US election result a trigger for a stronger Europe: France

3rd November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 3 (AFP) - French politicians on Wednesday hoped the outcome of the American presidential race 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.

PARIS, Nov 3 (AFP) - French politicians on Wednesday hoped the outcome of the American presidential race 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.

"It's a new phase which is starting at a very important moment for the world. Europe is acquiring institutional maturity. Relations between the EU and the US are at a key moment," Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told RTL radio, shortly before Democrat challenger John Kerry conceded defeat.

"The election or re-election of a president is always the moment to reconsider things. I believe that ... if Mr Bush is re-elected, relations between Europe and the US will evolve," said former prime minister Edouard Balladur.

Opinion polls before Tuesday's election showed as many as 90 percent of the French public wanting a win for Kerry - though the government scrupulously observed protocol by refraining from expressing a preference.

The growing certainty that Bush had won a second term was for many in France the end of any illusions about the changing political face of the United States.

"Many observers believe America's political choices were a result of President Bush. What we see today is that these choices are in fact supported by a majority of Americans," said Francois Bayrou of the centrist Union for French Democracy (UDF) which is part of Chirac's coalition.

"What that means is that there is great mutual incomprehension between the two sides of the Atlantic ... It also means that to face a more determined America, we need a strong Europe.

"If we fail to build a strong Europe and if we continue as now to be a Europe divided, in which some nations go one way and the rest another, then the world will be permanently out of balance," he said.

For the opposition Socialists, party leader Francois Hollande also said that the main lesson of the election was the need for a stronger Europe to put up resistance to an America "trying to impose its vision on the world."

"If we are mere spectators at this historic election ... it is because we have not grasped our historic role. And that is a politically strong Europe which is capable of weighing on the destiny of the world. Our future is not the American election, but the European continent," he said.

Further on the left the Green party was more outspoken, describing a Bush victory as "black Tuesday, a day of mourning for democracy, peace and the environment."

Only a handful of voices were raised in clear support of a second Bush term.

"It is good news not just for the US but also for France and the world because American leadership is now reaffirmed and determined, and should be more enlightened than it has been," said Herve Mariton, a leading member of Chirac's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party.

Commentators said that a second Bush term was unlikely to be a carbon copy of the first, and that after the difficulties of the occupation of Iraq it was possible the influence of the so-called "neoconservatives" in the administration would begin to wane.

"The star of the neoconservatives, who bear so much responsibility for the current situation, should fade in Washington, democratic imperialism should recede, and the appeal of foreign military adventures begin to diminish," said political analyst Daniel Vernet.

"But that does not mean that the president once re-elected will suddenly be more ready to share with his traditional allies decisions on which depends the security of the United States," he said.

The left-leaning Le Monde newspaper noted that unlike in 2000 in this election Bush won a clear majority of the popular vote.

"Whether we like it or not America has become more conservative, more religious and more unilateralist. And Republicans mobilised every bit as much as the Democrats," it said in an editorial.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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