Monday, November 08, 2004

The E.U. Conundrum

The current anti-American rantings of the European press, political class, and public at large is, post election, of no great surprise. The decisive Bush victory has only increased their vitriol by undercutting their premise of his illegitimacy and causing the Europeans to acknowledge that his policies have popular support.

Bush has continued to reach out, but he has not been overly solicitous of the E.U. He has not let his unpopularity there sway the key elements of his foreign policy.

But recent stirrings within the E.U. suggest that the obstacles to reconciling U.S. & E.U. policies may be insurmountable .

As Martin Walker writes, Jacques Chirac's knee jerk "multi-polarity" rationale is now the founding principle of his and his successor's (de Villepin) foreign policy. United Nations pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions must be countered, say the French, not because a nuclear-capable Iran is undesireable, but because it is favored by the Americans. Creating an E.U./China bloc is of greater French interest than assuring the Mullahs don't get nukes.

Across the channel, Michael Howard, the Tory leader in Britain, has chosen to stake out the ground as the "un-poodle," being willing to "dis" Bush in order to differentiate himself from Blair and curry favor with the Guardian and Independent. The party of Margaret Thatcher is now led by a man who exhibits the graciousness of Michael Moore. It is clear that British support for Bush in both parties is only as deep as Tony Blair.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, the assassination of Theo Van Gogh, during which a Muslim Manifesto was pinned to his bloody corpse, has stirred the people but cowed the politicians.

So where do these events leave U.S. policy vis a vis the E.U.? Up to this point the U.S. has steadfastly supported tight integration of the E.U. and its eastward expansion, including the membership of Turkey. But the E.U. itself remains split on Turkey's admission.

The European model of expansive welfare states cannot be sustained with their endemically low GDP and employment rates, the aging of their population, and their below-replacement birth rates.

They can't support their current model unless they ramp up economic growth, but they can't grow unless they increase their working age populations to pay for the transfer payments to their aging population. The only hope to reinvigorate the shrinking working class is to open up immigration and ultimately "Islamicize" - a demographic fact that many scholars say will happen by mid-century.

That is the E.U. conundrum. With their current knee-jerk "multi-polarity" as their guiding principle, and their demographic trends as their fate, the U.S. needs to assess whether the E.U. is worth the effort.