Monday, November 24, 2003
Square Wheels

President Chirac, Prime Minister Raffarin (enjoying the end of cohabitation) and Prime Minister Blair enjoyed a precentennial summit of the entente cordiale. During their press conference, perceived divisions were replaced by bonhomie and backslapping unity on the issue of European defence.

According to both Britain and France, European defence would complement NATO. Of course in the devil of detail, differences emerge.

Blair was quite clear that European defence would apply to "the limited peacekeeping and humanitarian tasks, but we are actually doing European Defence today in Macedonia and also in Africa."

Chirac had a view of European defence as defence, operationally independent from NATO:

There are operations which need to be carried out by us. It has to be properly prepared, properly led and properly operated. There are national Chiefs of Staff, but we want our defence to be as effective and efficient as possible. We want there to be an organisation, a harmonisation. We do not want overlapping.

Blair still viewed the proposed rapid reaction force as an adjunct to NATO, taking up tasks in areas where NATO was unwilling to deploy its armed forces. Whereas Chirac viewed the new European army as an expression of European unity, contributing to "extra character and extra efficiency".

This press conference showed that both sides had failed in their attempts to bridge the main divide: between the Franco-German desire to create operational armed forces independent of NATO, and the British objective of utilising European forces as a complementary arm of NATO.

Chirac (smiling like a Cheshire cat) was quite clear that a solution would be found through trust:

I have nothing to add. You have raised a number of minor points, which are, of course, important. We will find an agreement on those with our British friends. There is absolutely no doubt about that, for a very simple reason. If we try to work together as partners but do not trust each other then we are likely to fail. When we do trust each other we find a solution. It is as simple as that. We are absolutely determined today to show that there is confidence, and to rid ourselves of mistrust. That is what makes me think that we will find a solution.

One knows that Blair believed him until directed to the light by one of his advisers with a dawning realisation that Chirac may have been indulging the cameras.

(23.00, 24th November 2003)


Post a Comment

Blog Archive