by Jerome a Paris
Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 12:13:12 PM EST
The European Council on Foreign Relations has sober assessment the reckless and aggressive foreign policy of our biggest partner:
"Today, it is the White House that sets the agenda for EU-US relations, and it does so in a manner that increasingly defies the rules of the game," says Joschka Fischer, former German foreign minister and ECFR's co-chair. "The reason for that is the disunity of the EU. This must change."
The EU's failure to agree on a common US policy has allowed the White House to increase its leverage over the EU, through signing bilateral military deals, playing the Kosovo card, asserting itself in the common neighbourhood, and dragging its feet on preventing nuclear proliferation.
And the ECFR follows on with bold proposals on how to deal with this threat:
- Push for the implementation of all international agreements and standards the US has committed itself to, in order to further promote the rule of law;
- Make the US's participation in G8 summits conditional on its commitment to the spirit and the letter of common agreements, with the threat of organizing more low-level meetings within the G7 format should the US be uncooperative;
- Introduce the policy of 'principled bilateralism' where EU governments are expected to use bilateral links to serve common EU goals and introduce an early warning system to inform of impending military deals or bilateral disputes;
Ah, finally, someone dares say what we've all been thinking. We need to contain an out-of-control administration...
Sadly, of course, this is not about the US, but about Russia. We need to have our enemies straight. On the one side, we have the good guys who can do no wrong, even as they invade and occupy countries, make torture official policy, and dismiss international law and treaties, and on the other, the evil Russians who dare behave as it it were not our gas under their toundra.
I'll just pick and choose a few sentences from the full version of the report (which can be downloaded - pdf - via this link)...
It is setting itself up as an ideological alternative to the EU, with a different approach to sovereignty, power and world order. Where the European project is founded on the rule of law, Moscow believes that laws are mere expressions of power - and that when the balance of power changes, laws should be changed to reflect it. Russia today is trying to revise the terms of commercial deals with western oil companies, military agreements such as the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, and diplomatic codes of conduct like the Vienna Convention. And it is trying to establish a relationship of `asymmetric interdependence' with the EU. While EU leaders believe that peace and stability are built through interdependence, Russia's leaders are working to create a situation where the EU needs Russia more than Russia needs the EU, particularly in the energy sector.
On energy, it is picking off individual EU member states and signing long-term deals which undermine the core principles of the EU's common strategy.
As I did above the fold, and as the suggested links inserted in this paragraph attest, most of that text applies eerily well to all the excesses and horrors we're seeing from Washington. In fact, if you replace "energy" by "military", the whole things fully applies with respect to the US - including the fact that the EU does not have a common strategy - not for energy, and not for military policy.
I wish that all these people that moan about the EU being unable to stick to an energy policy (as to a foreign policy) would tell me what that policy is - and no, deregulation and unbundling is not a strategy. Specifically, viz. Russia, what would be the proposed energy policy?
On thr ground, there is only interdependence between Russia and the EU - the pipelines that link the two entities cannot be used for any other purpose and have no substitutes; in fact, Russia depends on its European markets a lot more (100% of its hard currency exports than the EU depends on Russian gas (20% of its gas). So, if anybody is "creating a situation where the EU needs Russia more than Russia needs the EU", it is the boys-who-cried-wolf of the political world, blindly followed by the punditry and the "serious" people, who have manufactured a crisis where there was none in order to have a scapegoat for the very real shortfalls of domestic energy policies.
Nobody's complaining in these crowds about the lack of a substantive response from the EU to the very real and unavoidable US decisions to drop the Geneva Conventions, to make torture State policy and to destroy Iraq.
And the main recommendation of the report, makes a lot of sense viz. the USA as well:
While the long-term goal should be to have a liberal democratic Russia as a neighbour, a more realistic mid-term goal would be to encourage Russia to respect the rule of law, which would allow it to become a reliable partner.
So, taking the implementation of this grand idea in more detail, we have the following:
Conditional Engagement with Russia.
Proponents of `soft containment' and `creeping integration' debate whether Russia should be excluded from the G8, and whether to block the negotiation of a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.
Yep. would work with the US.
Under the `rule of law' paradigm, the EU should aim for `principled bilateralism.' The goal would be to ensure that bilateral contacts between Russia and individual EU member states reinforce rather than undermine common EU objectives. Equally, most member states would value an early warning system which would allow both upcoming crises and upcoming deals to be discussed internally in the Union.
Oh boy, wouldn't that be useful with the US too. Except that this would target London - or maybe, in these Sarkozy-blessed days, Paris - and threatening poodlehood-desire would not do. Wanting to be part of the good guys is always a good thing, even if it's done on a bilateral basis...
Integrate the Neighbourhood.
Under the approach we advocate, the EU would focus on encouraging these countries to adopt European norms and regulations and thus integrate them into the European project. The Union could also invest in electricity interconnections with some neighbouring countries, give them access to the Nabucco pipeline, extend the European Energy Community and seek the full application the energy acquis in Turkey, Ukraine and Moldova. This could lead to the unbundling of energy companies in these states, greater transparency in their energy sectors and, consequently, greater energy security for Europe and fewer possibilities for Russia to use energy as an instrument of foreign
OK, this has less relevance for relations with the US. But it's worth commenting on its own, just to highlight the hilarious ignorance by this report's authors of the realities of the gas business in Europe.
- the Nabucco pipeline is not happening because the only entity that could credibly provide the gas needed to fill it (a prerequisite to finance it) is ... Russia. So, promoting Nabucco as an alternative to Russia gas is beyond stupid;
- the Ukrainian and Moldovan gas companies are essentially transport companies, ie they are already unbundled, for all intents and purposes... and the fact that they are transit companies for Russian exports is what allows them not to pay for gas delivered by Russia. Gazprom would love nothing more than transparency in the gas transit business, as it would allow it to actually get paid for all the gas sent to Ukraine, and to stop subsidizing these countries to the tune of billions of dollars (now, some Gazprom managers and Ukrainian oligarchs might have a different idea, but such nuance is altogether lost to most commentators);
- there is no "energy weapon" - or there is only in very special, assymetric cases (Russia's relationship with Armenia might qualify, but that case is somehow never mentioned). When there is a balanced relationship, like between Russia and any EU country, the "energy weapon" is just like nuclear dissuasion - it cannot be used. And yes, even with the Balts, the relationship is balanced as long as they pay market prices for gas
But hey, let's perpetuate the image of the evil Russian Empire bent on total domination of the European energy markets.
Enforce the Law.
A `rule of law' approach would promote mutual agreements and investments, but be much tougher on their implementation. For example, the European Commission should be given political support to apply competition policy in the energy sector, and to investigate some of the more dubious deals between Russian and EU companies.
Here, the parallel with rendition flights is striking. These were without any doubt illegal in Europe, and yet were done with the assent and complicity of various European governments. Yes, it would definitely be a good idea for the EU to uphold the rule of law and hold those responsible for these egregious breaches of our values and laws accountable.
Of course, in this case, a deal is "dubious" when it's signed by a big French, German or Italian company, especially those that were State-owned at some point in the past, rather than by a trader of an investment fund.
Rebalance the Relationship.
The EU needs to adopt an internal code of conduct on energy deals and guidelines on long-term contracts and forthcoming mergers. In order to avoid further monopolisation and partitioning of the EU energy market, the European Commission could be granted the right to pre-approve big energy deals on long-term contracts and pipelines concluded between EU and foreign energy companies. The practical goals should be open competition, the rule of law and an integrated and flexible gas market.
This is where the lack of an actual European energy policy brings again the focus on tools and instruments, and those are the ones preferred by the deregulation ayatollahs favored by the British government and the City traders and banks they represent: prevent the secure, reasonably cheap procurement of gas by the big players under long term contracts so that the small ones can join the fun too and take their cut along the way. Remember that ExxonMobil is favorable to long term contracts and has sold all the gas it has the right to in Qatar under such contracts - becuase that's the only way to finance the huge investments required. The EU is the only place in the world that wants to ban the only kind of contract that can support the construction of gas infrastructure...
If it sounds oddly like the Rumsfeldian divide between Old Europe (the nasty French who are not interested in delivering gas to the UK even when prices are high, and the evil Germans who want to have a pipeline which is not hostage to the capricious Poles), and New Europe, it's probably on purpose. In fact, the report encourages the comparison:
Russia has emerged as the most divisive issue in the European Union since Donald Rumsfeld split the European club into `new' and `old' member states.
And on to the conclusion:
The EU has a basic choice to make: either member states continue to pursue bilateral agendas, but ultimately all lose out. Or it can unite - which will require individual member states to make possibly painful concessions - and exercise real influence over the nature of the relationship with Russia.
Any guess which members (the new Old Europe - wimps, hypocrites and losers) are asked to make concessions, and which (the new new Europe - righteous, brave and selfless) are required to influence the relationship - and put Europe on a path of head-on confrontation with Russia to teach it its right place - submissive?
And guess when the same formula will be applied to our relationship with the out-of-control Bush administration?