Germany helps France cling to EU upper ground

6th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, June 6 (AFP) - Europe's old guard, Germany and France, are braving a tide of opposition from other EU powerhouses to insist their partnership driving forward the European project will endure despite France's "no" to the bloc's constitution.

BERLIN, June 6 (AFP) - Europe's old guard, Germany and France, are braving a tide of opposition from other EU powerhouses to insist their partnership driving forward the European project will endure despite France's "no" to the bloc's constitution.  

When Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and President Jacques Chirac embraced ahead of a hastily arranged working dinner in Berlin this weekend, it was clearly intended as a sign to the world that the Franco-German axis has not come off the rails.  

Neither leader spoke publicly after their meeting, in which they plotted the way forward in the wake of referendum rejections in France and the Netherlands, but their spokesmen made it clear they believed the process of ratifying the constitution must continue.  

The German government's official spokesman, Bela Anda, reiterated on Monday that every one of the European Union's 25 members had the "right and the duty" to submit the treaty to either a referendum or consideration by parliament.  

As Britain prepared on Monday to put its plans for a referendum on ice, striking another blow to the constitution, the leaders of Germany and France were already preparing to meet again in Paris on Friday.  

Their foreign ministers, France's Philippe Douste-Blazy and Germany's Joschka Fischer, hammered home the message, expressing "confidence in the European project" and stating that the old duo was still "indispensable", a French spokesman said.  

There is however one crucial difference between the countries - Germany has ratified the treaty, although it was done without a referendum.  

The efforts of Schroeder and Chirac, both of whom are facing slumping popularity ratings at home, were given a frosty reception in some quarters of the German press on Monday.  

"Of all people, two lame ducks want to put the EU back on track," the centre-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said.  

The paper suggested Britain's presidency of the EU, starting on July 1, was coming at an opportune time.  

"Blair is now taking on a leadership role that Chirac and Schroeder have not lived up to," it said in an editorial.  

The often-criticised Franco-German tactic of dictating to Europe what they, and their combined population of 143 million people want, was in evidence at an EU summit in March when they succeeded in forcing changes to the Stability Pact, the set of financial rules which eurozone members must abide by.  

Annie Marie Le Gloannec, a Berlin-based analyst for the International Research Centre for Political Science (CERIS), told AFP that the high-handed approach of France and Germany would come back to haunt them if they were looking for allies in their bid to keep the constitution alive.  

"Their lack of loyalty towards the Stability Pact alienated them from a lot of smaller countries," she said.  

Meanwhile Schroeder is setting aside his domestic woes, and the fact that he looks set to be swept from power in September, to stake his reputation on further European integration.  

Last week he held talks with Romanian PM Calin Tariceanu in which he stressed that he intended to stick to the 2007 deadline for the former communist state's entry.  

But many believe that, ultimately, Europe's crisis may only be resolved with a change of leadership in the two countries - with elections expected in Germany this year and France in 2007.

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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