Letters to the editor

Polls and Comment

Library - an archive
of speeches


Economists write

Bibliography of EMU

The Euroland Economy

Links

 






















 
SPEECH MADE BY SENATOR GORDON SMITH,
CHAIRMAN OF THE US SENATEíS EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
AT THE THIRD CONGRESS FOR DEMOCRACY
ON FRIDAY 10 DECEMBER 1999 AT CHURCH HOUSE, WESTMINSTER

UNITED KINGDOM or UNITED EUROPE?

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I thank you very sincerely for the privilege of addressing you today. It is a very real pleasure for me to be here in Great Britain at the end of this century surrounded by these grand monuments and temples of democracy - the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey and the great buildings along Whitehall. They are testaments to the endurance of great ideals, ideals of liberty that can endure long into tomorrow if we do our work well today.

Let me say at the outset that all Americans are united in respect of the choices of free people, the peoples of Britain and the peoples of Europe. Whatever you determine your future to be, we support you in that. However, your American cousins have always worked for, bled for, hoped for a Europe that is prosperous, peaceful and free. We now conclude with you a century of enormous conflict. We have fought with you side by side through the entire century and we have great hopes to continue side by side with you into the next century.

That said, the issue before this Conference is a very solemn one. For Britain is on the threshold of choices with respect to Europe which will indelibly shape and change you and perhaps even our alliance with you.

Recent remarks of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic give me pause for thought and lead me this morning to urge maximum caution and care. Our leaders speak of the inevitability of Britainís adoption of the Euro in order to be "part of Europe". Surely this overstates the case.

To date President Clinton seems to be the sole American spokesman on the matter. I will tell you, though, that it is a matter of increasing debate in the cloakrooms of the United States Senate and while he is a disciple of British conversion he will soon be leaving office and he in no way represents the unanimous American position regarding the British concession to the still unsettled mandates of the Maastricht Treaty, namely the single European currency.

Indeed it is no stretch to say that Americans are equally as wary of Britain ceding power to Brussels as Britons themselves.

I personally am particularly concerned that the drive toward monetary union is first about politics and not about economics. That its ends are about achieving a super socialist state and not about preserving democratic free enterprise.

To date Britainís dance with the European Union has been an awkward one. As a student of your history I believe that this is inevitable and predictable. Britainís development in politics, religion and culture has always been distinct from that of the continent. Being a step apart, Britain has always looked with caution, sometimes even with hostility, on concentrations of power on the continent. On occasion Britain even has stood alone.

But through the smoke of yesterdayís prideful and painful events this much is clear: through cautious appraisals of consolidated continental power Britain has always better served the greater interests of Europe and thereby of the whole world.

It is that caution that paints the Maastricht proselytes of today in such stark relief. So many Herculean pitches and promises, so many exaggerated positions like: "Does Britain want to be part of Europe?"

Lest anyone forget, the European Union is not Europe - it is a part of Europe. There are over fifty nations in Europe, only sixteen of which are in the EU. Countries like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic - which proudly joined NATO last year - have not lost their standing in the continent.

"Britain in Europe" is a misnomer which signifies a standardised Europe, not necessarily a free one.

Those, however, who dare make the distinction are quickly disparaged in some quarters.

At this year's Labour Conference, Mr. Blair had these words for the sceptical: "[The] forces of conservatism chain us to an outdated view of our people's potential. The old air of superiority based on past glory must give way to the ambition to succeed."

But what exactly must give way, and to succeed at what? This is where the Maastricht myth makers go to work. Their myths, however, are not self-validating - they must first erase the invariable success of the Pound Sterling. This is not an easy task. The Euro, not the Pound has steadily lost value against the dollar since its inception. For nearly seventy percent of Britons, this accomplishment is self-validating.

These myth makers have the burden of proving, of providing and producing a bountiful Europe without the Pound. Many economists report that the Bank of England is making this a difficult task. They point to many factors which do not mesh with the professed words of "Britain in Europe". You are all quite well aware of both sides of the argument here, I am sure, but there is another need for caution which rests in deeper waters.

"Giving in to Brussels" is more than theoretical economics. Monetary policy, taxation, and spending are vital areas of national sovereignty. Interest rates and the issuance of currency affect the well-being and security of a people just as much as foreign policy. To this extent, the practical competence and constitutional underpinnings of the European Central Bank should be reconsidered.

Again it is becoming clear that the reason for some to reconcile Britain with Europe is political, not economic. As monetary union has already overridden the drive for enterprise and free trade it is now a springboard for different endeavours.

At a joint conference with the Italian President this fall, Prime Minister Blair noted that "we are all trying to search for... a renewal of the European social model". On this occasion Mr. DíAlema conceded that this new order is in the tradition of the Italian Left and the New European socialists.

Is there such a creature as a single European social model? In 1993, it was a universal welfare policy that caused Britain to opt out of Maastrichtís Social Chapter. Such socialist proposals are breaches of constitutional power in Britain. They may also become the bedrock of the European Union.

The drive toward monetary union has also spilled over into the politics of European security. I want to be careful what I say here but I hope you hear my words very carefully. Often what makes good politics on the Continent makes for poor European policy. This is especially true of the forging of a European Union into an alternative military alliance to oppose the United States.

Anti-Americanism is not a stranger to European politics. Britainís entrance into the European Economic Community was vetoed twice by the French perception of the UK as the "Trojan horse" for the United States. The desire for heightened intra-European capabilities is not in itself a concern. What is concerning lies in the restfulness of anti-Americanism with current approaches to a European security identity.

The so-called French "action plan" is coupled with a belief that NATO and the United States are barriers to be overcome.

While addressing the United Nations General Assembly this fall President Chirac stated: "We should not delude ourselves. The Europeans did not convey [in Kosovo] the impression they were fully in control of the fate of their own continent."

To repair this dependence anxiety, President Chirac and Prime Minister Blair have proposed an EU Rapid-Reaction force, consisting of upwards of sixty thousand troops. While I strongly support greater definition of Europeís defence identity, I would hate to see it done at the cost of the Atlantic Alliance.

The perception of a European military dependence on the United States is difficult to avoid. An imbalance exists, but it does not exist because of NATO. It is born out of an ever-declining European defence budget. NATO is not designed to create disparities. Rather, its purpose and its success rest on collective strength and shared responsibilities.

This is why I am fearful that devising new military institutions separate from the Atlantic Alliance will prove fateful. After the EUís Cologne Summit this year, I sponsored a resolution which expresses the sense of the Senate on NATO and the European Union. In it, the Senate emphasises that a vibrant European defence identity need not be at the expense of anterior alliances or NATO. Rather, the existing framework should be incorporated to facilitate the emergence of a stronger pillar within the Alliance for Europe.

Unnecessary duplication of existing capabilities will demonstrate contempt for the progress of Euro-Atlantic burden-sharing and equity. By shifting resources from NATO to more confined factions, nations left in the middle may be estranged. Recent NATO members such as Poland and Hungary now depend on greater, not less, inclusion from their immediate neighbours. The same applies to neutral European nations like Sweden and Finland.

It is all the more ironic that this week in Helsinki the Prime Minister pledges the keys of the British fleet to a still materialising Euro-army. It was only last week that Britain and Ireland signed the Good Friday Accord into law.

Just know that the United Statesí acceptance of a diminishing role for itself in Europe may be accelerated by European military manoeuvres outside of the Atlantic Alliance. Margaret Thatcher once said: "The lesson of this century is that Europe will only be peaceful if the Americans are on this continent."

I continue to give credence to that proposition even while many more increasingly no longer do. If you value in this Congress an American presence in the Atlantic Alliance still, never forget the vital British role as the lynchpin in that Alliance. Historically, the United Kingdom has been pivotal in quelling isolationist tendencies in the United States but now we seem contentedly to be coasting towards a serious rift. Without greater assurance from Britain now, American withdrawal from the interests of European security may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That takes me now to a brief discussion of foreign affairs in US domestic politics. Now I am a Republican. Now I am also glad that the isolationist and protectionist candidacy of Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan has now departed my party for another. But everywhere he goes in the United States he asks the question, "Why should 260 million Americans be asked to defend 350 million rich Europeans from 140 million impoverished Russians?" I must tell you that his voice finds resonance in both the Republican and Democrat parties and not just in the growing ranks of independence and reformist voters.

My fear for the alliance is that co-operative deeds will soon be replaced by grandiose words Ė that somehow talking about defence is an adequate substitute for defence. I fear that such talk will cause future American leaders to go and thank you very much and then go home. This would create an enormous security vacuum. And I canít tell you who would fill that vacuum. But I can tell you that the flagrant anti-Americanism of some continental leaders fuels the suspicion that the European Unionís real motive is to build a European force separate from NATO in order to counter US influence and to check American power.

Could there be a worse outcome for Britain, for Europe, if it were to substitute talk of strength for adding to strength and thereby ignite American isolationism? I cannot imagine one.

Now I have not come here today as an alarmist. I have come here as a friend. Every one of my ancestors emigrated to the United States from England after the American Revolution and I look to this country as a home and as a bastion of liberty. And so I do have a bias and a preference but I do say on behalf of your American cousins that we respect your feelings of self-determination, but I also raise the warning voice of caution that things that are said now are increasingly heard in the United States and more increasingly with alarm and because, if you understand Americaís history and the way Britain helped America to evolve, yes we broke away from you, but the Monroe doctrine meant very little without the power of the British navy to enforce it.

And at the turn of this century we are in, it was Theodore Roosevelt who called Americans to world leadership, it was Woodrow Wilson whose ideals inspired Americans, but it was not until Franklin Roosevelt, George Marshall, Dean Acheson and Harry Truman that American finally woke up to its worldwide leadership responsibilities. And there yet has never diminished in us a tendency to want to go home but there are increasing pressures that we do so.

So I simply come here as a friend to say, "Letís be careful, letís think clearly, letís examine where we are going, because I think we should go there together still."

Ends

 

Published by www.congressfordemocracy.org.uk

Return to top