March 12, 2003
European Union in New Warning on Bush Go-It-Alone War
ARIS, March 12 — In another call for the Bush administration to slow its march toward war, the foreign relations head of the European Union warned today that Europe might withhold money for the reconstruction of Iraq if the United States waged war without the approval of the Security Council.
"It will be that much more difficult for the E.U. to cooperate fully and on a large scale — also in the longer-term reconstruction process — if events unfold without proper U.N. cover and if the member states remain divided," said Chris Patten, the European Union's External Relations Commissioner.
Speaking during a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the British official added that an American war campaign without the legal support of the United Nations would do enormous damage to the authority of the United Nations, the NATO alliance and relations between Europe and the United States.
The specter of war has caused a deep and bitter split in the 15-country European Union — the world's biggest aid donor — with Britain and Spain embracing the American call to war and France and Germany calling for continued international weapons inspections under United Nations auspices.
The heads of state of the European Union will meet for a regularly scheduled meeting in Brussels next week and Iraq is expected to dominate the agenda.
"In the past I have sometimes been accused of issuing a threat of E.U. noncooperation if the United States chooses to proceed with U.N. backing," he said. "That is not my point," he said. "I am making, rather, a simple observation of fact: that if it comes to war, it will be very much easier" to make a case for generosity "if there is no dispute about the legitimacy of the military action that has taken place."
Mr. Patten noted that the European Union's budget is already "heavily committed," adding, "It is of the greatest importance that if a war is waged in Iraq, the U.N. should authorize the decision to attack."
Mr. Patten made his remarks during a debate in the European Parliament in which deputies expressed their overwhelming opposition to a war waged only by the Untied States.
The European Union would be more willing to spend money on postwar reconstruction and relief aid in Iraq if the legitimacy of the war was clearly authorized under a Security Council mandate.
The Bush administration has said that it is impossible to predict the cost of postwar reconstruction. But Mr. Patten's remarks follow an assessment made by the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations that estimates the cost of reconstruction and peacekeeping at $20 billion a year. The E.U. had so far earmarked 15 million euros ($16.5 million) in relief aid for Iraq this year.
Mr. Patten also questioned the Bush administration's assertion that the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq by war will help combat terrorism and spread democracy in the Middle East.
"As a general rule, are wars not more likely to recruit terrorists than to deter them?" he said. "It is hard to build democracy at the barrel of a gun, when history suggests it is more usually the product of long internal development in a society."
"What I'm absolutely sure about," he added, "is that to invade Iraq, while failing to bring peace to the Middle East, would create exactly the sort of conditions in which terrorism would be likely to thrive."
And Mr. Patten joined a chorus of other European leaders in criticizing the United States for failing to publish a much-promised "road map" for Israeli-Palestinian peace drawn up last year by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.
During the debate today, all of the principal parliamentary groups underscored the need for Security Council authority to go to war.
"Unilateral action would be a violation of the charter of the United Nations," said the Socialist floor leader, Enrique Baron Crespo. "An attack under these conditions would create fertile ground for international terrorism."
The Liberal group leader, Graeme Watson, said: "It is claimed in London, Washington and Madrid that war could be short, swift and successful. With U.N. support this could indeed be the case. But without it, in a conflict which divides the international community, we could be on the brink of another Hundred Years' War which could bring down regimes well beyond Iraq."