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Wednesday, 13 June, 2001, 17:50 GMT 18:50 UK
Analysis: France fights US vision
Demonstartors outside Bush's meeting with Nato officials
Many in Europe do not share Bush's views
By William Horsley in Paris

Noisy and even violent demonstrations are being forecast when US President George Bush meets European Union leaders in Sweden on Thursday.

But the protesters may have something in common with the grey-suited national leaders greeting Mr Bush.

In particular, French protest groups have now won important backing from their government, and together they are leading a rebellion against American values.

Anti-Bush poster
Anti-Bush feelings are running high in many parts of Europe
This rebellion was sparked off by Mr Bush's high-handed rejection of the plans agreed among the industrialised countries four years ago in Kyoto, Japan, to cut polluting gas emissions. European countries have not yet ratified the Kyoto accords, but say they will.

Mr Bush, in contrast, has said they are not in America's interests.

Alain Lipietz of the French Green Party is one of those who sees George W Bush as a world trouble-maker.

"He's an enemy of humankind," says Lipietz. "He is just one who has decided to eschew the commitments of the Kyoto agreement. So he decided that the United States will not fight against the greenhouse effect, and that is absolutely terrible."

Jospin's stance

In the French National Assembly, socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin recently set out a manifesto for uniting Europe against unwanted influences from the US.

Europe, Mr Jospin said, had its own identity, which was more important than the rules or institutions of the European Union. Europe was "a model of society, and a vision of the world."

He accused the US of having "forgotten its international responsibilities" by rejecting the Kyoto accords. European countries, he said, had to build up their own strategic industries, their own political voice and military capability, to prevent "American domination".


It's not easy - trying to improve the world economic order, or anything, with a big free-rider like the US is of course something very difficult to imagine

Laurence Tubiana, French economic adviser
He also said they should speak up about US missile defence plans and the risk of a new arms race. He criticised the US Government for its unilateralism, its love of free-wheeling capitalism, its protection of tax havens and its use of the death penalty.

Mr Jospin's words pleased his coalition partners, the Green Party and the communists. But, according to government economic adviser Laurence Tubiana, they were also meant as a European challenge to US leadership.

"Now the responsibility is on the shoulders of Europe. We need to show leadership," he said.

"It's not easy. Trying to improve the world economic order, or anything, with a big free-rider like the US is of course something very difficult to imagine - even to be sure that a true European solidarity can be built.

"But it's a challenge, and I think Mr Jospin is very, very conscious of that."

The French challenge to US-style capitalism is part of a growing worldwide movement. It came of age two years ago, when anti-globalisation protests in Seattle brought chaos to a meeting of the World Trade Organisation, which then failed to launch a planned new round of world trade liberalisation.

Now efforts are under way to re-launch the new trade round, covering areas like agriculture and services.

Workers' rights

But in France, the immediate goal of the anti-capitalist movement is to win better legal protection for workers in multi-national companies. The issue has dominated the news here since a major food company, Danone, and the British store chain Marks and Spencer both announced large-scale layoffs at short notice.

Mr Jospin, under pressure from his political allies and from the street protesters, has just pushed through new rules to guarantee workers the right of consultation before lay-offs are announced.

That is now a goal of the European Union, and Mr Jospin is proposing to enshrine workers' rights in a new EU "social treaty".


You see a fortress mentality building up in some respects on both sides of the Atlantic

Steven Simon, Institute of Strategic Studies
And Mr Jospin's ambitions go further. His model of European society would involve uniform high levels of business taxes, as well as the enforcement of employment rules to tame the capitalist instincts of the multinationals.

Laurence Tubiana explains: "The philosophy is to focus strongly on international conventions to defend the workers' rights, and to defend the social policy within a regional agreement like Europe, and to defend it against an excess of liberalisation."

Europe versus the US

More than 10 years after the end of the Cold War, the sense of an unbreakable alliance in the face of the threat from Soviet communism is giving way to a more competitive relationship. The countries of Europe have begun to define themselves in contrast to the United States.

With feelings running high on both sides of the Atlantic, Steven Simon of the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies says that old remedies may not work. A big effort will be needed to prevent US-Europe relations from getting worse.

"You see a fortress mentality building up in some respects on both sides of the Atlantic," he says.

Bush with Tony Blair
This is Bush's first visit to Europe as president
"There are a number of factors that contribute to this mentality. One of them is a US unwillingness to provide the technology to Europeans that would enable further cooperation on a transatlantic basis in the defence trade.

"And the other factor, of course, on the European side, is this sense that they need to protect their industries from American domination."

Mr Simon points out that it is difficult to sustain an alliance if that alliance is riven by trade rivalries that get out of hand.

"It's going to be in the interests of both the Europeans and the Americans to keep those rivalries, to the extent that they can, to a minimum, " he says.

It has been said that countries do not have eternal allies, only eternal interests. On his progress through Europe this week, President George W Bush and his European counterparts will find out whether their interests have now diverged more than either side has so far been ready to admit.

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See also:

04 Apr 01 | Americas
France turns heat on Bush
13 Jun 01 | Europe
Bush warns Nato of 'new threats'
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