BRUSSELS - The European Union needs to be seen "to do
more for itself" on the world stage in order to check a
US tendancy for unilateral action, according to EU External Affairs
Commissioner Chris Patten.
"Like or not, the commission has to respond to an active global social conscience," wrote Patten, who was Britain's last governor of Hong Kong.
"In the past, people asked God to deliver them from evil," he said. "Today they look to international institutions - and in Europe, that means the European Union."
Setting his argument in the context of a post-Cold War world dominated by the United States which often complains that Europe is not pulling its weight, Patten suggested the European Union embrace the task of "projecting stability."
"The United States is not isolationist," he said, "but it is prone to unilateralism - and that tendency will be reinforced if Europe is not seen to do more for itself."
Such a go-it-alone attitude on the part of Washington, he argued, "increases the potential EU contribution to a world which is struggling to develop an effective multilateral economic, legal and political framework to contain the passions of states."
Patten's spokesman Gunnar Wiegand said Thursday that the paper was intended "for internal discussion to focus minds within the commission" on ways to develop an "integrated" external policy.
Patten is to expand on his thoughts next week in speeches to the Institut Francais des Relations Internationales in Paris and the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, Wiegand said.
"We do not want to engage in a turf battle," he added, denying European press reports that Patten's paper is a salvo fired at Javier Solana, the European Union's high representative for foreign and security policy.
Solana, the former NATO secretary general, is busy coordinating the creation of a 60,000-strong, pan-EU military force capable of deploying in Kosovo-like situations by 2003.
Patten meanwhile is preoccupied with overhauling the way that the commission grapples with its humanitarian and foreign aid budget, the biggest in the world.
Patten conceded there is "unresolved tension" between what he calls "inter-governmentalism and community powers," tensions that the "welcome" creation of Solana's office has not helped to resolve.
Much more directly, however, Patten betrayed anger and frustration at EU member states for making grand promises, then failing to pony up the funds needed to turn talk into action.
"We should resist efforts to involve us where member states are not prepared to put money behind their rhetoric," he said.
Brussels' foreign aid commitments, he said, have grown four times in 10 years to 8.2 billion euros (7.83 billion dollars), yet it sorely lacks the personnel to manage so much funding.
"Our position might be caricatured as that of a maid who is asked to prepare increasingly large and grand dinners in a pokey kitchen with poor ingredients," he wrote.
The European Commission, Patten said, must be "rigorous in setting priorities," putting a primary focus on "the 'near abroad'" - a clear reference to eastern Europe, including Russia.
It is proposed to replace the traditional two-day meetings of heads of states and governments four times per year by one-day summits with a meal the previous evening for government leaders and the Commission President. Each government will get only two seats in the meeting room. EuroObserver.com