After suffering a spat with Washington over the war in Iraq, Paris is seeking to make amends by proposing a new transatlantic charter that would define the parameters of European-American relations.
French President Chirac and Foreign Minister de Villepin try to pick up transatlantic relations off the floor.
Diplomatically, it’s been a patchy year for French relations with the United States. French President Jacques Chirac tried everything he could to prevent Washington from going to war against Iraq. As thanks for his efforts, the U.S. Congress rechristened french fries as "freedom fries" and thousands boycotted French restaurants across the country, even those that, ironically, were owned by Americans.
Now the French are seeking ways to heal the transatlantic rift – one of the worst in postwar history. At a meeting of French ambassadors on Thursday, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin proposed establishing a new transatlantic charter that would redefine the relationship between Europe and the U.S. in the wake of the Iraq war.
"We are in a new strategic environment and certain fundamental elements of our relationship have changed," de Villepin said. "Our response to threats may differ on points; our conception of the role of the United Nations is not always the same."
The charter would focus on Europe's and America's common values and "complementary elements to be exploited." At the same time it would seek to "manage the differences" between Europe and the U.S. in de Villepin’s words, establishing framework for new dialogue and identifying areas where cooperation could be improved.
Chriac has been widely lampooned in the British and American press.
But observers are skeptical the United States will seriously consider de Villepin’s proposal, which he announced as part of his government’s foreign policy goals for the next year.
"These charters can only work if both parties are ready to compromise. The U.S. is not ready to be constrained in any of its actions by a new diplomatic charter," Guillaume Parmentier of the French Center on the United States told London’s Guardian newspaper.
But with relations at an all-time low, the French have nothing to lose in trying.
"We have a new history to write," de Villepin said. "Perhaps the moment has come to base a new European-American partnership on a transatlantic charter."