BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 13:54 GMT
'New Europe' backs EU on Iraq
French President Jacques Chirac
Doves and hawks: Chirac attacks pro-US nations
Thirteen EU candidate countries endorsed on Tuesday a declaration by existing members warning Iraq that it had one last chance to disarm.

But a number of Eastern and Central European states hit back furiously at French President Jacques Chirac who condemned them on Monday for their pro-US stance.

A Czech minister said France appeared to be bullying the candidate countries, while Romanian President Ion Iliescu said the French president's remarks were "inappropriate".

Jacques Chirac should regret such expressions, which are not in the spirit of friendship and democratic relationships
Romanian President Ion Iliescu
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld said: "Poland... also has a right to decide what is in its own good, and France should in its turn consider it with respect."

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair backed the small nations, declaring that all countries should be free to speak their minds.

Chirac warning

He also made clear that he disagreed with the decision by the EU's Greek presidency to exclude the future members from Monday's emergency summit.

This approach will not help to create unity in the Security Council
Lubomir Ivanov
Bulgarian Deputy FM
It was after the summit in Brussels that Mr Chirac accused the candidates - who have signed letters backing the US position - of childish and irresponsible behaviour.

"It is not well-brought-up behaviour. They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet," he said.

He warned the candidates that their position could be "dangerous" because the EU's decision to accept 10 new members in 2004 still had to be ratified by existing members.

He said Romania and Bulgaria - currently due to join the EU in 2007 - could not have chosen a better way to spoil their chances of joining the club.

'Old' and 'New' Europe

At Monday's summit, EU leaders bridged some of the gaps dividing them on policy towards Iraq.

LATEST LETTER SUPPORTING US
Albania
Bulgaria*
Croatia
Estonia*
Latvia*
Lithuania*
Macedonia
Romania*
Slovakia*
Slovenia*
*EU candidate country
The declaration said Iraq must disarm fully and completely, and that force would be used as a last resort.

It also said war was not inevitable, and that UN weapons inspectors should be given more time.

The compromise was a synthesis of the more hawkish position taken by the UK, Spain and Italy, and the dovish position taken by France and Germany.

Most of the candidate countries have sided with the hawks, prompting US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to compare the "New" Europe favourably with what he called the "Old" Europe.

Among the politicians who lined up to criticise Mr Chirac, Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Lubomir Ivanov said his remarks would not help to create unity in the Security Council.

'Condescending'

The chairman of the Hungarian parliament's EU Integration committee, Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, said: "No-one can oblige us to be silent."

JANUARY'S OPEN LETTER OF SUPPORT FOR US
Czech Republic*
Denmark
Hungary*
Italy
Poland*
Portugal
Spain
United Kingdom
*EU candidate country
Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said: "I do not comprehend why Mr Chirac is not criticising Italy, Spain or Portugal. After all, they said exactly the same... I do not like it, and I do not think this way of marking us out is justified."

Estonian foreign ministry spokeswoman Tiina Maiberg told BBC News Online: "All we would say is that the more plurality of opinion in Europe, the better it is. Our country and other countries have a right to express our opinions."

There was also criticism from leading European parliamentarians.

Hans-Georg Poettering, who leads the largest grouping in the parliament, the centre-right European People's Party said it was dangerous to pit east against west, and EU against US.

"Were we to define our relationship in such a way that European integration is seen as something running counter to our relations with the United States, then we would be jeopardising the future of the European Union," he said.

Liberal Democrat leader Graham Watson called Mr Chirac's attack "gratuitous and condescending".





LINKS TO MORE EUROPE STORIES


 

WATCH AND LISTEN
Chris Patten, EU commissioner for external relations
"It is going to be difficult to get people together on every issue"


The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"This row is about power and influence"



INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific