SAIS Next Europe


March 2, 2009 3:43 PM

EU Takes Realist Tone With Colombia

During Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's recent visit to Berlin, two agenda items garnered attention: closer economic ties with Europe and help fighting the drug trade.

Europe is charging ahead on the former. Negotiations over a free trade agreement (FTA) began in mid-February, leaving the EU poised to gain where the United States lost last year. After two years of negotiations and substantial expenditures of political capital by both the Bush administration and President Uribe, Congress refused to vote on the U.S.-Colombia (FTA) over concerns about human rights and labor standards--even after the FTA was revised to include enforceable labor provisions. (The bill ultimately fell victim to an underlying difference in perspective: The Bush administration saw the FTA as a tool for strengthening national security through economic development that could undercut drug activity in Colombia, but the Democrats in control of Congress saw it as a reward that Colombia did not deserve).

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March 13, 2009 12:43 AM

Too Quiet on the Eastern Front

During the brief Russia-Georgian war in August 2008, many Europeans rejoiced that the EU had at last woken up to reality in Eastern Europe. Were it not for French President Nicolas Sarkozy's febrile shuttling in Tbilisi and Moscow, the war could have dragged on longer. The 27-nation bloc acted as the "honest broker" in the event.

Regrettably, the real troubles have returned--and new ones have emerged--ever since that conflict. The EU has not noticeably stepped up its diplomatic and military role in the conflict-ridden areas of the region. The umpteenth "gas war" between Russia and Ukraine in January exposed once again Europe's impotence before its energy dependence on Moscow and on unstable transit countries. To the peoples in the region, Europe continues to give the impression of being the bystander to Russia's newfound belligerence. With the credit crunch now hitting violently some Eastern European economies, the EU risks to give the impression of being the bystander--full stop.

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