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UK-U.S. ties puzzling, says Prodi

Prodi: "Across the Channel, we value our American friends as much as you"  

OXFORD, England -- European Commission president Romano Prodi has criticised Britain's relationship with the United States, saying it puzzles other European allies.

London's "confident" relationship with Washington was in stark contrast to its dealings with the European Union (EU), Prodi said in a speech to the Said Business School in Oxford on Monday.

This bond with America did not give it extra "leverage" in the world and it puzzled many of its European "friends and allies," he added.

Prodi said: "I wonder what makes this great nation so confident when dealing with a vastly more powerful nation over 3,000 miles away but afraid to play a full part in shaping the future of the continent to which it belongs -- a part which in my opinion is indispensable?

"The answer lies deep within yourselves. It is your democratic choice but it often puzzles your friends and allies, me included."

He said the EU had always been more than a single market and that foreign policy was a field where Europe could do more.

"This political dimension has been understated and misrepresented on this side of the Channel," said Prodi.

"So when you are faced with a decision on the euro, it is not surprising that many people are confused. They still try to squeeze the euro debate into the old language. But deep down it is a matter of deciding where one's future lies. It is a matter of political will and courage."

Prodi added: "Perhaps Britain sees the special relationship with the U.S. as giving it that extra leverage in the world. I don't think it is the case.

"Across the Channel, we value our American friends as much as you do. Our friendship must develop -- and it is developing -- into a partnership of equals.

"Some people in the UK believe that supporting a strong Europe is betraying the U.S. That is not how I see it and how most of my American friends see it.

"Remember, the Americans wanted Britain to join the European project at the start, back in the 1950s."

Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said of Prodi's speech: "We have always said it is a false choice, this idea that we have to choose between Europe and the U.S."


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