JOHN HUMPHRYS: Tony Blair said right at
the beginning that Britain would be standing shoulder to shoulder with
the United States. And so we have. But what about our European allies?
There's a feeling in many Continental countries that they've been sidelined
and that the European Union has been allowed almost no say in what goes
on. Many of its members thought it would be different. After all, don't
we have a common Foreign and Security policy? Well the European Union's
Foreign Affairs Commissioner is Chris Patten. He's also in New York for
that United Nations meeting and I suggested to him there that the EU has
been shown to be pretty irrelevant.
CHRIS PATTEN: No, I don't believe that's
true, but I also think that it's, it's crazy to start talking about institutional
battles between the European Union and member states when what ordinary
people want, is to see us acting effectively, both to protect their security
at home and to make the world a safer place, and I think we've got the
balance about right.
The European Union does some things supra- nationally, but it also ensures
that member states make their contribution where they've got particular
strengths, as Britain has, as France has, as others have, sometimes supra-nationally,
sometimes you're behaving as a nation state and I think that that means
that sometimes we're doing it as Europe and sometimes we're doing it as
HUMPHRYS: But if a Common,
Foreign and Security policy means anything, wouldn't you, as the European
Union's External Affairs Commissioner have a much bigger role in co-ordinating
the EU's response?
PATTEN: I don't think that's
true, and you're actually using the wrong word I think. We do have a common
foreign policy. What we don't have, and I don't think we'll have as long
as I'm alive or you are, is a single foreign policy. We have found ways
in which we can work together more effectively so I think we've been much
more coherent, much more co-ordinated this time than we were with the Gulf
crisis ten years ago. I think we've managed to do things much better in
the Balkans than we did in the mid-nineties. But while we're doing some
things better in common, there are at the same time fifteen member states,
fifteen foreign ministers, fifteen foreign ministries, each with their
own preoccupations and each with their own particular strengths and what
we have to do, is to play both sides of the street, both to do things,
together where we can make the aggregate of Europe's member states work
more effectively and to do things, and to do things singly.
HUMPHRYS: So in this particular case it's
doing things singly as opposed to working together more effectively?
PATTEN: No, it's not! I'm certainly
not saying we can't act effectively. I'm saying we are working more effectively,
but that foreign and security policy goes right to the heart of what it
means to be a nation state. The European Commission has nothing to do
with armies. What we are doing I think, is where, Europe should do things
better together - in the trade, the development assistance, the political
co-operation field - we're acting, so for example, we're providing in Europe,
the most humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. We're providing about
three-hundred million of which a-hundred million comes from the European
Commission. We've just been in Pakistan, negotiating better access for
Pakistan textiles to European markets, talking about a-hundred million
assistance package for Pakistan, signing a trade and co-operation agreement
with them. We're in Iran, I was there recently talking to them about,
signing a, or negotiating a contractual agreement with them. We're providing
more assistance than anybody to the Palestinian territories so that there
is a viable negotiating partner for Israel in Palestine. Those are the
sort of things we're doing, making a practical difference, working together
successfully while at the same time President Chirac, Mr Blair and others,
work as, as Europeans, but as also heads of government or heads of state
in their countries.
HUMPHRYS: Yeah but there are
plenty of small countries that are not happy, I mean what about that dinner
at Number Ten that Mr Blair called last week and the idea was that the
French and the Germans would go and then the Italians and the Spanish sort
of invited themselves and the Belgians said, well, we must be here as well,
because we're holding the Presidency of the European Union. An awful lot
of people across the European Union were very cross about it all.
PATTEN: Well, it was clearly
a very successful dinner party. Every, a lot of people wanted to go, but
I don't think honestly that it makes very much sense to have an argument
about, who Mr Blair invited to dinner. What matters is that Europe, large,
middle-sized and small member states should be acting effectively together
to freeze the assets of terrorist organisations, to deal with money laundering,
to deal with airline security, to work together internationally, as I was
describing a moment or two ago, together to make more of a difference.
I don't think many people would have very much sympathy for us, if we
were now to get into an argument about who did what on what pillar, which
particular legal provision of which particular treaty, we were, we were
working by, whether or not these things were done by the spirit of Jean
Monet, or by the spirit of Charles de Gaulle! I think we just have to
make a difference and I think everybody recognises that today, nation states
can't do everything themselves. They do need to do some things more effectively
together, but that doesn't mean that the nation state is obliterated.
It isn't, and it never will be.
HUMPHRYS: But I mean that's the
whole point, isn't it? Do things more effectively together. You can't do
that unless you really do have a common foreign and security policy.
PATTEN: I think the European
Union is playing a larger role than it did, not because it's vainglorious,
but because we are aware of the gap between our economic and our political
clout in the world and we do think it helps when we're able to exercise
our political weight more sensibly and more influentially. We're the largest
provider of development assistance in the world by a street. We're the
most important, with the United States, we're the most important trading
block so, what we're doing in Doha, in the WTO talks, is absolutely decisive.
We do think that as the most effective example of a multilateral institution,
we have a particularly important contribution to make, as the present debate
about the fight against terrorism moves into, onto other agendas. Agendas,
for example, touching on the dark side of globalisation, about the relationship
between poverty and environmental degradation and violence. Those are
all the areas where I think Europe will be able to do more, does do more,
as we are in Marrakech at the moment, in the negotiations on the Kyoto
HUMPHRYS: But there is a strong
feeling in many European countries that you should develop your common
foreign and security policy by giving more power to the institutions for
example, by introducing majority voting on foreign and security policy
at the next inter-governmental conference in two-thousand-and-four. There
is a strong feeling that ought to happen.
PATTEN: They wanted to go
further, where it's sensible to make it go further. I think there's much
less dogmatism or ideological fervour in the debate about how we could
work together than there is, if I may so, in your questions! I think we
have actually got our act together far better, over the last year and as
I said earlier, just compare where we are now in the Balkans with where
we were five years ago, just compare where we were on the Middle East five
years ago and where we are now, just compare, for example, how Europe was
all over the place in the early stages of the Gulf War campaign, at the
beginning of the nineties, so this is better, it's more coherent, but it's
not a single state. It's fifteen member states working more effectively
HUMPHRYS: So you think the policy
as it is is working fine and there's no need to make it any stronger?
PATTEN: I think that the common
foreign and security policy is getting stronger and will get stronger still,
but what I do not believe in, and what will not happen, we will not have
a single foreign and security policy, at least, not while I've, well not
while I'm alive, I don't think.
HUMPHRYS: But there just to go
back to the overall attitude to what is happening. The way in which Britain
and the United States obviously seem to be dominating this whole thing.
We heard the Belgian Foreign Minister saying just the other day, and I'll
quote him, he said "Blair's statements have left a bitter taste in the
mouth" and he accused Mr. Blair of over-reacting, so many of the EU's member
states are not happy.
PATTEN: I don't believe that's
true. Mr Blair has, I think shown commendable initiative, in helping to
mobilise the international campaign against terrorism, and I think other
European leaders have been almost equally active - President Chirac, Chancellor
Schr�der and so on. Each member state can contribute, differently to what
is a coherent strategy being pursued by them all, but I don't think it
makes very much sense just because one European leader or another is on
the phone more frequently to President Bush, to get jealous about it.
HUMPHRYS: Chris Patten, many thanks.
PATTEN: Thanks very much indeed.