s meeting holds fewer dangers than potential
opportunities... The formation of
interest groups could be indispensable in a EU of 25. Otherwise, institutions such as the Council
of Ministers won’t be able to agree on anything within a given period of
time. The joint move of France, Germany
and Britain actually presents a number of advantages--and not only because they
have a blocking minority within the Council; not only because without them a
joint EU defense and security policy would be unthinkable: the three countries also stand for the major
trends within the EU.”
DENMARK: "Trio Wants
To Lead EU Out of Crisis"
Ole Bang Nielsen wrote in center-right Berlingske
Tidende (Internet version, 2/18):
"If the big three can agree and stake out a course on some of these
difficult issues [facing the EU], it will greatly simplify the decision-making
in the coming years for EU cooperation.
Only a few--if any--of the other 22 countries would be opposed if they
detected a strong joint political will in the governments in Berlin, Paris, and
London. But at the same time the three
governments must not state that they alone, and beforehand, will determine the
EU's stances. That EU cooperation will
be reduced to the other member countries in the future just having to show up
at EU summit meetings and rubber-stamping what the three big countries have
agreed upon. Already Italy, Spain, and
Poland are sulking over the fact that they as 'big countries' have not been
invited to the summit meeting in Berlin, and, among the small countries, there
is widespread mistrust of what the objective of the 'big three' is with the
"One EU--Many Clubs"
Left-wing Information held (Internet
version, 2/18): "For decades,
[France and Germany]...on the basis of vastly different political and historic
premises, had a common interest in a steadily stronger EU.... Today...Franco-German cooperation has largely
outlived itself. Today, France mostly
uses it to delay necessary reforms, for example in agricultural policy, and the
Germans have been taking care of narrow national financial interests.... At the same time, both countries have
realized that it is necessary to heal the wounds from the Iraq war in relations
with the United Kingdom, if Europeans are going to make any progress on the
common defense policy.... The [Berlin]
conference is special not only because Gerhard Schroeder Jacques Chirac, and
Tony Blair, will meet to coordinate their views prior to the upcoming EU summit
in March. They have done that before,
but in Berlin, the three will have several of their ministers with them, who
will also work on coordinating their polices at a lower and more operational
level, and that is something completely new....
There is no reason to panic, as long as it is still the EU's common
institutions that the large countries are directing their interest at. Only on the day when that is no longer the
case will there be reason to fear that Europe is government by narrow,
IRELAND: "The Berlin
The center-left Irish Times held
(2/20): "The raison d'être of the
European Union has been to moderate relations of power on this continent by
pooling sovereignty and sharing decision-making between its large and small
member-states. The summit meeting
between the leaders of Germany, France and Britain in Berlin this week seemed
at first glance to herald a breach of this fundamental principle as the EU
enlarges to 25 members this year. To confirm
it, one would need to show the summit agreed on ways to determine the EU's
political future. It did not do so. Nevertheless such fears, expressed by smaller
and larger states not represented at Berlin, underline the pressing need to
conclude negotiations on the constitutional treaty for the Union, which will
help prevent the emergence of such a two-tier system. The summit helpfully pledged itself to
complete this task in co-operation with Ireland's EU presidency.... The other EU members must beware of any
assumption that because Germany, France and Britain combine half the population
and GDP of the EU they are entitled to a determining voice. They are not.
The European Union is a union of nations and states as well as
peoples. Were it not so the smaller
members would never have agreed to share sovereignty by accepting majority
voting. Getting the constitutional
treaty right on that crucial issue may be an achievable task of Ireland's EU
PORTUGAL: "A Europe At
Respected center-left daily Diário de Notícias commented
(2/19): "What some European
countries were dreading...ended up happening:
the creation of a European board of directors.... An English-French-German locomotive generates
great apprehension among the remaining 12 EU countries, along with the 10 of
enlargement, scheduled for May. Those
condemned to travel in the rear cars don't have any doubts that a Europe at
different speeds will come to exist. It
only remains to be seen who will stay in the rear cars and if the principal of
one commissioner per country and rotating presidencies will be lost."
Europe, Southern Europe"
Conservative ABC editorialized (Internet
version, 2/18): "Division is not
the best way to secure a strong Europe united around the European Union. And less so by reviving the outdated
north-south battle when the Union is on the point of enlargement. For this reason, the already relapsed
position of the three large countries, Germany, Great Britain and France, which
are again today trying to impose their points of view on the other partners, is
an act more of force than of search for the necessary cohesion and
consensus. This makes the joint letter
that Spain--together with Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Poland and
Estonia--has made public, demanding that the Stability Pact be respected in
addition to other important proposals, all the more significant. They ask that the Stability Pact be respected
because it is a guarantee of healthy and lasting growth and an image of
solvency and credibility is given by complying with it, as most countries have
done, among them Spain, with a discipline and budgetary rigor which was
neglected by Germany and France. Without
penalty, in addition, because they then imposed their point of view, forcing
Brussels to accept changes to what was until then agreed by all. Seeking agreement through dialogue on the big
issues--the European constitution, economic development, social and labor policies,
research and development, et cetera--guarantees a more prosperous, integrated
and supportive Europe. Creating
triumvirates to impose decisions is simply going against the EU, returning to
divisions which have already been overcome."