February 19, 2003


Eastern Europe rounds on Paris (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Kate Connolly and Matthew Day, 19/02/2003, Daily Telegraph)
One diplomat from the region said M Chirac spoke in a tone that not even the Soviet Union would have used with its Warsaw Pact clients during its 40-year dominance of the region.

But M Chirac's comments were taken up by the French defence minister, Michle Alliot-Marie, who reminded the eight states preparing for EU accession on May Day next year that their place in the club was not guaranteed. A blocking referendum could be called at any time in any EU member state before then, she noted.

"We could have expected that the countries that want to join us strike up a cautious position," she said, alluding to two sets of letters signed by 13 "New Europe" states in opposition to France and Germany's anti-war stance.

"I'm worried, and I say it very clearly, because the entry into the EU has to be ratified. In the interest of these countries themselves, I say take care that there will not be a reaction from citizens, saying these countries do not want peace inside the European family."

Her comments left it unclear whether it is now the French government's policy to unpick the agreement reached at the EU summit in Copenhagen last December, which gave the final go-ahead for Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus, and Malta to join the EU in 2004, with Bulgaria and Romania following in 2007, and Turkey later.

Britain yesterday sought to make the most of the French outburst. Tony Blair said he would have liked leaders of the accession countries to have been at Monday's EU summit, from which they were excluded at the insistence of France and Germany.

"They have as much right to speak up as Britain or France or any other member of the EU today because they are coming in next year as full members of the EU," he said.

Eastern Europe had recent experience of tyranny and of the value of close transatlantic relations in defeating it. "They know the value of Europe and America standing together."

The analogy of France to the Soviet Union and the EU to the Warsaw Pact is unfortunately apt. It's imperative that we seize the opportunity we've been handed to keep these nations from sacrificing what could be bright futures in a rush to join an organization which will lead only to dominance by the French and Germans and decline for the whole continent. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 19, 2003 8:08 AM

Some of the comments by the lesser leaders that I heard on NPR were hilarious. I guess you could call it speaking truth to the absence of power.

Posted by: Harry at February 19, 2003 1:35 PM
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