Clinton calls on Europe to open doors to the East

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The Independent Online
President Bill Clinton told French politicians yesterday that the United States wanted a strong Europe, open to the emerging democracies of the former Soviet bloc. The first US President to address the French parliament since Woodrow Wilson 76 years ago told the Fifth Republic's National Assembly that the US intended to 'remain engaged in Europe'.

Drawing on the message of the D-Day 50th anniversary ceremonies he attended in Normandy - that the fight against fascism in Europe forged the modern alliances that now shape the West - Mr Clinton said that after the war Europe and the US had united in the Cold War.

'Now we have arrived at this century's third moment of decision,' he said. Although Communism had fallen, there is 'a cancerous presence eating away at states', he said, a 'purposeless slaughter in Bosnia'. He added: 'All of us want to bring an end to the fighting, it is a mighty challenge . . . it will require resources. It will take years, even decades.'

The President spoke without notes, which impressed many listeners. 'With all the pride we have in our culture, we have few politicians who can do that really well,' an associate of President Francois Mitterrand said. His message was one repeated by American presidents since the war, that Europe should strive to be strong. However, in the past, signs of Europe striking out alone have made them nervous. Now, Mr Clinton said, the biggest challenge will be for Europe and the US to stay united with no clear common enemy. 'Our alliance is at a critical point,' he said.

'It will require us to do what is very difficult for democracies - to unite our peoples when they do not feel themselves in imminent peril, to confront more distant threats and to seize challenging and exciting opportunities.'

He added: 'America will remain engaged in Europe . . . America wishes a strong Europe and Europe should wish a strong America.' On East Europe, he said the West should open its markets. 'If our new friends are not able to export their goods, they may instead export instability, even against their own will.'

Mr Clinton's first visit to France since he became President has not been easy. In Normandy, Second World War veterans reminded him of his opposition to the Vietnam War. Yesterday, Mr Clinton saw Edouard Balladur, the Prime Minister, and members of the governing conservative alliance. In the evening he was the guest of President Mitterrand at an Elysee Palace dinner.

French-American relations have been strained recently. But yesterday such matters were kept in the background. French businessmen said that they were impressed with his openness. 'He has a real charisma,' said Jean-Rene Fourtou, chairman of the chemical giant, Rhone-Poulenc.

Leader who never fought, page 17

Foreign policy disaster, page 17

(Photograph omitted)

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