Europe faces freshsplit over Iraq

5th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

5 November 2004 , BRUSSELS - European Union leaders Friday called for a fresh start to ties with the US but old rifts over Iraq re-emerged, with France and Germany voicing irritation over remarks by Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi who attended the bloc‘s summit.The US and European Union (EU) are "natural and indispensable partners" said the 25-nation bloc in a joint statement seeking to mend transatlantic relations after two years of unprecedented acrimony over the Iraq war.British Prime Minister

5 November 2004

BRUSSELS - European Union leaders Friday called for a fresh start to ties with the US but old rifts over Iraq re-emerged, with France and Germany voicing irritation over remarks by Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi who attended the bloc‘s summit.

The US and European Union (EU) are "natural and indispensable partners" said the 25-nation bloc in a joint statement seeking to mend transatlantic relations after two years of unprecedented acrimony over the Iraq war.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair called on EU leaders to "come to terms" with US President George W. Bush‘s re-election.

"President Bush is there for four years. In a way some people are in a sort of state of denial," said Blair in an interview with The Times newspaper.

German European Commission member, Guenter Verheugen, agreed, saying: "It makes no sense for the Europeans to sit sulking in the corner for the next four years."

Taking a different tack, French President Jacques Chirac congratulated Bush but told reporters the EU needed to be strong, united and dynamic to face up to the world‘s sole superpower.

But the old bugbear of transatlantic ties - Iraq - swiftly raised its head at the meeting.

Allawi this week did some undiplomatic finger-pointing at France and Germany, saying European nations which had been "content to have a spectator role" during the war must now get off the sidelines and help rebuild his country.

Berlin and Paris led opposition to the Iraq war and remain reluctant to get directly engaged in the reconstruction effort.

Schroeder was meeting Allawi alone and is expected to criticize the Iraqi premier‘s remarks. The German leader will underline that Berlin is operating an Iraqi police training programme in the United Arab Emirates and is a strong supporter of cutting Baghdad‘s foreign debt.

In stark contrast to Schroeder, France‘s Chirac left the summit early without even bothering to meet the Iraqi leader.

Chirac‘s departure was widely interpreted as a snub but a French spokesman insisted it was due to his plans to attend the funeral of United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Zayed.

"Mr. Allawi sometimes makes more or less interesting statements," said an ironic Chirac in parting remarks to reporters. But diplomats described him as also being furious over Allawi‘s implied jibe that Paris and Berlin are not pulling their weight.

Chirac insisted his relations with the Iraqi government were "excellent" and that he had invited Iraq‘s President Ghazi al-Yawer to Paris.

EU diplomats said the outspoken Iraqi premier had made a diplomatic blunder.

"It‘s almost as if Allawi was being advised by Donald Rumsfeld," said a diplomat, referring to the US defence secretary who outraged Europeans by dividing them into pro-American "new Europe" and anti-American "old Europe" shortly before the Iraq war.

EU leaders were due to offer Allawi a modest EUR 30 million in support for Iraqi elections planned in January. He is also being promised a first-ever trade pact with the EU and help in training police and judges.

Seeking to cool tempers, Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot whose country holds the current EU presidency, appealed to EU leaders to "look to the future and forget about the past."

Aside from Iraq, the EU wants the US to get more actively involved in efforts to restart stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Leaders said the EU and US also shared responsibility in addressing key threats and challenges including terrorism; proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and HIV/AIDS.

The summit‘s focus on Iraq and the US comes after leaders defused a a crisis Thursday over naming a new executive Commission to lead the bloc for the next five years.

European Commission president-designate Jose Manuel Barroso will present his new team to the European Parliament for approval in 10 days.

In a vital concession to the European Parliament, Barroso is replacing Rome‘s previous nominee, Rocco Buttiglione, with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. Buttiglione‘s conservative views on gays and women had angered many members of the European Parliament.

Frattini will be in charge of justice affairs and also freedom and security issues.

Barroso said Hungary‘s Laszlo Kovacs, who also drew parliamentary criticism, will stay on in his team but is being put in charge of taxation rather than energy issues.

Latvia‘s new man in Brussels, Andris Piebalgs, replaces Ingrida Udre who also dropped out of the team after parliamentary criticism. He is being given the energy portfolio.

The Netherland‘s Neelie Kroes is to stay on as anti-trust chief despite complaints from some EU lawmakers worried about her links to big business. Seeking to bury allegations of a conflict of interest, Kroes has promised to never work again in private industry.

Barroso had been due to take over as Commission chief on 1 November, replacing incumbent Romano Prodi who is staying on as caretaker until the new Commission wins final approval

DPA

Subject: German news
 

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