CIAO DATE: 04/03

International Spectator

The International Spectator

Volume XXXVII No. 4 (October-December 2002)


Editor’s Note

The Opinions section that opens this issue of The International Spectator focuses on the recent developments in and around two neighbouring countries that have been in the limelight in recent months - Turkey and Iraq - and their roles in the regional balance of powers.

In the first article, Duygu Sezer examines the factors that led to the electoral triumph in Turkey of the islamic Justice and Development Party headed by Tayyib Erdogan and the parallel collapse of most of the political elite that ruled the country for almost four decades. She emphasises that, despite its Islamist roots, Erdogan's party can now be considered a truly conservative democratic party, which has convincingly embraced most of the Kemalist principles on which the Turkish state was founded. The author also points out that the pro-Western orientation of the new Turkish government, particularly the importance it attaches to the prospect of membership in the EU, provides an historical opportunity for deeper political cooperation and cultural dialogue with the West.

In the article that follows, Volker Perthes examines the war scenarios in Iraq and their possible short- and long-term implications for the regional context. He argues that, while the US-led military action will probably meet with weak Iraqi resistance, it is likely to become an additional factor of regional instability and, in particular, cause a further intensification of the already intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perthes notes that following the occupation of Iraqi territory, the US will face formidable challenges such as humanitarian assistance, management of refugees flows and internal policing, for which it seems ill-prepared. Recalling its past record in the Middle East, the author underlines that the US' ability to influence the main regional actors and enforce a postwar regional order has serious limits. Hence, the Bush administration's expectation that an Iraqi defeat will generate a positive "domino effect" in the region seems to be overly optimistic.

In the third article of the section, Nicola Pedde assesses the oil production potential of a hypothetical post-Saddam Hussein Iraq and the role that the country and the Middle East as a whole can play in the future world energy market. According to Pedde, the United States' efforts to re-establish a higher degree of strategic control over the Middle East by bringing Iraq back into its sphere of influence is motivated by, among other things, the desire to create a second - politically stable - regional fulcrum of oil production which would allow it to reduce its strong dependence on the increasingly problematic Saudi Arabia. Expanding his analysis to the wider international context, Pedde also maintains that, while available global energy resources have grown, the divergence of interests between different groups of oil-producing countries remains a factor of instability, further highlighting Iraq's strategic importance.

In the Essays section, the Europe Forum includes four articles that deal with the problem of democratic legitimacy of the institutions and policies of the European Union. Two of them focus, in particular, on Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

Gianfranco Pasquino examines the problem of democratic legitimation, which he summarises in the formula "representing with competence and deciding with responsibility", as it affects the three bodies - the Council, the Commission and the Parliament - that form the Union's institutional triangle. To fill the Union's current democratic deficit, he suggests direct or parliamentary election of the President of the Commission and the introduction of mechanisms ensuring a greater role for European parties. He also feels that it is important that the constitutional changes that will be agreed upon as result of the ongoing reform process be seen as transitory steps towards the establishment, in the longer term, of a consistent model of democratic legitimation, that is, either a neo-parliamentary system or a presidential one.

Simon Hix addresses the EU's legitimacy gap with regard, more specifically, to the role of the party system. Drawing on a research study concerning party voting behaviour in the European Parliament from 1979 to 2001, he underlines that the degree of cohesion of political parties at the European level is greater than commonly perceived, as is the political competition between them. There is also a clear trend towards the consolidation of a system based on three main political groupings. According to Hix, this European party system in fieri can play a central role in the democratisation and legitimation of the EU, especially if, as is expected, Europe's future constitution assigns new powers to the European Parliament.

Mathias Koenig-Archibugi looks into the obstacles that prevent the democratisation of the Union's foreign policy. In fact, he notes that the democratic deficit of CFSP, as much as that of other European policies, is part and parcel of the governments' tendency to minimise the influence that domestic actors exercise on their external action, as the theory of "collusive delegation" explains. Koenig Archibugi also notes that there is a negative relationship between a government's degree of autonomy from domestic control and its willingness to delegate more powers to the EU in the CFSP field. In the final part of the article, he examines different mechanisms for ensuring a more democratically accountable CFSP, concluding that collective control by national parliaments or a stronger role for the European Parliament could contribute to achieving that goal.

The article by Cristopher Hill examines the interplay between the future of CFSP and the current process of EU constitutional reform. He argues that, unless it moves to a federal structure, the EU is unlikely to become a credible international actor. He also notes, however, that the Union is already developing into something substantially different from a mere civilian power. It is therefore urgent that the member states clarify some fundamental questions concerning their common external policy, such as the extent to which they are ready to build up common intervention capabilities, the geographic outreach of CFSP and the types of missions on which they want to concentrate. As for the constitutional setting underpinning CFSP, Hill provides some suggestions for reform, such as granting the Union legal personality, changing the current rotating Presidency of the Council and creating sub-groupings of countries to deal with specific foreign issues.

Finally, the article by Ben Lombardi, continuing the debate launched in the no. 3, 2002 issue, gives a critical assessment of the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive defence. He notes that the idea that the US shall act in an anticipatory manner to counter emerging security threats had already gained currency within the previous administrations although it was the sense of vulnerability generated by the events of 11 September, coupled with renewed confidence in US power, that prompted the current US leadership to make it a tenet of its strategic thinking. However, the author sees many inherent difficulties in the concrete application of the Bush doctrine. He underlines that the concept of anticipatory self-defence on which it is based leaves a broad margin of interpretation, as does the definition of "rogue states". Moreover, according to Lombardi, the new US emphasis on preventive action may encourage other states to strike first at their adversaries and, more generally, legitimate a less restrained use of force.