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Europe

Europe and Terrorism - Where is European Foreign Policy heading?

After the September 11 attacks, the European Union's Common Foreign Policy appears to be becoming more sidelined.

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The EU's Foreign Policy-chief Javier Solana

Belgium chose a special place for a routine meeting of European Union defence ministers this week: the Museum of Military History in Brussels.

Surrounded by antiquated military equipment, ministers debated the EU's future defence strategy.

After the attacks on September 11 in the United States, one thing has become clear in Europe: Britain, Germany and France are playing the major role in the fight against terrorism.

According to Javier Solana: "Only the three biggest European countries are involved in the military operation".

Last week, British Prime Minister Tony Blair invited his two European colleagues to a mini summit in London. None of them consulted with their other EU colleagues prior to the meeting. But several other countries, unhappy with being reduced to the role of mere onlookers, invited themselves at last minute.

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel used his appearance at the summit to file a protest. It was unacceptable for the EU's own rules to be flouted in such a high-handed manner, Schüssel said.

"We're all one family and we must act as a team. That's why a meeting like the one in London, where half of us attend and the other half aren't invited, isn't acceptable," the Austrian Chancellor said.

The EU's Commission President Romano Prodi seemed to agree, fearing a weaker EU due to member states pushing the organisation aside to pursue their own goals.

A combination of two strategies

However, according to EU commissioner Chris Pattern, the EU's real strength lies in the way it combines both national contributions with common political strategies.

But with the US primarily seeking dialogues with London, Paris and Berlin, the other members states are showing increasing discontent – and are developing their own positions.

As EU common foreign policy appears to be becoming increasingly sidelined, it needs to prove its stability in the fight against terrorism.