President Bush's recent visit to the European Commission (the first by a U.S. president) and his endorsement of a "strong Europe" were largely seen as signaling a new paradigm of American foreign policy towards Europe. Not only did the president distinguish himself from a New Europe-Old Europe mindset, he also suggested that on a variety of issues the United States would accept the apparent inevitability of European political union and increasingly conduct its foreign policy with the largely unaccountable bodies of the European Union. The Bush Administration is demonstrating that it believes a united Europe is not only desirable, but also feasible.
This U.S. paradigm shift is unstable. America is courting a host of difficulties by interacting with the European Union and its subordinate bodies, rather than dealing bilaterally (or in ad hoc conjunction) with EU member states and their elected leaders. First, the EU willingly involves itself in foreign policy matters at the remotest edges of its authority. Since that authority has not been (and for the foreseeable future will not be) constitutionally legitimated or conferred by treaty, America's joint endeavors with the European Union may lack effectiveness and sustainability. In addition, by dealing with the European Union itself in high-profile foreign policy matters, the world's only superpower is in effect bolstering the EU's authority. The United States is being unnecessarily drawn to one side of a distinctly European conversation about the proper role of the European Union in foreign and security policy--a conversation which is far from settled--thus bringing the EU's long-standing problems of democratic legitimacy to America's shores.