U.S. warns EU against turning inward

Posted in Other | 03-Jun-05 | Author: Brian Knowlton| Source: International Herald Tribune

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (third from L) meets with EU General Secretary Javier Solana (extreme R), Benita Ferrero-Waldner (extreme L), Commissioner for External Relations, and Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn (second from L) at the State Department in Washington, June 2, 2005.
WASHINGTON Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Thursday with three high European officials to underscore a continuity of relations after the French and Dutch votes rejecting the EU constitution. She also urged Europeans not to turn too sharply inward while pondering their future or to shy from enlarging a Europe that, she said twice, "of course includes Turkey."

Rice's comments reflected a high-level showing of administration concern that the successive setbacks to the constitution might hamper trans-Atlantic cooperation and slow the accession to the European Union of U.S. allies like Romania and Bulgaria, as well as, farther down the road, Turkey.

The European officials who met with her - the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana; the EU external affairs commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn of Luxembourg, which now holds the EU presidency - went out of their way to emphasize the continuity that Rice referred to.

Ferrero-Waldner said it was undeniable that the French and Dutch votes represented "real, important, serious setbacks." But, she added, "We are able to work with you today as well as we did yesterday."

The four officials said that plans for a conference this month in Brussels for donors to Iraq reflected their ability to continue working together on sensitive topics. Cooperation also remained, they said, on Iran and Middle East peace.

The European officials said that several key meetings in Europe this month would provide a crucial opportunity to show the people of the Continent that efforts to forge a stronger Europe were not dead.

The Bush administration has for months responded to questions about the EU constitution with general expressions of support for a stronger and more united Europe. The specifics of how to achieve that, they have said, are up to the Europeans.

U.S. officials have sought to play down the impact of the French and Dutch votes.

But they also warn of a prolonged period of European introspection that might slow cooperation on an array of issues while delaying enlargement.

Rice said that the United States clearly favored "a Europe that is outward-looking, not inward-looking," and it was in that context that she referred to the inclusion of Turkey. Many people who voted against the constitution said that the possible entry of Turkey into the EU was one of their reasons for opposing it.

The Europeans assured Rice on Thursday that they would not turn inward. "Some people have suggested we will now be too absorbed in our own crisis to pursue our external policies," said Ferrero-Waldner. "I promise you this will not be the case."

But they also spoke of needing time to better understand voters' reservations about the constitution.