Punching Its Weight? : Europe Wants a Foreign-Policy Profile to Match Its Economic Clout. Chris Patten Says It Can Happen

Newsweek International, November 29, 1999 | Go to article overview

Punching Its Weight? : Europe Wants a Foreign-Policy Profile to Match Its Economic Clout. Chris Patten Says It Can Happen


The man best known as the last British governor of Hong Kong is the new EU commissioner for external relations. Chris Patten's job is to move away from collective platitudes toward firm policies. But he's not the only one with that assignment. Former NATO chief Javier Solana is also on the Brussels scene as a foreign-policy czar. Patten spoke recently with NEWSWEEK's Christopher Dickey.

DICKEY: What is changing in Brussels?

PATTEN: All of us in the new commission recognized that things simply couldn't go on as they were. We have to be more open, more accountable and more efficient. In my own area, Javier Solana [EU high representative for foreign and security policy] has been appointed as the representative of the foreign ministers, and we have to work in tandem with him to give a cutting edge to the European Union's contribution to international affairs. We have to make our assistance and development programs more focused, more flexible, more rapid than they've been in the past. We've got to clean up our act and sharpen our performance.

How are you and Solana supposed to work together?

Solana comes to the job with the political authority of the foreign ministers of the EU. I come to the job with the competencies that the commission has, which are principally in the field of trade and in development assistance. He has as much knowledge as anybody conceivably could have on the security and defense issue. That doesn't mean that I won't be able to contribute my views to the debate on peacekeeping, or about conflict prevention. I don't think that there's going to be any difficulty with falling over one another's feet. There's plenty for both of us to do. We've already done two visits together, to Kosovo and to Algeria. We won't always be traveling in tandem, but very often I'm sure we will continue to do so.

But doesn't this raise the question Henry Kissinger once asked about "who speaks for Europe"?

I think the Kissinger question, frankly, was a bit smart-alecky.

But you and Solana are two different voices for what is supposed to be one EU foreign policy.

You know it's more complicated than that. Why only two? There are 15 foreign ministers who are trying to develop a common foreign and security policy. They've chosen to have somebody to help provide a focus for policy. But that doesn't mean that Madeleine Albright won't want to be on the phone regularly to the German foreign minister or the French foreign minister or the British foreign minister or the Dutch or the Swedish. …

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