Source Pravda.Ru

Europe divided between big fish and small fry

An informal dinner to which the leaders of some EU countries were invited, and others not, has caused anger from those who were left out.

The informal dinner was called by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair. The venue, Number 10 Downing Street. The agenda, discussion on the political settlement in a post-Taleban Afghanistan and feedback after Mr. Blair’s recent tour of the Middle east, in which he visited Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, the Palestine Authority and Israel. The guests, President Jacques Chirac and Premier Lionel Jospin of France, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the President of the Italian Council of Ministers, Silvio Berlusconi, the prime Ministers of Spain (Jose Maria Aznar), Belgium, hosting the EU Presidency (Guy Verhofstadt) and the Netherlands (Wim Kok) and the EU Foreign Policy Commissioner, Javier Solana.

Wim Kok was reportedly invited as an afterthought, after he had heard that the meeting was to take place without him. After a heated telephone call with Tony Blair, he was invited. Also unimpressed was the Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Guterres. The situation between these countries is at present delicate because of the unpopular mini-Summit between the UK, France and Germany recently and the cancellation of the visit of President Jorge Sampaio due to Tony Blair’s Middle East trip.

The Portuguese prime Minister’s office issued a statement declaring “Initiatives of this type contribute neither towards the cohesion of the antiterrorist coalition not for European unity”.

Tony Blair’s office in Downing Street defended the meeting as an informal dinner in which the “main military contributors” to the current conflict could exchange opinions and up-date information on the situation in the Middle East, which Mr. Blair heard first-hand.

John ASHTEAD PRAVDA.Ru LONDON UNITED KINGDOM