Monitor archives:
Copyrighted material

Even UK Unhappy With Wolfowitz At World Bank Post

by Sanjay Suri

on Wolfowitz nomination

(IPS) LONDON -- Europe is unlikely to keep Paul Wolfowitz from the World Bank door, little as it would like to see him there.

The 25-member European Union has between its member states a larger percentage of the vote than the United States. Britain and France have, for example, 4.3 percent each, and Germany 4.49 percent. With about 30 percent of the vote, the EU has almost twice as many votes as 16 percent for the United States.

But the EU is not a single voting bloc on the World Bank board. And traditionally the appointment of the World Bank head has come by consensus; it has not been put to the vote.

"I don't believe the EU could block this," Greg Austin, research director at the think tank Foreign Policy Center in London told IPS. "It will be difficult for EU member states to politically come together, and there won't be a firm EU position on this."

That would make a virtual certainty of the appointment of a man as World Bank chief many see as more likely to take out, that is, attack, a country like Somalia than to take poverty out of it.

But while EU countries are unlikely to make any move to block Wolfowitz, the nomination brought together European powers together in silent grumbling over the move by the Bush administration.

For once Britain, Germany and France seemed to be talking the same language over the Bush administration.

The response from Britain, the only significant ally the Bush administration found in Iraq was far from welcoming. Prime Minister Tony Blair said Britain would "wait and see if there are any other candidates" his spokeswoman told media.

The British are looking for Wolfowitz to declare his stand on vital development issues. "We are looking forward to hearing Mr. Wolfowitz's views on a number of issues," the spokeswoman said.

Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) Gordon Brown said: "It's a nomination, there will be a discussion and it will go to a meeting of the World Bank development committee."

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said France would "look equally at other candidates."

Wolfowitz had said around the time of the Iraq invasion that France should "pay some consequences" for its opposition to the Iraq invasion, and particularly for its veto of NATO support for Turkey in the event of a conflict.

"The French have behaved in ways . . . that have been very damaging to NATO," he had said before the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I think France is going to pay some consequences, not just with us but with our countries who view it that way."

German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul pointed out that "the enthusiasm in old Europe is not exactly overwhelming." The expression 'old Europe' was used by Rumsfeld to describe Germany and France in their opposition to the invasion of Iraq two years ago. Rumsfeld and his deputy Wolfowitz are pillars of the neo-conservative structure within the Bush administration.

EU countries seemed to be preparing to challenge the appointment in debates within the World Bank governing body, if not put their opposition to the vote.

Analysts believe that major EU countries will engage in active diplomatic talks ahead of the discussions in the World Bank on the appointment. They are expected also to engage in talks with leading developing countries: the 'World Bank' is only the shorter form of the full name, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The Bank has an annual budget of nine billion dollars for tackling poverty in the developing world -- not the kind of activity or interests Wolfowitz has been known for.

But Austin said Wolfowitz might surprise his critics. "People who know Wolfowitz see him as a credible candidate," he said. "They have a high opinion of him."

Wolfowitz is likely to take a tougher view than his predecessor on what to do with World Bank money, Austin said. "The U.S. has been concerned over the continued flow of money to governments who have made no move to rein in corruption," he said. "There will now be a change of emphasis in World Bank policy."

But this could be the beginning of yet another transatlantic rift, with Britain aligned with France and Germany this time. Britain has declared a fight against poverty the cornerstone of its presidency of the G8 (the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia) this year and of the EU over the second half of the year.

The World Bank is a key instrument in any global fight against poverty. Transatlantic disputes over policy on poverty at the World Bank could be devastating to millions.

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor March 18, 2005 (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to use in any format.