- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 2004

Europe’s fresh start

The new ambassador from the European Union yesterday called for a “fresh start” in relations with the United States and promised President Bush that he will work to keep the trans-Atlantic partnership a positive one.

John Bruton, a former prime minister of Ireland, was chosen to raise the profile of the 25-nation union in Washington at a time when the Bush administration is trying to reach out to critics in Europe who oppose U.S. policy in Iraq. Although many European nations are contributing troops and other assistance in Iraq, major countries like France and Germany continue to complain about the United States being the sole superpower.

“We are making a fresh start,” Mr. Bruton said.

He added that Europeans must realize that “the president has gotten his mandate” with his re-election.

“The European Union doesn’t have the capacity to become a super state … or a threat to U.S. interests,” he told reporters at the EU diplomatic mission in Washington before presenting his credentials to Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bruton said Europe appreciates Mr. Bush’s decision to visit EU headquarters in Belgium on Feb. 22.

“This is a very important visit, and it shows a high priority [for EU-U.S. relations] coming so early in his second term,” Mr. Bruton said.

Later at the White House, he told Mr. Bush that his appointment as EU ambassador “expressly reflects the declared wish of the European Commission and the 25 member states of the European Union to further strengthen EU-U.S. relations and deepen mutual understanding in this indispensable relationship.”

Referring to EU-U.S. policy disputes, Mr. Bruton said, “The trans-Atlantic partnership will be the healthier for recognizing that there can be serious issues on which we disagree, both across the Atlantic and within Europe.”

Mr. Bruton, prime minister from 1994 to 1997, said he is a strong believer in free markets and lower taxes, pointing out that he cut corporate taxes to promote investment and helped turn Ireland into one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe.

He is also well known on Capitol Hill, where he plans to reacquaint himself with members of Congress he knew when he was prime minister.

Mr. Bruton also said he hopes Mr. Bush remembers him.

When he was governor of Texas, Mr. Bush made the Irish leader an honorary Texan.

Turkey’s neighbor

The foreign policy adviser to the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes Iraqis will embrace democracy and they should hold their election on schedule next month.

“It can go forward, and it should go forward. We must make sure it is a fair election,” Egeman Bagis told editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday.

Mr. Bagis, also a member of the Turkish parliament, scoffed at suggestions that Iraqis are not mature enough for self-government.

“I don’t know of any nation that had democracy and went backward. Once they savor the sweet taste of democracy, they will not give it up,” he said.

Mr. Bagis, who was in Washington for a NATO planning meeting, also dismissed talk of Iraq breaking up into smaller states based on religion or ethnic identity.

“Once you start dividing, you will never see an end to it,” he said.

Mr. Bagis said Iraq is not just pulled by the rival Muslim Sunni and Shi’ite sects and Kurdish autonomous forces. He said those main divisions have divisions within them such as ideological factions and tribal warlords who would try to carve out their own fiefdoms.

“The best thing is for Iraq to retain its territorial integrity,” he said. “I think common sense will prevail.”

Mr. Bagis noted that Turks have had relations with Iraqis for centuries.

“As a neighbor, we think we have more experience in dealing with Iraq,” he said. “A stable, democratic Iraq will be our number one trading partner.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]om.

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