The European Union seems determined to act like an ostrich, burying its head under mountains of foreign policy declarations. But while most EU governments pay lip service to the idea of creating a common foreign and security policy, they fail to address a key stumbling block - the fact that power, and the ability to project power, is distributed unequally across the member states.
Far from acknowledging this reality, EU members - old and new, big and small - insist on having an equal say in foreign policy decisions. The EU's unanimity rule remains the preferred means for decision-making in this field, although some limited exceptions are discussed.
True, consensus is important, because it provides credibility and legitimacy. But the reality is that some EU members are "more equal" than others, and the Union's more powerful members invariably resent external constraints. The same applies to other international organizations. Indeed, a root of the Bush administration's diminished interest in NATO can probably be found in the interventions of small countries in the military decisions - such as the choice of bombing targets - during the Kosovo War.
The reality of who actually possesses power in Europe has given rise to movement toward the creation of a foreign policy "triumvirate" comprising France, Germany, and the United Kingdom - something the leaders of the three countries will invariably discuss when they meet later this week. In terms of population, GDP, commercial and diplomatic outreach, culture, and military clout, these countries indisputably form Europe's core.