Europe Has a Telephone Number

I’ve mentioned several times recently that the events of the past three months — and in particular the activist French EU presidency under Nicolas Sarkozy — have restored the credibility of a strong EU capable of being a global actor as the goal of European integration. According to the EU Observer, the 27 EU foreign ministers assembled in Marseille feel the same way:

“Europe has a telephone number,” [French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner] explained, alluding to former USsecretary of state Henry Kissinger’s quip that he didn’t know whichnumber to call when he wanted to speak to Europe. “It’s the number ofthe country chairing the EU at any given moment. Today, France, in twomonths, the Czech Republic.”

The ministers composed a letter for the winner of today’s American presidential election outlining Europe’s view of the U.S.-EU partnership moving forward. The letter itself will be made public tomorrow, but the four major points were released today, and significantly, of them three are points of contention, or at least have been with the Bush administration: a global reconstruction strategy in Afghanistan beyond calls for troop increases, the need for engagement with Russia and acceptance of its resurgence, and the urgency of a negotiated final status settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The reform of the global governance system, including the U.N., IMF and G8, is something of a consensus position, although the devil remains well ensconced in the details.

What’s also remarkable about the letter is that it essentially argues that the EU is not only an equal partner with the U.S., in some cases it’s a more than equal partner — due to its proximity to Russia, for instance — whose views should actually take precedence over the American position.

Obviously, this letter will be mocked and derided in the usual circles, and there’s an element of provocativeness to it that might make it untimely. But ultimately, I’m a believer in Europe. I find the fact that war is now inconceivable on a continent that has known so much enmity and bloodshed through the millenia one of the most compelling historical developments of our lifetimes. And the fact is, while we will always have disagreements over methods and particular objectives, our values and interests overlap to such a degree that a strong Europe can only strengthen America’s hand in the world.