- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 2, 2000

'A little blase'

The French ambassador says he is growing tired of American officials who demand that Europe spend more on defense and then complain about plans for a European security force.

"If you forgive my being blunt," Ambassador Francois Bujon de l'Estang said in a recent speech, "what I have encountered from American friends over the last year on the issue of European defense has been, in the best of cases, benign skepticism and, in the worst of cases, outright hostility.

"In many cases, the same people harbor both attitudes."

As Europe advances plans for a Euro-army with 60,000 troops, U.S. defense officials are obsessed with protecting NATO's role as the supreme force in the trans-Atlantic alliance, he added.

Mr. Bujon de l'Estang also noted that the United States has been suspicious of French motives since Charles de Gaulle withdrew French forces from NATO command in 1966.

"We need to avoid petty institutional quarrels or needless procedural debates," he said in his speech at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

"Some in Washington are still hung up on the idea of a possible institutional competition and would like it to be engraved in stone that the European Union could only act after NATO has turned down an operation.

"I consider this to be a pointless and purely abstract theological argument."

NATO and a European army would be in constant contact as a future crisis develops and would decide upon an action according to the circumstances, he said.

Mr. Bujon de l'Estang conceded he is growing "a little blase" toward American "ambivalence" toward Europe.

When the European Union moved toward a single market in 1992, "America cried, 'Fortress Europe,' " he said.

The "same people who complain" about a lack of European foreign policy "also complain when Europeans do agree and present a united front to Washington," he added.

"Perhaps the ambivalence is strongest in Congress, where the clamor for [NATO] burden sharing … and the anxiety as soon as Europeans move to improve their capabilities are the loudest," he said.

The ambassador noted that the ambivalence is also strong in the White House.

Mr. Bujon de l'Estang said Americans often tease him over the European contribution to the bureaucratic "alphabet soup."

"I am often asked when Europeans will finally make up their mind," he said.

"Is it ESDI [European security and defense identity], ESDP [European security and defense policy], or CESDP [common European security and defense policy]?"

The ambassador did not have an answer.

He said he would "make things simpler" by addressing the whole debate as the "issue of European defense."

Hungary 10 years later

Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi today will open a Washington forum on the 10th anniversary of the country's first free elections.

The panel will feature former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger; Hungarian Ambassador Geza Jeszenszky, who was foreign minister of the first democratic Hungarian government; and Ambassador Mark Palmer, the U.S. envoy to Hungary from 1986 to 1990.

"The message of the events 10 years ago is that the Hungarian society was mature enough to work out, through negotiations, a peaceful model of the transition from the communist system to a democratic one," said Hungarian Embassy spokesman Gabor Turi.

The forum, cosponsored by the embassy and the Hungarian American Coalition, runs from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in room 562 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Kenya shuffles envoys

Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi yesterday appointed a new ambassador to the United States in a major reshuffle of his diplomatic corps.

Yusuf Dibo, former ambassador to the Netherlands, replaces Samson Chemai, who left Washington earlier this year.

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