- The Washington Times - Friday, July 2, 2004

PARIS — Two summits, a tearful gathering at the graves of American soldiers in Normandy, and conciliatory words from President Bush apparently were not enough to narrow the chasm between the United States and France.

After a month of intense trans-Atlantic diplomacy by Washington, French pundits and politicians still speak of U.S. “arrogance and incompetence” in Iraq, and accuse Washington of efforts to dominate the recently expanded European Union.

Referring to open differences with President Bush at NATO’s Istanbul summit on Iraq, Afghanistan and a range of other issues, French President Jacques Chirac said, “We are friends and allies, but not servants.”

There remains considerable fear across the French political spectrum that the United States is attempting to “infiltrate” the European Union and impose Turkey, a longtime strategic ally of Washington, as a new member of the union.

However, the so-called anti-Washington “rejection front,” begun last year by Mr. Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, has stumbled in the face of resistance from a majority of NATO and EU members, particularly the former communist countries that consider Washington the only credible guarantor of their security.

Some European commentators view remarks by President Bush at last month’s EU summit in Ireland and the subsequent NATO gathering in Istanbul as “meddling in something that doesn’t concern him,” according to the French daily Le Figaro.

The newspaper, considered to be a major pro-U.S. voice in France, concluded that Mr. Bush’s diplomatic offensive was intended to “show John Kerry that he is capable of fostering better relations with America’s European allies.”

But many French commentators questioned Mr. Bush’s persistent and blunt support for Turkey’s EU application, which many in Europe — and particularly in France — view with alarm.

Political commentator Michel Schiffres said: “The American president cannot ignore the fact that the Turkish question troubles Europeans. … It is not so much whether Turkey does not belong to Europe, but the consequences of the arrival of tens of millions of Muslims into the European family.”

French government officials, although less explicit, describe Mr. Bush’s European foray as part of a “balancing act” to show Western solidarity in a difficult election year.

According to one official, Mr. Bush tried to turn to his advantage the growing European desire to restore the wobbly trans-Atlantic relationship.

Renaud Girard, a conservative analyst, noted that Europe’s often-divided leaders have not been able to mount an effective challenge to America’s dominant role and influence on the Continent.

“On one side, we have an America, which speaks with one voice and knows what it wants,” he said.

“On the other, there is Europe, which does not know where it is heading and whose institutions don’t allow it to speak with one voice.”

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