Barnier appeals for end to 'French-bashing' in US

8th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

NEW YORK, Nov 8 (AFP) - Quit the French-bashing and let's get to work, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told Americans Monday in an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal, titled "Letter to America."

NEW YORK, Nov 8 (AFP) - Quit the French-bashing and let's get to work, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told Americans Monday in an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal, titled "Letter to America."

The sweeping appeal for greater political cooperation between the United States and Europe came a week after the candidate clearly favored by the French lost his bid for the White House, and two years after French opposition to the war on Iraq soured relations between the two historic allies.

"I am writing to you as a friend of America," Barnier began, evoking historic and economic ties between the two nations dating back to the US war for independence.

"Because of all the things that connect us, I'm concerned about the campaigns against my country, and the recent surge of 'French-bashing'," Barnier wrote.

"I'm concerned to see both Americans and Europeans expressing doubts over the future of transatlantic relations, and I'm troubled to see that Europe is misunderstood, if not scorned, in the US," he said.

"Let us recognise without animosity that the war in Iraq deeply divided us. The facts have been established and history will decide. But the important thing now is to turn Iraq into a real success story. France has no other aim."

France will not send troops but will help train Iraqi security forces, help resolve the debt problem and help prepare Iraq for elections in January, he said.

Europe and the United States must also work together to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rein in the Iranian nuclear program, consolidate democracy in Afghanistan, and work on problems in Africa, the Balkans and Haiti, Barnier said.

"The US election and the signing of the first European Constitution, now in the process of ratification, offer an opportunity to give new momentum to our political partnership. The Europeans, and the French first among them, are waiting for this," he said.

He called for formation of a high-level group of independent figures from both sides to explore ways to deepen political cooperation across the Atlantic.

"The political dialogue between the EU and the US... is insufficient. The time has come to give it more substance," Barnier argued.

"Today, in a world that has become more unstable and more dangerous, our alliance is more necessary than ever."

Opinion polls before the US election last Tuesday showed as many as 90 percent of the French public wanting Democrat John Kerry to win the White House - though the government scrupulously observed protocol by refraining from expressing a preference.

Since then French politicians have said they hoped the re-election of President George W. Bush would provide an occasion for a reinvigorated relationship between Paris and Washington, but also an impulse for a stronger Europe to counterbalance the US superpower.

But Paris-based analysts warned that the long-term implications of Bush's victory were disturbing for transatlantic relations, confirming the steady estrangement between an ideological, nationalistic America and a Europe built on softer and more consensual values.

And anti-American feelings were running high among the French public with the realisation that the majority of US voters backed Bush.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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