Saturday, February 19, 2005

Bush on Europe and the EU constitution

Those looking to Bush for support of the EU constitution, - having been misled by the FT’s version of Condoleezza Rice’s press conference in Luxembourg – will find no comfort from his interview in the Telegraph today.

In response to questioning on his views on the constitution, he gave the following guarded reply:

Every time I meet the European leaders, I ask them how it's going, because I'm fascinated by the political integration. But I'm also wise enough not to comment about the European constitution, since I don't have anything to do about it – it's kind of a long answer to say, no, I'm not going to comment [laughter].

I've always been fascinated to see how the British culture and the French culture and the sovereignty of the nations, long-standing traditional sovereignty, can be integrated into a larger whole in a modern era. Progress is being made and I'm hopeful it works, because I think if we are united by alliance, by values in our alliance, one should not fear a strong partner, one should welcome a strong partner, because the values are long-lasting and will endure.
Some may feel that there is a crumb of comfort in the second paragraph, especially his phrasing: "Progress is being made and I'm hopeful it works", but this is neither a specific nor a ringing endorsement of the constitution.

Although he will undoubtedly be under considerable pressure next week to deliver supportive statement on the constitution, Bush's response in this interview gives the clue as to how he will respond.

Basically, it will be studied neutrality. The constitution is, after all, an internal affair for EU member states. And with referendums under way, it would be highly inappropriate for a US president to venture an opinion.

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