Thursday, March 02, 2006

"We cannot have two Wests. Europe needs America and America needs Europe"

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, addressing a joint meeting of Congress here Wednesday, warned sharply against what he said was a "politically dangerous" tendency in Europe to stand apart from the United States
writes Brian Knowlton.
"A conception of European unity founded on a fanciful wish for self-sufficiency would be morally suspect and politically dangerous," he said, according to an English-language version of a speech delivered mostly in Italian.

His comments appeared to be a scarcely disguised slap at the ideas of President Jacques Chirac of France, who has supported the notion of a "bipolar world" in which the European Union and the United States serve as counterbalances.

Italy and France are locked in a bitter dispute over Paris's decision to block a possible Italian takeover of a French energy company.

"The West is, and shall remain, one," Berlusconi said. "We cannot have two Wests. Europe needs America and America needs Europe."

The line brought a standing ovation.…

He ringingly endorsed some themes closely associated with President George W. Bush, who had met with Berlusconi before leaving Tuesday for South Asia: the importance of expanding democracy, human rights and free markets through the world.…

Berlusconi said that only through the common efforts of every democracy "will we be able to free the world form the threat of international terrorism, from the fear of aggression by the forces of evil."

The reference to "forces of evil" echoed language often used by Bush.

The prime minister, whose support for the war in Iraq has strained Italian relations with some European countries, said that he had worked to ensure that "the European Union did not weaken its ties to the United States in reaction to events in Iraq."

"For the same reason," he added, "we cannot ignore the danger that a united Europe might seek to define its identity in contrast to America."

Berlusconi called for a fundamental reinvigoration of the Atlantic alliance, a strengthening of NATO, which, he said, "must remain the fundamental instrument to guarantee our security."

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