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Europe Bashing: an American amusement

Joaquín Roy (1)

With the exhaustion of the honeymoon rendered by the European backing of the United States in solidarity for the September 11 attacks, a worrisome and tenacious anti-European attitude has extended itself over many U.S. political, economic and media circles. This illness has spread contagiously to Latin America, and it threatens to explode during the European-Latin America-Caribbean Summit to be held May 17-18 in Madrid. The Americas seem to be posed to send a bill to Europe for most of the real and imaginary ills suffered by the foreign policy of the only super power, and for the precarious international position of Latin America and the Caribbean in the confusing world disorder.

The gravity of this situation has reached such levels that important European leaders have issued statements laced with unusual crudeness on what they perceive as a dangerously interventionist and unilateral policy of the United States. In spite of the special relationship between UK and the United States, British PM Tony Blair and EU Commissioner Chris Patten have not resisted the temptation of confronting with perplexity the latest White House actions. While French and German leaders have been too busy in a difficult election season, Italian and Spanish government executives have maintained a prudent silence as a traditional endorsement of the European right for the U.S. policies. Smiles by Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar while visiting President Bush have contrasted with the serious face sported by EU Commission President Romano Prodi, slapped by U.S. tariff imposed on European steel.

Meanwhile, the endemic madness of the Middle East and the perturbing acts of anti-Semitism in Europe have prompted influential U.S. columnists to engage in vitriolic theses against European criticisms of what it is perceived as unconditional U.S. backing of Israel. Crossing the line, the conservative columnist George Will (“The Washington Post”, May 2) branded the anti-Semitic incidents as the “Phase Two” of the “Final Solution,” equating European reticence with the systematic Hitlerian ideology. Chris Patten, who earlier in the year had set the record straight with President Bush (“Financial Times”, Feb 14) for the unnerving foreign policy of the United States in search of new axis of evil, on top of the refusal to ratify the International Court, wiped with an anthological article in the  “Post” (May 7)”. Other international commentators with an unblemished record of support for Israel, among them Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa (“El País,” May 12), have used their columns in the same line of thought –the United States is using the stereotype in a systematic search-and-destroy mission against any critic of its policy in which the planet is subdivided into two bands: the ones who side with no conditions with the United States and its unconditioned allies, and the rest.

South from Rio Bravo and Key West, this fashion is replicated. Since the financial disaster of Argentina, the cyclical or new ills of Latin American are in search of a culprit. In a coalition formed with the simplistic vision from Washington, the magic escape goat has been found: Europe, some of its countries and economies, or the collective entity of the EU, a la Le Pen, who has discovered Brussels as the cause for all the disasters generated by old-fashioned politicians or uncontrolled immigration.

It all began with anti-Spain campaign in Argentina caused by the overwhelming dominance of the Spanish banks in the country’s financial transformation. More recently, European prudence in labeling Colombian guerrillas as “terrorist” (while the Colombian president was negotiating and awarding them large chunks of territory as safe heaven) has degenerated in the discovery of a new enemy to complete a new Colombia “axis of shame” along naïve NGOs and the liberal press. If the state is tumbling down by force of impotence and corruption and the society is cracked between narcotrafficking and generalized kidnapping, it must be Europe’s fault, for not shelling enough dole while the American provide the helicopters and the Colombians deliver the dead, in an efficient, cost-efficient division of labor matching the expectations of the IMF.

In the context of the EU-Latin American Summit, the cause for the low level (5%) of EU-LA trade must be the perfidious EU Common Agricultural Policy (PAC) that impedes the free access of Latin American products to the European lucrative market. Some questions are in order:

How a substantial increase of trade or a partial dismantling of the PAC in a sort of affirmative action for Latin America (why not the Middle East of North Africa?) would correct the endemic structural problems of the Latin American societies?

How Europe would reshape the world prices of commodities? By more subsidies?

How “more of the same” (free trade, privatization, the shrinking of government, and all the darlings of the Washington/Chicago- inspired policies) would substantially change the picture?

Where are the alleged benefits of NAFTA for Mexico, while poverty levels have increased?

Perplexity in Brussels balloons when it is demanded from the EU what the United States is not willing to give away in an virtual integration system such as NAFTA –free mobility of some of the economy factors. A PAC a la North-America is a fact with its subsidies to agriculture, which survival depends of cheap, illegal labor. It is strange that at the same time there is no dismantling of borders to permit the legalization of de facto guest workers, and even less of an attempt to create structural funds. Like an intra-EU “foreign aid” which has been the key for the success of Europe’s integration. This is exactly what Mexican President Vicente Fox  was asking for ... just days before September 11. This utopia vanished the same way as the Twin Towers.






1) Joaquín Roy>> is ‘Jean Monnet’ Professor of European Integration, Director of the EU Center, and Senior Research Associate of the North-South Center, of the University of Miami


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May 20, 2002


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