Wednesday, April 2, 2003

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FRENCH PRAISE FOR BLAIR AND CRITICISM OF CHIRAC--NO, REALLY: Jacques Delors, the former president of the European Commission, gave an exclusive interview to the Financial Times which was chock full of praise for Tony Blair and criticism of Jacques Chirac. First on Iraq:

"Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission, has become one of the first senior French public figures to warn that President Jacques Chirac is leading France into a diplomatic cul-de-sac over Iraq.

'We cannot accept the Messianic vision of the Americans, but nor can we limit ourselves to simply opposing it,' he said in an interview with the Financial Times.

'My position is between the two, of course. We have to find the basis for an acceptable partnership between Europe and America.'

Mr Delors praised efforts by Tony Blair, the UK prime minister, to build a bridge between the Bush administration and continental European governments by pushing hard for UN supervision of the reconstruction of Iraq." (emphasis added)

Then there's Delors' take on the European Union's future:

"He believes the creation of a genuine common European foreign policy is unlikely for the foreseeable future and that defence co-operation will not work without Britain.

The 77-year-old Mr Delors, now running the Paris-based Notre Europe think-tank, also said the EU's flagship project of economic and monetary union was ''not working' because of the failure of governments to work together on fiscal policy'....

Mr Delors believes the Iraq crisis has highlighted the problems of forging a common EU foreign policy out of divergent national interests, warning that such a concept is a vain hope 'in the next 20 years'.

On Belgian proposals for a renewed push on EU defence co-operation, including France and Germany, Mr Delors was equally cautious.

'We need a period of calm before trying to build a common European defence policy,' he said.

He believes one way forward is for defence to be driven by 'reinforced co-operation' with some member states moving more quickly than others.

But he added: 'It is difficult to envisage this working without the participation of Great Britain. Frankly, it's unrealistic. It's almost a provocation.' (emphasis added)

Delors' critique of fiscal policy is an implicit shot at the Chirac government, which has declared it won't honor the Maastricht criteria.

Delors is a Socialist, so there's likely some partisanship behind the criticism. Still, this will, as the FT puts it, "stimulate more debate in France about how the post-colonial power can best exercise its influence."

posted by Dan on 04.02.03 at 11:34 AM