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Financial Times (UK): US arms talks test 'realism' in EU relations

US arms talks test 'realism' in EU relations
The Financial Times
By Judy Dempsey in Brussels

June 23 2003 18:13

The European Union's first security doctrine and policy towards weapons of mass destruction marked a "new realism" in transatlantic relations, US diplomats said ahead of Wednesday's first summit between the US and EU since the war in Iraq.

The more upbeat tone from Washington reflects an attempt by some parts of the administration to rebuild a relationship severely battered by the Iraq war.

The "realism" will be put to the test in Washington, where both sides were on Monday still negotiating a joint declaration on WMD proliferation that will include Iran.

WMD will dominate the "restricted" session headed on the US side by President George W. Bush and Colin Powell, US secretary of state. The EU side will be led by Romano Prodi, EU Commission president, Costas Simitis, Greek prime minister and Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief.

EU officials said the US would like to beef up language, specifically over the circumstances in which force would be used.

The EU will insist on making force dependent on the United Nations charter. It will press its case for "effective multilateralism" in which those who break the rules will face serious consequences beyond economic sanctions. That aside, diplomats from both sides of the Atlantic on Monday said the US and Europe had little choice but to pull together, even though fundamental disagreements over global warming, genetically modified food and the new International Criminal Court persist.

The two account together for more than half the world's gross domestic product and their economies are intertwined - two-way trade in goods and services last year amounted to €650bn ($753bn, £453bn). Businessmen and diplomats said on Monday a more effective multilateral system was needed to channel such economic power and influence.

"You can't expect the economic track of multilateralism to proceed indefinitely and without problems if there is no progress on the political track," said George Schöpflin, political science professor at London University.

EU diplomats have been critical of Washington's tendency towards unilateralism. But they say the economic interdependence between the US and Europe, in addition to the security difficulties in postwar Afghanistan and Iraq, is beginning to have an impact on the administration. It needed partners for state building and economic reconstruction and bringing security to the Middle East, said an EU official.

The new global threats posed by al-Qaeda and the proliferation of WMD have also changed the EU's attitude towards terrorism, as confirmed in its "action plan" on WMD, Iran and the security doctrine unveiled at the Thessaloniki summit.

In a nutshell, the EU wants to strengthen export controls of nuclear material, link trade and economic links to a stringent sets of conditions. These would be based on human rights, combating terrorism and compliance with international treaties, with the use of force as a last resort.

US officials said Washington did "take seriously" the EU's policies on WMD proliferation. The security doctrine was a "sign of the maturing of the [transatlantic] relationship," one said.

Proposals on extradition and judicial co-operation have been clinched ahead of joint statements tomorrow. On container security, both sides are nearing an accord. Since September 11 the US has been signing bilateral agreements with EU member states that enable US customs officials based in ports throughout Europe to inspect containers.

The European Commission initiated infringement procedures against member states that signed up to such accords since they contravened Community competences that include trade and customs.

54 posted on 06/23/2003 4:44:47 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (IranAzad)
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