Monday, May 10, 2004

Your Average Friendly Europe Day in Paris

End of World War II Day. Dien Bien Phu Day. No Pants Day. All in all, it's been a good week-end for Days. (Those with a capital D).

You probably missed it, but there was also Europe Day, which was celebrated with Tony Blair meeting Jacques Chirac in Paris. As the International Herald Tribune tells it:
Despite their falling out over Iraq, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and President Jacques Chirac of France marked a cordial "Europe Day" in Paris on Sunday… The two leaders answered students' questions for more than an hour before breaking for lunch to discuss the issues of a future European constitution and the makeup of the new Iraqi transitional government …

The two leaders … answered questions about Europe's expansion last week from 15 to 25 members and the future of Iraq …"Today it is evident that the great majority of Iraqis have bad feelings about the forces of peace, which they consider occupying forces," Chirac said.
(Where did he get that evidence from? Le Monde? Oh, okay. I see.)
"So it is very urgent to transfer true sovereignty and powers to an authentically Iraqi authority that is recognized as such by the Iraqi people," said Chirac. The French president was one of the most outspoken voices against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that Britain took part in. The French president did not directly address allegations of coalition soldiers torturing prisoners. But he said that people who are "humiliated" would become aggressive.

Limited sovereignty will be restored to Iraqis on June 30, with a transitional government in power until a general election is held by the end of January.

The government that takes power after that must have the capacity to end the international mission in Iraq if it wishes, Chirac said.

Chirac, whose bitter diplomatic dispute with President George W. Bush over Iraq led to a post-cold-war low point in relations between the two countries, has since tried to mend fences.

On Sunday, he said that strong U.S.-Europe ties were in the "fundamental interest" of both sides — but he hinted there were still some hard feelings.

"This presupposes mutual respect, which isn't always the case," Chirac said.
(Meaning Uncle Sam, naturellement.)
But, he added: "Anything that calls this bond into question is dangerous for the future of Europe and the United States." …

On May 9, 1950, the first move was made toward the formation of the European Union when the French foreign minister at the time, Robert Schuman, proposed the creation of an organized Europe.
Earlier, The Economist had warned Blair of
the latest fashionable notion in Brussels: the idea that Britain might be chucked out of the EU if it refuses to ratify the new constitution that the 25 members are likely to agree next month. Tony Blair has promised a referendum on the constitution, and all the polls suggest that British voters will reject it. That, in theory, could mean that the whole document is still-born, since it needs to be ratifies by every EU member. So Jacques Chirac, France's president, has begun to exert what he calls a little "friendly pressure", by suggesting that any country that rejects the constitution will have to leave the EU altogether. Long experience has taght Mr Blair that nothing is more menacing than a "friendly" gesture from Mr Chirac.

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