The French-German offensive about the British budget decrease before and during the summit of Brussels has weakened the British presidency of the European Union when it has not even started yet. Tony Blair hoped to impose his leadership with the support of the Atlantist states but he is now on the defensive. The British Prime Minister has been described by Jean-Claude Juncker, current president of the European Union whom he will succeed on July 1st, as the one responsible for the failure of budget discussions. Thus, the New Labour and its allies make efforts to change the main topic of the discussion from the British reduction to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
In Der Spiegel, Tony Blair presents the German readers with the guidelines of his defense. He tries to isolate the French position denouncing the CAP and insisting on the fact that it is illogical that 40% of the budget spending is aimed at 5% of the European economic activity. He notes that the United Kingdom already gives too much money to the Union although he is willing to give more as long as it serves the interests of those who need it more. Finally, he calls for a reform of the social protection systems in Europe, an issue that would likely be at the center of the British presidency. In The Guardian, former Labour minister and European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson retakes the arguments given by the Prime Minister although he does not really assume them. He believes that it is necessary that Europe modernizes and adapts its social model to globalization. However, he denies an Americanization of the European model.
This media offensive has a favorable echo in the French press while it is somewhat mitigated by the rest of the European media. Thus, in Le Monde, the new French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Philippe Douste-Blazy, defends the French position and particularly the CAP. Criticizing the British arguments, he notes that this policy is not only a support for farmers but it also guarantees the agricultural self-sufficiency of the Union and contributes to the reconditioning of the territories and food security (this argument could be seen as evocation of the crisis of the mad cows from Great Britain). He urges Europe to work on the reactivation of its economy, security and common foreign policy.
Most of the other European actors deplore this conflict without saying who is right and condemning their selfishness. In Der Standard, the Austrian Foreign Affairs Minister, Ursula Plassnik, regrets that European leaders lost the art of commitment. However, she aligns herself with the British problems and calls for an extensive evaluation of the European social system that, she says, is no longer adapted to the new challenges of globalization. Thus, she thinks that the French and Dutch electors who voted against the European Constitutional Treaty (ECT) were chasing a chimera because it is not possible that the European social system can protect them still today.
Vaclav Havel’s former advisor, Atlantist Jiri Pehe, affirms in an article circulated by Project Syndicate and published by the Korea Herald and Le Figaro, and we hope that maybe others too, that the new states have showed a strong European sentiment during the budget crisis of Brussels. On the contrary, the traditional countries have chosen to act favoring their national interests. Thus, he rejects the position of London and Paris and urges the founding states to pay more attention to the new members.

Interviewed by the Canadian website, Latvia’s president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, is optimistic as to the evolution of the situation in the Union in spite of the rejection of the ECT and the failure of the summit of Brussels. She believes that crises are a natural phenomenon of European construction and that the Union will be able to overcome them. As to the relations of her country with Russia, she affirms that Moscow still refuses to admit the crimes committed by the Red Army. This argument is part of Latvia’s re-writing of history that its president began. She also alleges that Moscow still tries to control its neighbors. This is one of the reasons why Washington firmly supports the European Union and NATO’s expansion to the East. From the Atlantist point of view, it is necessary to take the former Soviet communist republics away from the Russian influence in order to avoid a revitalization of a rival. Unfortunately for this project, some European leaders have called for a pause in the expansion after the double “No” vote in France and the Netherlands. As a reaction to these statements, the supporters of the expansion are mobilizing themselves.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Yuliya Tymoshenko, continues her lobbying in an article circulated by Project Syndicate and published, thus far, by the Korea Herald and the Taipei Times. She affirms that her country has a place in the European Union and she is working hard in that direction. However, she says Ukraine wants to have with Russia the same kind of relations that France has with Germany. Relying on this analogy, she notes that Ukraine can have strong links with Moscow, although it may belong to a different regional organization, and accuses Russia of having occupied her country during the existence of the USSR. It seems she forgot to soon that Jruschov and Brezhnev were both Ukrainians.
Bulgaria’s Finance Minister, Milen Veltchev, affirms in Le Figaro that it would not be fair that Sofia were penalized due to the current European crisis after all the efforts made. Affirming that his country is as Europhile as it is Francophile, he urges Paris to support a future incorporation of Bulgaria.
In Libération, Albania’s ambassador in France, Ferit Hoxha, says that France should remember the commitments made in favor of the integration of the Balkan states and specially his. In effect, during the conference of Zagreb, Jacques Chirac had affirmed that the Balkan states belong to the European family. This call for a rapid incorporation of the Balkan states is backed in Le Monde by former German president Richard von Weizsäcker, and by former Prime Ministers Giuliano Amato of Italy, Carl Bildt of Sweden, and Jean-Luc Dehaene of Belgium. Addressing the European leaders, they say that the rejection of the ECT should not affect the integration of those countries. In spite of the fears of the Union’s peoples about rapid expansions, the commitments made during the summit of Thessalonica should be respected.

For the European Foreign Affairs Commissioner, Austrian Benita Ferrero-Waldner, these successive expansions are evidence of the fact that the European Union is a global actor, with an important role in world affairs and able to contribute to peace and prosperity in the continent and elsewhere. In Le Figaro, she affirms that she will defend this image of Europe during the summit with the United States of which we already spoke in our columns. In spite of internal crises, the European Union can be a good partner of Washington in the international arena, and particularly in Iraq and Israel, thanks to its soft power.

However, after the double rejection of the ECT, how would it be possible to make them accept the current orientation of the European Union regarding the expansion, economic deregulation and Atlantism? European Communication Commissioner, Swede Margot Wallstrom, recommends developing a European public space. In the International Herald Tribune, she suggests that the European Commission should resort to political parties and journalists of the Union so that all the population approaches the big issues from the European point of view. Far from creating a new democratic instrument, it is about a propaganda program that aims at making the people accept the Union after the failure of the French and Dutch referendums.