- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2004

Healing U.S.-EU ties

The ambassador of Bulgaria is worried about the division between the United States and certain European nations, such as France and Germany, that opposed U.S. policy in Iraq.

Ambassador Elena Poptodorova says the re-election of President Bush presents an opportunity for reconciliation between the United States and Europe, where anti-American feelings run high in many Western nations.

Bulgaria, one of the most pro-American nations in Central Europe, is prepared to help repair the strained relations, she told the Western Policy Center in a recent speech.

Mrs. Poptodorova said a confident Europe that “is stronger within its own parameters, matching its own profiles” will also be a “benefit to the United States.”

“What I am trying to argue here is that there is a share of vested interest on both sides in healing. This is the message of the election,” she said.

“These two entities can and should proceed to healing the harm that occurred last year and this year.”

The ties became especially strained after France began to campaign actively against U.S. efforts to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and continued to oppose the U.S.-led coalition. Bulgaria has about 470 troops in Iraq.

Mrs. Poptodorova criticized Europe for failing to agree on a common position concerning relations with the United States. Bulgaria is preparing to join the European Union.

“I think that if Europe arrived at a common position and speaks in one voice, any American administration would listen, but it’s much more difficult to listen to different voices at the same time,” she said.

Mrs. Poptodorova said the defeat of terrorists in the Iraqi city of Fallujah and the death of Yasser Arafat present new opportunities to advance international security.

“A measure of success would be a peaceful transition in [the Palestinian territories] and a credible election in Iraq,” she said, referring to the planned elections in January.

Mrs. Poptodorova called on the United States to “reach out” to its European partners to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace, to deal with the nuclear weapons’ threat posed by Iran and to secure Iraq.

She also said the European Union will be taking on additional responsibilities as it expands its borders, particularly if it admits Turkey.

Europe will have to “assume a joint responsibility regarding threats like international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction,” she said.

Lesson for France

French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte clearly got the message from the re-election of President Bush, as he opened a campaign in New York to promote U.S. investment in France.

Mr. Levitte said he believed Washington and Paris are mending their relations, however he spoke before French President Jacques Chirac expressed more criticism of the United States last week.

Mr. Levitte, beginning an investment campaign, said, “We have been through difficult moments, but this is mostly behind us. The election is behind us.”

Clara Gaymard, president of the government’s Invest in France Agency, helped Mr. Levitte opened the drive to attract more U.S. business by pointing out that Americans are already France’s largest foreign investors, supporting nearly 550,000 French jobs.

U.S.-French business ties “have never been stronger,” she said.

Before he left on a visit to London last week, Mr. Chirac criticized the United States and chided Britain for failing to get any special favors from Washington for supporting the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

“Well,” he told reporters in Paris, “Britain gave its support, but I did not see much in return. I am not sure that it is in the nature of our American friends at the moment to return favors systematically.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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