Now US Can Ring Up 'Mr. Europe' NATO Chief Javier Solana to Become the European Union's Chief Diplomat,

By Peter Ford, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, June 4, 1999 | Go to article overview

Now US Can Ring Up 'Mr. Europe' NATO Chief Javier Solana to Become the European Union's Chief Diplomat,


Peter Ford, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


The choice of Javier Solana as Europe's first foreign policy supremo, due to be announced at a summit of continental leaders today, could not have been better calculated to reassure the United States that while Europe seeks to speak with one voice on the world stage, it does not intend to shout Washington down.

The affable Spaniard's leadership as secretary-general of NATO over the past four years has given US officials ample opportunity to study his pro-American credentials, and his penchant for consensus over confrontation.

Mr. Solana's nomination "is an excellent signal to the Americans," says Charles Grant, head of the London-based Centre for European Reform, an independent think tank. "A European foreign policy will not be successful if it is seen as competing with the Americans, only if it cooperates with them." The European Union's creation of the new post of high representative for foreign and security policy is a key step toward forging a common, Europe-wide approach to international questions, and toward backing that approach with military muscle. At the two-day summit, which began yesterday in Cologne, Germany, EU heads of state are also giving the union - hitherto a primarily economic arrangement - authority to order military action in crisis spots, and to make member states develop the military capabilities needed for such action. This step toward an autonomous European military force follows a Franco-German decision last week to make the Eurocorps, a mixed brigade of troops from France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Spain, into the kernel of a new European rapid-reaction force. In some countries these moves toward a united Europe, armed with an independently led military, have taken a distinctly anti- American tone. "We must make Europe, already the biggest economic power in the world, a political and military power too, to make sure that there is not just one policeman, the United States," declared Franois Hollande, a leader of the ruling French Socialist party, recently. Solana's background makes him well placed to smooth any American feathers that might be ruffled by such talk. Although in his younger socialist days in Madrid he campaigned for the closure of US military bases in Spain, and to keep Spain out of NATO, he is now an ardent convert to the transatlantic alliance. His NATO experience clearly reinforces the message that European leaders are seeking to send: that the EU wants to back its foreign policy with genuine military operational capabilities with forces that can react quickly and work together. But it carries the twin signal that the EU intends to act militarily under the NATO umbrella, not to create a duplicate structure, much less an alternative or rival institution. The idea, officials say, is that eventually the EU would be able to deploy European troops under European command to carry out peacekeeping or crisis-management tasks in which Washington did not want to participate. …

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