In the weeks, months and years to come, people will be asking each other: “Where were you when disaster struck in America?”By a quirk of fate, I was in Simpheropol airport in Crimea, waiting for Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt to finish his meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.Along with a handful of other hacks, I headed to the bar to spend my last remaining grynias on beer, nuts and smokes. A mobile phone rang, expressions of disbelief followed and then a colleague broke the news: “Two jumbos have crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. The Pentagon’s also been struck.” There was nervous laughter all round. “They’re pulling your leg,” one journalist said. “It’s a joke.” In the minutes that followed we were to discover that it was not a prank played by a bored news editor, but the greatest act of terrorism the world has ever seen. Not so long ago, four publicity-hungry EU leaders would have been only too happy to give their immediate reaction to such an event. Not this time. Verhofstadt, Michel, Prodi and Solana huddled together with their press people and decided that they would speak with one voice and that would be the voice of the Belgian Presidency. Aside from a few mutterings from Michel – “C’est terrible, ça dépasse de la fiction” – the four politicians maintained this Trappist vow of silence until the 30-seater jet touched down at the military airport of Melsbroek.Verhofstadt’s aides had arranged an impromptu press conference via satellite phone and when the four men stepped off the plane, they were greeted by a bank of cameramen and reporters.Flanked by Michel, Prodi, Solana and foreign affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, the Belgian PM condemned the “act of barbarism” that had been perpetrated and promised to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States in its hour of need.It was impressive stuff – all the more so since the statement was delivered without notes, in French, Flemish and English and after a day of high-level meetings.In the past I have been highly critical of the EU’s inability to get its message across.But this time it got it right. The reaction was swift, the message was moving and for once Europe spoke with one voice. What is it they say about tragedies bringing people together? Ukrainian border officials shunted us round like cattle as we waited for Verhofstadt and his entourage to arrive. Eventually, an hour and a half late, the Belgian prime minister, deputy PM Louis Michel, Commission President Romano Prodi and foreign policy chief Javier Solana filed through a tunnel of guards and boarded the government jet we had hitched a ride with.My first thought was: “Why are the four men who run Europe’s foreign policy flying together in a small, unguarded plane just hours after four jumbos have been hijacked by terrorists?”I wasn’t the only person asking the question.One of the pilots and several other reporters also found it odd.Cynical journalist that I am, my second thought was: “Europe’s decision-makers are trapped with us for three and a half hours – plenty of time to get a reaction.” As I was the only person with a cameraman on board, the words ‘scoop’ and ‘exclusive’ obviously sprang to mind.What followed, however, not only put paid to that deluded dream, but showed how much Europe’s nascent foreign policy has matured in recent months.