Recently, EU President Romano Prodi criticized Romania for reaching agreement on a bilateral treaty with the US granting immunity to their citizens from the new International Criminal Court without prior discussion with the EU. At the same time, he warned all countries waiting to join the EU that they were not allowed to sign such agreements with the US before the EU completes an analysis of the consequences of this type of accord. The German government spoke out openly, by observing that the EU and US have quite different opinions regarding this very important issue.
To establish a permanent International Criminal Court has long been a dream of the international community. However, it has encountered many obstacles, especially due to differences in opinion between the EU and the US. Europeans have long been seeking some law enforcement tools for the international community so as to weaken power politics. Thatís why the EU supports the ICC in that all 15 member countries have signed up and obtained parliamentary ratification among 66 ICC signatories so far. But the US sees this as tying its hands and limiting American freedom. Whatís more, the US is worried about its soldiers based overseas and other citizens being brought to trial by the ICC that is not accountable to US laws or officials. Against this background, the US, on the one hand, coerced the international community into granting immunity to American citizens. For instance, the US had won from the ICC a yearís immunity for American peacekeeping troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina by threatening to withdraw from the UN peacekeeping operation in the region. On the other hand, the US is seeking to negotiate with each individual ICC member state to grant each other immunity to their citizens through a carrot and stick policy. On August 1, the US signed such an agreement with Romania, and began negotiations soon after with Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. So far, only Israel and Romania have signed accords with the US.
The struggle between the US and Europe partly reflects their different global strategic interests. After the cold war, the EU has been working hard to get rid of American control and play a more important role in world affairs. The EU issued a warning on August 12 that the work to build a strong and independent Europe would fall into disarray if it allows the US to wantonly interfere in the affairs of EU candidate members. Meanwhile the US has been trying its utmost to build a unipolar world dominated by itself with its unique economy and military power. Thus, it will do harm to the fulfillment of its foreign policy goals if US military operations abroad create a lever for some other countries to try its troops before the ICC.
Some Chinese experts on international politics pointed out that, since the end of the cold war, it is not surprising to see the EU and US think differently on some issues concerning their own interests. Yet, it is worth attention this time for the dispute around the ICC is developing into a half-open struggle and confrontation between the EU and US. Therefore, what will happen if both the EU and US refuse to compromise? At least, it is certain that the confrontation will weaken the significance of the ICC, even shaking the stability of the international situation.
(china.org.cn by Zheng Guihong, August 21, 2002)