The European Union held its summit in Athens and signed the deal expanding itself to 25 countries. The three Baltics, Poland, the Czechs, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, and Greek Cyprus are all in. The treaty of admission is 4900 pages long, so everybody, of course, has been able to read the whole thing. Wonder what kind of nasty hidden clauses they stuck in there which won't be fully exploited until they're faits accomplis. We'll find out in a few years.
What this means, of course, is that it's going to become a hell of a lot more difficult to get any sort of consensus on a common EU foreign and defense policy, especially since eight of the new members are very pro-American and not real fond of the arrogant, bullying French government, which threatened to keep them out of the EU if they didn't behave themselves appropriately over the Iraq crisis. Well, they didn't behave themselves, especially not the Poles, who took on some fighting and by all accounts did a good job in a tough situation.
I think it's interesting to note that France and Germany (and their lapdog Belgium) are surrounded, going clockwise, by Britain, Holland, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, all proud members of the coalition. The Axis of Weasels has broken up, and the countdown is on for the collapse of the Schröder government in Germany and for a Christian Democrat-Free Democrat takeover. Russia, of course, is waffling. France is going to wind up all by itself. The Americans, unilateralists? I'd look first at Paris if I were looking for a country that likes to throw its weight around all by itself (see Ivory Coast, Central African Republic, etc.)
By the way, since when did the European Left think Chirac was a hero? Anybody remember when they sunk the Greenpeace ship or tested nukes in the South Pacific? How about the nuclear reactors they've sold to everybody and his dog--France, of course, is less dependent on foreign oil than other countries because they've built so many nuke plants in France itself. What about the race and immigration problem that France can't handle? How about the massive corruption in French private and public life? Does anyone remember that France sells weapons of all kinds to the highest bidder, which is often an unlovely African satellite or, worse, a belligerent and aggressive Arab non-satellite? One would think the Left would be against all these things. But they forget all about them when France opposes America, because what the Left really hates is capitalism and democracy, not nuclear plants and nuclear testing and international arms sales and propping up Third World dictatorships and drowning hippies and invading African countries and beating up Muslims and Jews in the streets and all the other things they say they hate that France habitually does.
Anyway, there's a whole bunch of meaningless guff spouted by various high commissioners for this, that, and the other thing. You don't want to hear about any of it, trust me.
Spain is offering to send the Spanish Legion, their best troops, to Iraq for peacekeeping purposes. They also want to send elements of the paramilitary police force, the Guardia Civil, for public safety and police training. This worked out pretty well in Bosnia; both the Legion and the Guardia Civil were there, gaining useful experience. They also want to send teams of Army engineers to help with rebuilding; these guys have been active in Afghanistan building things like police stations and schools. Meanwhile, Spain will maintain its supply base at Umm Qasr, from where they will distribute aid flown into Kuwait by transport planes. This sounds to me like a good, solid, honest offer of help that we need to take them up on. I'll also point out that taking measures of this sort prove that Spain is really an important actor on the world scene. One of the things that has always irritated Spaniards of all political persuasions is the feeling that Spain was being ignored, that the world didn't pay it the attention it deserved. Well, José María Aznar has succeded in bringing Spain to a position of international prominence for the first time since about 1715. Spain now has some weight it can throw around itself, and this is mostly thanks to Aznar's intelligence, clarity, decency, and courage.
Xavier Sala i Martin, the groovy Catalan economist, has another piece. This one is on privatizations, mineral wealth, corruption, and Nigeria. It's good, as always, and I'm going to post it on EuroPundits since it's an internationally themed article. Check out EuroPundits, by the way, for a damn good article from The Radical, lots of stuff by Nelson Ascher, and a very long piece by Murph that I liked and put up over there. So check it out!