Corridors of Power: Washington’s Parade of European Leaders, Juan Carlos vs. Chávez, and More

Corridors of Power: Washington’s Parade of European Leaders, Juan Carlos vs. Chávez, and More

SEEKING REASSURANCE -- After French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Washington last week, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas, at the weekend, the flow of high-level European visitors continues in early December when Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano is due to visit -- followed in February by Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. The White House wants to show it has friends in Europe to support its tough Iran policy, its efforts in Afghanistan, and its new missile defense deployment in Eastern Europe.

Visiting European leaders, on the other hand, are seeking reassurance that Bush's lame duck administration is not seriously contemplating going out with a bang by attacking nuclear ambitious Iran -- a spreading fear in Europe. The visitors agree instead to more sanctions against Tehran, and stronger rhetoric that stops well short of military action. Two new reports on Iran's compliance -- or lack of it -- to demands to end its uranium enrichment program are due out by the end of the month, one by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and the other by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

UNTANGLING EU REGULATIONS -- One meeting last week that got less attention than it deserves was the inaugural session of the newly formed Transatlantic Economic Council, a joint EU-U.S. senior body that seeks to integrate the two economies, primarily by removing some of the obstacles faced by corporations seeking to do business on the other side of "the pond." Trade between the European Union and the United States averages $2.83 billion a day, or 40 percent of world trade, but there is wide agreement that if the path were smoother for transatlantic exporters it could be much more.

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