The Construction of a Joint European Foreign Policy Will Turn the Diplomats' Hair Grey. but It Must Be Done; and, Pace Britain's Eurosceptics, Labour Should Risk Taking a Lead

Article excerpt

Francis Fukuyama was at least partly right. If history has not ended, it has at least paused for breath. Especially in Europe, where it started.

The states of Europe, however Europe is defined, have no disagreements in principle. They have accepted the primacy of democratic institutions and elections. They operate free markets. They view relations with the east and with the west with more unanimity than they have ever done. They have no imperial games to pursue. Is it not, then, a propitious time to Conclude a common foreign and security policy? No, it seems: that task, supposed to be part of this year's Inter-Governmental Conference, will not be much furthered by year's end.

The detail bedevils, of course. Britain and France still feel impulses in imperial limbs long since hacked off; more importantly, they have interests and responsibilities not easily shucked off. France's independent line on the Middle East - in part a response to domestic pressures and terrorism - will not easily be made subject to European control, any more than its intention to continue nuclear testing.

Nor is it just the two former imperial powers who pursue independent lines. Greece pursues its conflict with Turkey within and outside of the Cypriot stalemate with little regard for the sensibilities of the rest of the EU.

These demands, reflexes and opportunisms will not be easily given up: indeed, it is one of the basic tenets of the Eurosceptics' case that they should not be, since, in their model, nation states are a fundamental given of international life and must thus eternally interact in circles of competitive self-interest.

How, then, to make a foreign policy out of interests that still do compete ? How to construct a system in which those states that do not wish to project armed force outside of their borders - centrally, the Germans - are nevertheless fully part of a decision with those who can? How to give states the opportunity to opt out of a common decision while ensuring that their subsequent actions do not compromise the furthering of that decision?

It is on these two sets of principled and practical difficulties that our Eurosceptics focus: rightly, in that they are real. But wrongly - fatally wrongly - in that a concentration upon them betrays what is the larger task for the European states now. …