PN Member Maria Eleni Koppa Comments on the Crisis in the West

Maria Eleni Koppa MEP

As a representative of the Group of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (EP) on defense and security issues and rapporteur on the part of the RP report on the Common Security and Defense Policy, I recently visited Washington at a time when the Euro-Atlantic relations are in crisis. Ostensibly this is a dimension of “values", but one can observe the lack of patience in Washington because a dimension of interest is slowly becoming clear.

The tip of the iceberg is the watching "scandal”. It is assumed that the conflict between Washington and Europe regards the moral question of the width of information that is legitimate to be stolen by the secret services. Undoubtedly, however, the differences between the core partners that traditionally are called “The West " (USA and Europe) have eased to a number of issues that range from the narrow core and security, such as Syria, to economic issues that have strategic implications such as financial regulation , monetary, trade, and energy policy.

Why is Washington’s patience running out? Firstly, there is no strategic thinking in Brussels.  In Washington a number of globally renowned think tanks who produce analyses, information, and policy options. In Europe this process is almost monopolized by the European Commission, which usually produces no "options" but " one way” solutions. In Europe there is nothing similar to the Rand or CSIS, as the largest and strongest think tanks identified with the development of national policy options. In the U.S. they have an open layout with ideological interests and economic sign, while in Europe national policies dominate, the behind closed doors policy, and secondarily, European ideological reflections.

Specifically, when, in Europe, we put it on the scale a public good and safety in the one part and on the other human rights, we do not weigh real dilemmas .In the headlines of European newspapers, the U.S. allegedly monitor citizens and leaders of various nationalities and raise the question of democratic legitimacy, but with no mention of the (European) safety. So apparently Europe is more “progressive”, giving more weight to civil liberties than on safety. In fact, the Americans argue, that is a political rhetoric on the safe side since the U.S. should end and take responsibility for European security as Europeans are concerned with "values ​​".

The U.S. political system accepts overall responsibility for the security policy that is based on the threat of terrorism. The U.S. Senators should explain to their voters why they would spend money in distant places like Brussels and the Middle East. On the contrary, in Europe, all political policies are nationalized. There have been attacks in London and in Madrid, but not “in Europe". In analog terms, it would be like to say that there had been attacks in Boston and New York, but not in the U.S.

In Washington, they know that the U.S. has a coordinating role in intelligence gathering systems of the West; the question of the democratic legitimacy is faced with either anger or condescension. They argue that the U.S. security services actually cooperate with security agencies of European countries, that provide information and drawings. In other words, the “European security ", the Americans say, is a "dirty job” that has a political cost. Europeans see the cost but not the job.

Of course, the political issue is real. On one side, there is blaming Russia and China for aggressive electronic espionage, including the industrial one. On the other hand we find out that our friends and allies adopt similar practices and it is considered scandalous. But even our criticism is based on a national criterion: Germany and Spain had very different reactions from Britain. The bottom line is this: for Americans, privileged access to information is a privilege of leadership. This is an acceptable argument for the British, but not the Germans.

Americans believe that the cost of leadership should have offset. To protect against the Russian nuclear weapons, there is the deterrent power of Washington. For the ' rescue' of the Eurozone periphery, the IMF was mobilized. For the rescue of bank giants with a systemic behemoths size the American taxpayer was mobilized first. For the intervention in Libya, the American infrastructure was needed. For creating alternative energy flows in the EU, apart from Russia, the American diplomacy was mobilized. Whenever Europeans have conflicting interests and the aggregating of their policies fails to reach a certain European composition, Americans intervene.

And naturally America derives benefits from this situation. American agencies assess the creditworthiness of countries and organizations while their weapon systems ensure uniformity and compatibility among allied forces operating under NATO. American technology and multinational companies dominate the energy sector, oil wealth is measured in dollars, and American giants dominate cyberspace .In addition to all of these factors this situation is weighted in favor of American interest. However, the European deficit strategy is what gives the U.S. the right to request, even indirectly, a " tax leadership".  Leadership is not free.

So basically we have diverging interests, not just regarding "principles and values ​​". The dimension of values among allies is at this stage considered a "scandal" because there is a broader strategic rift. Neither the U.S. assumes the cost leadership in Europe nor the "partners" presume U.S. leadership. Accepted from both sides is the fact that the apparent divergence is between certain member states of the EU and the U.S., not between Brussels and Washington.  Finally, beliefs are free but policies have cost. While Washington is setting its policies, Europe is replying with European "views" that are cheap and with cheap national policies.The question of who will take over the cost of the policy is the real issue of the "Crisis in the West.”


PN member Maria Eleni Koppa MEP is a member of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs. She is also serving on the European Parliament's Delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Subcommittee on Human Rights and on the Subcommittee on Security and Defense. 

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Photo by European Parliament.

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