Friday, November 14, 2003

Who's doing the real damage here?

The French seem determined to ruin US-French relations permanently.

France is threatening to unite with Germany to maintain their influence in an enlarged European Union and strengthen their common front against the United States, according to reported remarks by the Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin.

The minister was quoted by Le Monde speaking about "Franco-German union" and calling the deepening of ties "the one historic challenge we cannot lose".

The newspaper gave most of its first three pages to reports on the proposed union, noting it was an idea whose time may have come.

Pascal Lamy, a French EU commissioner, was enthusiastic, telling Le Monde that closer ties could begin with the unification of diplomatic services and the sharing of France's permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.


The leaking of Mr de Villepin's remarks to a Paris think tank was designed to underline French determination not to be sidelined by US power and its loss of influence when the EU expands from 15 to 25 members in May.

France also hopes to put pressure on Britain to dilute its transatlantic relationship in favour of Europe. Paris is determined to press the rest of Europe to accept the new EU constitution put forward by the former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

France and Germany, dismissed as "old Europe" by the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, before the Iraq war, were brought closer by their opposition to the invasion. But they have also found common purpose on issues such as changes to the Common Agricultural Policy on terms that would be favourable to the French.

French diplomats concede they have given up on their relationship with the US so long as President George Bush is in office. Since opposing the war, France has been ignored in Washington.

All its diplomatic energies, therefore, are now focused on Europe and in particular on prying Britain away from the US. If Britain can be won over, France and Germany believe they can dominate the enlarged EU.



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