Wednesday

25th Apr 2018

Patten: The EU will never be a real power

  • The British commissioner oversaw EU external relations in 2000-2004 and is currently the chancellor of Oxford University (Photo: European Commission)

Former external relations commissioner Chris Patten in a 2004 conversation with US diplomats explained why the EU will never be a "real power," mused on the shady past of some EU leaders and said that Russian leader Vladimir Putin has "the eyes of a killer," a cable published by WikiLeaks reveals.

Under the headline "Dining with Chris: Random thoughts from Relex commissioner Patten" US ambassador to the EU Rockwell Schnabel on 28 April 2004 penned down the comments made by the commission official "over rubbery fish."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

A British Conservative, Mr Patten expressed his scepticism that the EU will ever become "a real power," because "there is always someone in the room who is overly cautious, and will insist on looking at matters 'sensibly'," the cable reads.

"To be a real power, Patten said, a country must be ready and able to adopt and implement a policy, even if the rest of the world considers it unwise. Europeans may agree or disagree with US policy, but they admire that the US is ready to carry out the policies it thinks best, no matter what the rest of the world thinks."

On Russia, from where Mr Patten had returned a week before, he said Vladimir Putin, who was president at the time, had done a good job mainly due to high world energy prices, but he had serious doubts about the man's character.

Cautioning that "I'm not saying that genes are determinant," Mr Patten then reviewed Putin family history: grandfather part of Lenin's special protection team, father a communist party apparatchik, and Mr Putin himself decided at a young age to pursue a career in the KGB.

"He seems a completely reasonable man when discussing the Middle East or energy policy, but when the conversation shifts to Chechnya or Islamic extremism, Putin's eyes turn to those of a killer," the then commissioner said.

Just three days after a key referendum on the divided island of Cyprus, in which Greek Cypriots rejected the re-unification plans put forward by the United Nations, Mr Patten said the EU commission would focus on "figuring out how to spend money in Northern Cyprus," the Turkish part which would be de facto left out of the EU when the island joined the bloc, on 1 May 2004.

The EU official noted the Greek Cypriots were "on their heels" diplomatically after their blatant efforts to stifle opposing views on the UN referendum.

"This incident, Patten said, was a sad reflection on the realities of EU enlargement: Some of the new members were people you would 'only want to dine with if you have a very long spoon.' Not that the EU should have been surprised by [Greek Cypriot President Tassos] Papadopolous' behavior, Patten said, since they knew well who they were dealing with: [Serbian leader and war criminal Slobodan] Milosevic's lawyer."

On Turkey, of whose EU bid Mr Patten was "the biggest proponent in the commission," the British politician anticipated the formal opening of accession talks - which started in December 2004 - but noted that the political climate in Europe was hostile.

France, a traditional opponent of Turkish accession, was not so much of a problem, Mr Patten argued, as its president at the time, Jacques Chirac "can change his policies on a whim."

The main stumbling bloc for Ankara, in Mr Patten's view, were the conservative parties in Germany - at the time in opposition, but poised to win elections the following year - and in Spain, where the conservative Popular Party had just been ousted from power, but was still influential.

EU enlargement as a process of integration in a community was at times not fully understood by the US, who viewed the expansion similarly to Nato's, the Brit argued.

"We have to be ready to trust their food and sanitation standards, for instance," Mr Patten said.

Political bargaining was also a big component of EU enlargement, the commissioner explained.

"Cyprus, for instance, probably should not have been admitted but the Greeks insisted on Cypriot admission as the price of agreeing to some of the northern European candidates," the cable reads.

"Croatia, [Mr] Patten said, is probably far more prepared for EU membership than either Bulgaria or Romania, who will likely enter the Union earlier. Romania, in particular, was a 'feral nation'," the US diplomat noted.

EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'

The European Commission's new strategy on artificial intelligence contains nothing that resembles French president's idea for a US-inspired agency for disruptive innovation.

News in Brief

  1. UN expects over $4bn in pledges for Syria
  2. Commission wants more public data made available for reuse
  3. Study: Brexit will hit all European farmers
  4. European media face rise in 'verbal violence' from politicians
  5. Greenland PM to keep power despite poll slump
  6. Commissioner optimistic on FYROM name solution
  7. Italian court keeps NGO migrant rescue boat docked
  8. German Jews warned not to wear skullcap in public

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  11. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  12. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip

Latest News

  1. Whistleblowers could be enforcers of rule of law in Europe
  2. EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'
  3. Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs, ex-forces chief says
  4. EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work
  5. Time for EU to take charge of global health research agenda
  6. EU in race to set global Artificial Intelligence ethics standards
  7. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  8. Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  5. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  8. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  9. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  10. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  11. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  12. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan