All the same, until the Iraq war, Spain’s notion of a New Europe – defined in cooperation rather than rivalry with the United States and reflecting loyalties, interests and instincts different from those of decades of postwar European habit – was largely talk. But in blocking, with the British and others, what it regarded as an attempt to turn the war into a European confrontation with America under a French and German banner, Spain achieved a new visibility in its effort to be seen be as a singular – even global – player.
Spain has used Old World charm to vault itself into a leadership position by aligning itself as a medium between the Anglosphere on one hand and the emerging EU nations from the east, already inclined to support Anglo-American goals of democracy and free-market economics. The net effect marginalizes, at least politically, the stagnant and statist Old Europe powers of France and Germany:
The tone is unmistakable. To understand Europe after Iraq, said Ramón Gil-Casares, the Spanish secretary of state for foreign affairs, requires recognizing that the French-German relationship remains very important in the European Union’s approach to economic affairs.
At the same time, he said in an interview, “as far as foreign policy goes, the French-German axis is just not indispensable anymore. They cannot pretend it is, and they cannot speak for Europe.”
Read the whole article. Because it’s the IHT, it can’t help tossing a couple of mostly laughable barbs at Rumsfeld and America, but the fact that they’re reporting this phenomenon is very encouraging. Franco-German prestige is on full retreat.