Gulf Middle East

Athens summit: Three-step waltz on Iraq

Gathered at a summit in Athens, the time had come for European leaders, united around the accession of 10 new countries, to reconcile.

(B2) Europe is going like this, like a three-step waltz. At first, there is the storm, the quarrel and the cries, Then, like old couples who know that they must continue to live together, they must pick up the broken dishes, swallow their tears, their anger and mend their ways, in a low voice. In Athens, although the Iraqi question was not officially on the agenda of this European summit, it gave rise to many discussions. Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac then met for a good 25 long minutes. A happy coincidence, according to the spokesperson for the British leader: “The Prime Minister went for some fresh air. Chirac had the same idea. It was totally spontaneous and unplanned". "Not at all a coincidence” the French president hastened to deny “… but a meeting planned in advance"!

This divergence aside, the two leaders discussed the restoration of essential public services in Iraq, the situation in hospitals, and their “common concern about the looting of museums in Baghdad” says Chirac. Which did not prevent the latter in his press conference from addressing a little dig at the Anglo-Americans by designating them as “occupation authorities” and from hoping that they will agree on the idea of the European Commission of an airlift to repatriate injured children.

In any case, the leaders of the 25 – the Fifteen Member States and the ten new States who came to Athens to sign their accession treaty – had to adopt a joint declaration reaffirming in particular the full “support for the United Nations and its efforts to guarantee international legitimacy…“. As for the will for Europe “to assume [its] global responsibilities” which also appears in this statement, it is probably still a little early. For the third part of the waltz, the common foreign and defense policy, we will undoubtedly have to wait…

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde – article published in France-Soir, April 2003)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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