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British split over the Atlantic

Népszabadság Online - 05 juillet, 2005
Article
Hajnalka Vincze

UK’s accession would mark the beginning of a dilution process at the end of which “there would appear a colossal Atlantic Community under American dependence and leadership, which would soon swallow up the European Community”. The prophetic words of General de Gaulle, in 1963, have not ceased being confirmed ever since.

It is worth noting that British governments, particularly this one, are not overall anti-Europeans. They ‘only’ want to extirpate the very idea of an autonomous Europe, able to promote and defend its own interests. The European Union is, therefore, a good thing, according to official London. Provided it is but a well-organized supermarket, which has policies only as long as they are useful for the United States, or at least do not bother this latter. As for the relationship known as special between Great Britain and the United States, German chancellor Helmut Schmidt noticed, decades ago, that it is so special that only one party is aware of its existence. The fact remains that the zeal of London in this field leads to surrealist situations. Be it their submarines or their decoders, all under American dependence, or the fact that London espionages sometimes against its own products (Airbus-Boeing) or competes against itself (Eurofighter-Joint Strike Fighter). Blair’s tragicomic performance about Iraq is but the cherry on the cake. As even Charles Grant - director of the British thinktank Center for European Reform - put it, this proceeds from a double misunderstanding: Blair over-estimated his own capacity of persuasion vis-à-vis Washington, and the London machine is sometimes too willing to believe what the Americans say. Their situation is in a striking contrast with that of the French. As Rodric Braithwaite (former British ambassador to Moscow and former president of the Joint Intelligence Committee) noted: "In contrast to the French, who preferred to plough a more lonely but independent furrow, co-operation with the Americans has robbed the British of much of their independence.” As he said: “We owe it to ourselves, to our sense of sovereignty and self-respect as well as for more mundane reasons, to make it clear to the Americans that our foreign policy interests can diverge from theirs and that, if they do, we will defend them stoutly. In dealing with the Americans we need to follow the basic principle of negotiation: you must always make it clear that you will, if necessary, walk away from the table.” In order for that to be possible, it would be necessary however that one had not cut off their own leg before, as a sign of allegiance. Over the years the London elite have become master in the art of self-mutilation. Depriving themselves of their own independent assets in the hope of thereby gaining some hypothetical influence/role in Washington. Their US-related “malaise” is reinforced, day after day, with all new experiment, and lead them to multiple attempts at co-operation on French projects or other rare demonstrations of sovereignty. However, a double contradiction remains at the heart of the British conundrum. On the one hand the fact that their defence of sovereignty on the European front is accompanied by an abandonment of sovereignty on the Atlantic front. Whereas, with the United States, theirrelation is fundamentally unbalanced to the point that it forces them to plainly serve American interests. Contrary to Europe, where the “rapports de force” are much more balanced and relations are institutionalized, with the result that dependence is not unilateral but reciprocal. Sovereignty is not abandoned, but - with the common aim to multiply their capacities to promote their interests – is shared between the Member States. The other British paradox is not only self-destroying, it is harmful for the whole of Europe. It is when London tries to convince its European partners that the secret of a healthy and lasting relationship with Washington lies in subservience. Forgetting even Churchill who warned, already in the particular circumstances of the Second World War, that we should not put ourselves “in the position of the suppliant client". Be as it may, one can always hope, as de Gaulle did, that "the own evolution of Great Britain would carry the English little by little towards the continent". We, on this side of the Channel, we must hold on. Because the British model, if transposed to the whole of Europe, would mean the end of any hope of healthy and balanced transatlantic relations. It would do nothing but widen Britain’s defencelessness and dependence to continental dimensions.

Full text in Hungarian.


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