Timothy Garton Ash: 'A Clear European Voice is Missing in the World' (Interview)

Historians in the News

SPIEGEL ONLINE talks to historian and Oxford professor Timothy Garton Ash about the European Union's weak image in the world, the limits to EU expansion and how Europe should tackle Russia and Iran.

Timothy Garton Ash is Professor of European Studies at St. Antony's College, Oxford, a senior fellow at the Stanford University-based think tank the Hoover Institution and a founding member of the European Council on Foreign Relations (more...), a new European think tank. He has earned renown for a genre of writing he calls the "history of the present." His eight books feature historical analysis of transformations undergone in Europe over the last thirty years, with his most recent book, 2004's "Free World," exploring the future of the European Union. His essays appear regularly in the New York Review of Books and he writes a weekly column in the Guardian.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: After Europe's failure to come to a common position on the Iraq War and the dramatic rejection of the Constitutional Treaty in 2005, the EU has suffered a loss of image among American and European politicians alike. What can Europe do to counter this precipitous decline in status?

Timothy Garton Ash: I think the premise is wrong. If we talk about image-loss, and we look at the world-wide opinion polls, it's nothing compared to the image-loss suffered by the United States since Bush became President. So it's more image-lack than image-loss: it's more that people in the rest of the world have a weak image of what Europe is, rather than having a negative image of it. We've just had the largest enlargement in the history of the European Union, in 2004, and that's a huge achievement -- it's not surprising if that was followed by a few hiccups. I wouldn't overstate the degree or prevalence of gloom. What is missing is a clear European voice in the wider world.

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