Richard North, 02/02/2005  

As my colleague pointed out in the preceding posting, at the time of her writing, I was in Kings College London, alongside the Turkish and Polish ambassadors, speaking to a capacity audience on the subject "enlargement – a blessing or a curse?".

Having taken the late train home, sitting in front of the computer at 3 am local is not the best time to start writing a post but it has become a tradition on EU referendum to set up a posting overnight for our morning readers, while we catch up on our sleep. For obvious reasons – this has become known as the "Horlicks blog".

However, I will save impressions and details of the evening after I have communed with Morpheus but it was amusing to note that I was put on to speak first, followed by the Polish ambassador, who addressed the (mainly Europhile) audience saying: "You would not expect me to agree with anything that Dr North has said, and I won't disappoint you – I do not agree with anything he has said".

The quote of the night came from that self-same ambassador who declared that: "enlargement was the most successful aspect of EU foreign policy". Some foreign policy – you assimilate your neighbours into the collective, so that they are no longer foreign countries. If you think it through, he is saying you abolish foreign policy by abolishing foreigners. Nice one.

Anyhow, on return, I was greeted by an e-mail from my colleague saying that there was "no news – the continent is isolated", only then to find two intriguing news items on the net, only minutes old.

One was on the newly appointed US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, warning Europe against sending "the wrong signal" to China by ending then arms embargo on the country. This is very much a US "red line" and they ain't going to go quietly on this one. We shall be returning to the subject.

The second story was on state department spokesman Richard Boucher saying that the US "took a dim view" of an EU suspension of diplomatic sanctions on Cuba, calling productive dialogue with Havana "simply not possible."

"We remain concerned that suspending the restrictive measures without achieving the goals for which they were put into place will embolden regime hardliners and dishearten the peaceful opposition," he said.

The EU had lifted its diplomatic sanctions against Cuba Monday, easing a standoff after Havana clamped down on dissidents in 2003.

Most people will be familiar with the joke about the harassed mother telling her daughter to seek out her brother, with the words: "find out what Johnny is doing and tell him to stop it". This seems a variation of that theme where the EU seems to be saying, "find out what will most irritate the US and let's do it".

But, for an organisation that seems to think that its most successful foreign policy is enlargement – at least according to the Polish ambassador – I suppose we cannot expect much else. Perhaps the next move will be to invite Cuba to join the EU… and then China?

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