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Syria, Germany and the Europeanization of Great Britain

Great Britain became more European on Thursday, August 29th, when the parliament refused to give its Prime Minister the support he wanted (but did not need) for air strikes against Syria. Now David Cameron has been humiliated and a precedent for future war authorizations has been set.

The British public and the members of parliament are haunted by the Iraq war syndrome, tired of a decade of war, and concerned by a) lack of sufficient evidence that Syria’s military was responsible for the chemical attack, b) lack of legality and c) lack of strategy. The “special relationship” with the United States has been damaged heavily, although it must be said that its importance has been exaggerated in the past.

Britain is now more European. This could turn out to be more of a bad than a good thing, but I am optimistic as there could be more unity when strategic cultures are similar. Most other observers see this negatively, even describe Britain as turning into Switzerland or Germany. Yep, that’s supposed to be an insult.

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Britain and the World Love Germany

What a pleasant surprise! Germany is more widely seen as "having a mainly positive influence" in the world than any other country, according to the BBC World Service's Country Ratings Poll. I doubt, however, whether poll participants really meant Germany's foreign policy.

A three-point increase in Germany's average rating returned it to the top of the BBC list, displacing Japan, which saw its positive ratings drop from 58% to 51%, and fell from first to fourth place overall. (...)

In Spain, the recipient of a bailout with tight German strings attached, 68% said they felt Germany had "a mainly positive influence in the world".

In Britain, it was even higher at 78%. In France 81% - the poll indicates that four in every five French people look over the border with approval!

Only Greece maintains its Germanophobia, with 52% giving a negative rating.

Will the poll matter? It might well. It may confirm German ministers in their belief that tough love is true friendship.

Re the last sentence: I doubt that people consider tough love in the euro-crisis as a true friendship.

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Five Theses on the State of EU Politics

The EU not only finds itself in a fiscal crisis, it is also faced with a crisis of confidence. We need a broadly based public debate on alternative proposals for the future of Europe. With this in mind, the Heinrich Böll Foundation's international conference "Europe's Common Future" explored different perspectives and policy proposals.

The Greek, French, Polish and German speakers on the panel "Germany's role in the crisis" strongly reinforced five opinions of mine:

1. Poland likes Germany much more than ever before. They count on us.

2. The French inferiority complex in EU matters is getting worse.

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"We have become the Americans of Europe"

Although Germany approves one aid package after the other for Greece, "hardly a day goes by without Chancellor Angela Merkel being depicted in a Nazi uniform somewhere. Swastikas are a common sight as well," writes Jan Fleischhauer in both the German and English Edition of Der Spiegel.

He does not blame the imposed austerity measures for our lack of popularity, but rather Germany's success, self-confidence and strength. He concludes that Germans have become "the Americans of Europe":

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Short Guide to Lazy EU Journalism

Excellent post by Kosmopolit:

1. Not sure how the EU works or what institutions are involved? -> Just write "Brussels".

2. Germany is generally seen as important in EU politics and journalists know how to frame it:

      If Germany is active in a certain policy domain just write something about  "German dominance" and if you work for British newspaper add  some subtle references to the war.

      If  Germany is passive in a given policy area just write that Germany abandons the EU and it clearly adopted a unilateral strategy, if you work for a British newspaper you could add something about the war.

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The reports of Europe's death are greatly exaggerated

"The Slow Death of Europe" is the headline of Walter Laqueur's commentary in The National Interest:

Some five years ago in a book entitled The Last Days of Europe I dealt with Europe's decline-and was criticized for my pessimism. And yet I now feel uneasy facing the apocalyptic utterances of yesterday's Euro-enthusiasts. For even if Europe's decline is irreversible, there is no reason that it should become a collapse. At a time of deep, multiple crises in Europe it is too easy to ridicule the delusions of yesteryear.

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"The European Onion"

No typo in the headline. Professor Julian Lindley-French repeatedly refers to the EU the "European Onion" in Can Europe's Small Leaders Make Big Strategy?

Thus, as Panetta takes high office China's 2010 White Paper on China's National Defence (CND10), published earlier this year, offers essentially more essential reading than the increasingly irrelevant and misnomered European Security Strategy and, dare I say it, the 2010 NATO Strategic Concept. Whilst China is unabashedly nationalist and strategic, both the European Onion and the Atlantic Alliance have become unashamedly astrategic. A gap between words and deeds now yawns. In that context how one organises the transatlantic relationship or indeed the Onion is beside the point - the re-organisation of the irrelevant by the incapable in pursuit of the unattainable.

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Europe Does Not Need American Protection Anymore

NATO does very good work every day, but it is "a bit of an anachronism." 9/11 has accelerated the divergence of European and American geostrategic interests. Europe does not need American protection anymore, with the exception of the nuclear guarantee, says Nick Witney, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

He gave an excellent and forthright speech at the Heinrich Boell Foundation's Annual Foreign Policy Conference on the transatlantic security architecture and European defense efforts.

I very much agree with his description of European mainstream perceptions of and positions on security. At a time when so many US journalists and pundits are questioning the relevance of NATO and express their increasing disappointment with the Europeans, I would like to recommend the ten minute video below to better understand why most European countries are not spending more on defense and do not send more troops to US led wars.

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