Europe’s external divisions on Libya are as great as its internal divisions on the new Europact.
Over the past few days, EU countries have faced historically difficult decisions without being able to reach agreement.
The indecision has seriously questioned the determination that European countries are able to muster, both in NATO and in the European Union.
The countries seem to have reached agreement on handing over the responsibility for the Libya operation to NATO. The breakthrough has, however, come so late that credibility has already been lost.
For once, Denmark has stood out in a positive light by both sending fighter aircraft to support the rebels in Libya and by acceding to the Europact.
But most of Europe is irresolute. What began as a manifestation of humanitarian action a week ago, has dissipated. Apart from France and Great Britain, most of the EU countries have failed in their defence of humanitarian principles.
Leading EU countries have distanced themselves from the mission, and Germany even abstained from voting in the UN Security Council. Indecision shows the disposition of a disunited Europe.
The tactics of domestic policy have trumped common determination.
Paradoxically, European NATO countries have found it even more difficult to reach agreement than the normally indecisive UN Security Council, including China and Russia, which agreed on a wide-reaching mandate to use ‘all necessary means’ to stop Col. Gaddafi’s advances.
At the present time, there are fewer European countries who have supplied aircraft and vessels to enforce the UN resolution, than there were countries that supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Scepticism about military remedies is necessary. Attack should always be the last resort, but on the other hand it must be a real option when conditions call for action. And the conditions have been there for quite a while. In the same way that the need for a new competitiveness pact has been acute.
It is a sign of infirmity in European cooperation if, in the midst of a crisis, we are unable to mobilise the political will to help a neighbouring external country, and bind ourselves internally to a sustainable policy for economic growth.
In previous times, it was the crises that continually emerged that gave European cooperation its impetus. Hopefully that will quickly be the case again.
In NATO and the EU, the European countries must soon show that they are ready to act and take decisions that are in Europe’s interest. Failing that, there is a real risk of disintegration.
Translated by Julian Isherwood