Monday, July 22, 2002

Whence Multilateralism?

Where’s the outrage? Where are the cries of “unilateralist overdrive” from angered French foreign ministers and EU commissioners? Considering the amount of unilateralism flying around Europe right now, one has to wonder.

If the recent row between Spain and Morocco over a little rock shows anything, it’s that Europe’s much vaunted common foreign policy isn’t very common. As any number of European dailies have pointed out, Europe once again failed to act with a single voice leaving the US to pick up the pieces.

The unilateralsim began when Spain sent half its armada to the island of Perejil to oust the occupying Moroccan troops. The EU, it seems, jumped the gun and came out in support of Spain. But no one bothered to ask the French their opinion. France, a country that maintains close relations with Morocco and whose new foreign affairs minister was born in the North African kingdom, wasn’t ready to stand behind Spain. Paris (more unilateralism here) let the folks in Brussels know it was none too pleased with their hasty declaration in favor of Spanish action.

It was the US, acting unilaterally again, that convinced the two parties to take a breather and discuss their problems in Rabat. Real problems do exist between the two countries, not the least of which is illegal immigration of Moroccans to Spain, many by way of boat to the Spanish Canary Islands off Morocco’s southern coast.

That it was the US that got the two together says more than anything about the comparative international roles of America and Europe. The EU, obsessed with reconstructing a Europe that doesn’t need reconstruction, prattles on about the US hyperpower, but stumbles over its own feet when it attempts to get involved in even the smallest crisis. At least Spain acting on its own dislodged the Moroccan occupiers. The EU couldn’t even manage that.

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