Daily Archives: March 14, 2008

Gideon Rachman

Another European Union summit has just got underway in Brussels. I used to go to a lot of these things. From the inside they can seem quite important and exciting. But as an outsider, it is often difficult to see the point.

You can say the same thing about what passes for foreign policy debate in the major European capitals. I was in Madrid last week. The outside world barely featured in the Spanish election campaign (other than in the form of illegal immigrants, mysteriously washing up on Spanish shores). Advisers to Jose Luis Zapatero, the prime minister, are proud of their man’s role in launching the “Alliance of Civilisations” – his major foreign policy initiative. But the “alliance” is a complete non-topic in the real world. (Can any readers of this blog honestly say that they they know what it is, without benefit of an internet search?)

Now I’m in Paris. Here too, the head of government has launched a major foreign policy initiative – generating much local fanfare, and very little interest anywhere else. Sarkozy’s big idea is a Mediterranean Union, attempting to create closer ties between the EU and North Africa. The French claim that the EU summit has already endorsed the idea – and they will certainly try to give it a renewed push when they take over the presidency of the EU later this year.