BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Monday, 18 June, 2001, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Analysis: Gothenburg's legacy
Injured protester is tended
Gothenburg riots will mean tougher security in future
By European Affairs Correspondent
William Horsley

In the words of Shakespeare's tragic hero Hamlet, "When sorrows come, they come not single spies/ But in battalions". At Gothenburg the European Union seemed to be fighting dangers and difficulties on many fronts.

The most threatening battalion is that of the violent protesters who converged on this usually law-abiding city, fought running battles with Swedish police and forced the political leaders to hide behind high metal barricades.

Britain's Prime Minister, Tony Blair, denounced them as a "travelling circus of anarchists", while a German minister railed against "extremist cross-border criminality".

President Bush, Gerhard Schroeder, Silvio Berlusconi
Behind the smiles, the US and EU disagreed sharply
But the effect of the violent scenes in Gothenburg is likely to be far-reaching.

For their security, the same western leaders will have to be even more secluded from the people in the streets at future meetings, such as the G8 heads of government meeting in Genoa in mid-July and future EU summits.

That will make it even harder for the EU to win the understanding and respect of the populations of Europe. It raises the question: Can this union of disparate nations ever win true legitimacy in the eyes of its populations?

Despite the mayhem on the streets, Sweden's Prime Minister, Goran Persson, saw through one crucial piece of EU business.

European Union leaders appear at a loss as to how to defuse a potential bombshell which still lies in their road: the rejection by voters in Ireland of the EU's Treaty of Nice

Overcoming opposition from France and Germany, he won the commitment of the EU to allow a number of candidate states to take their promised place in the Union by the summer of 2004.

This was greeted with near-euphoria by leaders of the candidate states. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban remarked that with this, "all his wishes from the summit had been fulfilled".

Still, the European Union leaders appear at a loss as to how to defuse a potential bombshell which still lies in their road: the rejection by voters in Ireland of the EU's Treaty of Nice, which sets out wide-ranging changes in the way the EU does its business.

Bertie Ahern and President Chirac
The Irish rejection of Nice was glossed over
The off-hand way in which EU leaders have brushed aside the message of the Irish voters and announced that the changes decreed in the treaty will be carried through "according to plan" may harden anti-EU feeling in Ireland, so making it harder still for the political leaders to persuade voters to vote "yes" when the matter is put to them in a second referendum.

In that case the Nice Treaty will remain legally dead, and the EU will be in a full-blown crisis.

The case of Ireland illustrates the difficulty of imposing a one-size-fits-all policy on every country in a union that is due to expand from 15 members to at least 27.

World stage

The consequent tensions take many forms, including public resistance to the prospect of new immigration from eastern Europe into Germany and Austria, and deep popular doubts in Britain over the idea of joining the euro currency.

On the question of the Kyoto Protocol, the Gothenburg summit showed the US and Europe in open conflict in a way that has not been seen for many years

At Gothenburg, barely one week after the easy re-election of the Labour government in Britain, the new minister for Europe, Peter Hain, said those campaiging for entry to the euro should "cool it", indicating that there will be no rush to take Britain in.

The encounter with US President George W Bush also made clear that the US means to go on shaping the historic changes in Europe, despite growing differences with its European allies.

President Bush boldly insisted that the US would continue to help build a new Europe which should be "whole, free and at peace", and that this Europe should "include Ukraine and be open to Russia".

His remarks prompted a sharp retort from the European Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten, who made the point that the US "is not a member of the European Union".

'Compulsory togetherness'

The EU's own ideas for exerting world influence, laid out in Gothenburg, include direct action such as supervising political reforms in Macedonia, and broad ideas for new rules on world trade and environmental standards. Last week they formally subscribed to a policy of "sustainable development".

Injured policeman
Dozens of police officers were injured
It is a new attempt to strike a balance between maintaining economic growth and other factors such as social justice and protecting the environment.

On the question of the Kyoto Protocol on combatting climate change, the Gothenburg summit showed the US and Europe in open conflict in a way that has not been seen for many years.

Behind the compulsory show of togetherness with President Bush, this meeting showed the EU heading out on a quest for global influence to rival the USA.

The problem is that the EU still has a host of internal contradictions. And the biggest issue of all, that its own future constitutional shakeup lies just round the next corner. It is to be tackled at the same time as new states like Poland and Hungary have been encouraged to think they will be joining the EU - in 2004.

See also:

18 Jun 01 | Media reports
European press reacts to Gothenburg
16 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Blair: Anarchists will not stop us
16 Jun 01 | Europe
Swedish press critical of rioters
15 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Blair denounces EU protesters
15 Jun 01 | Europe
Gothenburgers count the cost
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories