EU stumbles on international, defense proposals
June 17, 1997
Web posted at: 12:32 p.m. EDT (1632 GMT)
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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (CNN) -- European Union leaders were
unable to come to a meeting of the minds Tuesday on merging
international and defense policies among EU member nations.
As the two-day summit neared an end, the 15 leaders had
agreed only on appointing a little-known civil servant to
represent the group in international policy.
They made virtually no progress in moving toward a joint
defense -- which means the United States is likely to retain
prominence in that area for some time to come.
Also Tuesday, France threw another obstacle into the path of
the EU's drive toward a single currency, just a day after the
1999 launch of the euro was proclaimed to be back on track.
Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn said France would
insist on a flexible interpretation of the rules for joining
the single currency, a move Germany and others reject as
threatening to undermine the monetary union.
Nations aiming to adopt the euro have until the end of this
year to meet targets of low inflation, narrow budget deficits
and falling public debt. Countries "that are getting close
but aren't necessarily there yet" should be allowed to
qualify, Strauss-Kahn said.
Although Strauss-Kahn was confident the currency union would
start on time, French European Affairs Minister Pierre
Moscovici cast doubt on whether France would participate at
"We need to see what the situation of our public finances is,
and it's in regard to that public finances situation that we
will decide, or not, to participate in the euro," Moscovici
told RTL radio.
Tuesday's discussions on the defense issue bogged down when
EU leaders could not agree to integrate the Western European
Union (WEU) defense group into the EU. Instead, they called
only for closer relations between the two groups.
Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Finland and Austria
oppose any transformation of the EU into a defense
organization -- or fear the possibility that the Union's
defense strategies could undermine the work already being
done by NATO.
In a compromise promoted by the Dutch, the 10-nation WEU
would be sub-contracted for humanitarian, peacekeeping and
crisis management missions. The arrangement between the two
bodies "might in time lead to the integration of the WEU into
the Union," the compromise said.
On the international policy front, France and Germany backed
off earlier insistence that Europe merge its international
policy ministries, and supported a Dutch compromise making
the secretary-general of the EU's council of ministers the
part-time voice of the Union in such matters.
The position is currently held by Juergen Trumpf, a former
troubleshooter for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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