November 19, 2007

United States: French President Sarkozy's visit and the re-launched agreement with France

Throughout the course of the meetings with the American President, Bush, French President Sarkozy has spoken of his support for the United States in its anti-terrorism campaign, the engagement of its troops in Afghanistan and its campaign against nuclear proliferation. France is aligning itself with Washington by firmly condemning Teheran's choice to continue with its nuclear programme. Germany has also told its support for the United States' future choices in the international arena but the different tactics in French and German support could profoundly alter the system of alliance between the United States and the two European Union member states.

Simone Comi (19 November 2007)

Sarkozy's choice: an ever more European France?

Throughout the course of his first visit to the United States, it wasn't necessary for French President Sarkozy to make too many declarations about his will to transform past French dissent, regarding the American decision to attack Iraq, into renovated hopes that the two countries can become ever closer allies in order to confront the anticipated struggles in the international arena. Upon arrival in Washington, Sarkozy clearly set out how his visit signals the beginning of a new era in relations between Paris and Washington, remarking, with emphasis how the new French executive is ready to strengthen its relations with America, damaged following the decision of the previous government, led by Jacques Chirac, not to back the US commitment in the Iraqi campaign, the Iraqi Freedom mission. In the course of the visit to the Congress, the French President presented the common themes between France and the United States on which they will collaborate in the immediate future: the war on terrorism, the reinforcement of the presence in Afghanistan, the halting of attempts at the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, negotiations with the Middle East, the independence of Lebanon, the pacification of Darfur and finally, the fight against global warming. The French President's stance on the Iranian nuclear situation has been underlined by the declarations made in the meetings held with US President Bush: Sarkozy, in fact hoped that the use of diplomacy would result in a satisfactory resolution for all the parties involved.

The French President's official visit has confirmed the great dynamism of Quai d'Orsay's diplomacy in the past months. Sarkozy and Bernard Kouchner, Foreign Minister, have been involved in official visits in order to reinforce and rejuvenate alliances, cooled throughout the course of the last few years. The French President's visit to Washington may be symbolic, however of a turning point in relations between the United States and Europe. Speaking to the Congress, Sarkozy declared that US support of the European Union would be fundamental in the event of future international crises, in order for it to take major political and military control. Sarkozy has made it known that France is ready to completely re-enter into NATO, while decisively supporting the re-launch of the European defence project. The French President's open involvement in this European campaign is something of a novelty given that France has always been one of the more sceptical nations as regards an eventual involvement in the defence project or the joint effort of the European Union in this field.Bush has heard with favour not only the French opening to a possible total re-entry into NATO, but above all its renewed effort to support the European Union. This comes at a time when London, always the US' main ally in Europe, seems to be showing ever more scepticism towards joint initiatives. The re-launched alliance between France and the United States could for this reason, become a lasting partnership and Paris could in the future, become the main interlocutor with Washington regarding relations between the White House and the European Union.

Relations between Washington and Brussels seem to have reached a standstill in the past months, after September 26th, when an arbiters panel was held in Geneva regarding the question over the help given by the European Union and United States to, respectively, Airbus and Boeing. Since 2004, Brussels and Washington have debated within the WTO questions regarding the help they gave to these two industrial giants and three years ago it was the United States and the European Union who called for the WTO consultation, in order to establish if the economic help granted damaged or helped the builders and if they are considered compatible with laws on international commerce. Last July the EU Commission has had to respond to the WTO over accusations put to them by United States delegation, according to which, Airbus should have received community funding for $205bn. The European delegation has responded to the US interrogation, showing the figures which Washington has designated in the last years, to helping Boeing and the businesses linked to the colossal US industry. Following the last meeting held by WTO, the European Union Commission has made it known, by means of a note to the Parliament of Brussels that despite various attempts to amicably resolve the dispute with the US over the help given to Airbus and Boeing, that the differences between the two sides were revealed to be too great. The Commission has also declared that after not having found a balanced basis to the debated solution, the European Union will continue to defend into the World Trade Organisation's meetings the community help towards Airbus so that it continues with its innovation, major security and the provision of air transport.

According to EU staff, relations with Washington weren't damaged solely because of this dispute, but it is likely that the long-winded contention will have repercussions over future commercial relations between Europe and the United States.
The visit by the German Chancellor Merkel: a response to French dynamism?

A few days after the end of President Sarkozy official visit to Washington, it was Angela Merkel who met with President Bush in order to find a common solution to questions of an international nature from past months. Merkel discussed at length the possibility of a US attack on Iran in the case that Teheran decides to continue with its development of its nuclear programme, with the American President. The German position on the question seems to be very momentous, since both the SPD and the CDU, the parties which make up the governing coalition, are said to be against a Western military intervention in Ayatollah's country. For this reason, the German Chancellor hasn't been able to assure the American President of firm support of his country in the case of an attack on the Iranian nuclear sites but he is also said to be convinced that the United States aren't looking to find any resolution which isn't diplomatic in answer to the question. The German Chancellor has put forward a proposal that new sanctions are brought against Teheran by means of a new ONU resolution (it would be the third to be brought over the Iranian question) in the case that the requests of the international community aren't listened to, as regards the halting of programme of Uranium enrichment. Merkel also hopes that a change of attitude on the part of Iran after the recent declarations of an appeal by representatives of the government of Teheran, considered intolerable both by President Bush and the German Chancellor. The tactic differences between the future choices of Washington and those of Berlin will be shown not only by the diversity of political approaches to the question but also surely through the conspicuous interests of several German businesses which entertain relations with the Islamic Republic.

Another question answered by the two Presidents was that regarding the future of the region of Kosovo. Before December 10th the European Union, Russia and the United States will propose a document which should outline the status of Kosovo and which will be negotiated with Serbia. President Bush wanted assurances of German commitment to supporting the proposals for the independence of Kosovo and in putting pressure on Belgrade so that it accepts, without hesitation the granting of full sovereignty to the Government of Pristina.

Future relations between the United States and the European Union will surely be dictated by the evolution of bi-lateral relations between Washington, Paris and Berlin.

The reinforcement of the partnership between the White House and the Elysium could deeply alter the alliances created throughout the course of the last years; relations between forces within single Parliaments will also have an effect over these changes. President Sarkozy enjoys vast popularity in France and the support of the Government and Parliament; the position of German Chancellor Merkel is somewhat different. She is called upon to manage a situation in which the choices of a politically heterogeneous majority which could also put the government in difficulty over questions of foreign policy. The lack of German support for the United States in the international field could lead to tensions between the two countries to the benefit of relations between Washington and Paris, which may become the major interlocutor within the EU for the White House.

Translation by Megan Ball
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