Two days after the left’s election victory in Spain, the French and German leaders met in Paris Tuesday to contemplate a European scene profoundly altered by the Madrid bombings and the departure of one of their leading opponents inside the European Union.
President Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder were accompanied by their foreign ministers Dominique de Villepin and Joschka Fischer for talks at the Elysee palace focussing on the implications of conservative leader Jose Maria Aznar’s dramatic electoral collapse on Sunday.
Aznar’s surprise defeat — widely attributed to his mishandling of the aftermath of Thursday’s rail attacks in Madrid — removed a key figure in the pro-US group of EU nations that supported the war in Iraq and backed liberalising reforms of the Franco-German protective social model.
By promptly stating his desire to restore “magnificent” relations with France and Germany, his replacement — the Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero — signalled a major shift in the EU’s balance of power back to what US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld referred to as “old Europe,” analysts said.
“By torpedoing the BAB axis — Blair-Aznar-Berlusconi — the change of government automatically strengthens the Franco-German position,” the daily Le Figaro said, arguing that the Italian and British prime ministers Silvio Berlusconi and Tony Blair have been badly damaged by the Spanish election result.
“Spain once more in heart of Old Europe,” headlined the Times newspaper of London.0