France, one of the founders and most active member states of the European Union, is struggling to adapt to a much-bigger bloc which it fears will water down its influence and challenge its leadership on EU foreign policy, European experts said.
Those concerns, and the wariness it has engendered among many of the 10 new EU members towards Paris, could cause strains along the way, they said.
That explains why “France has been dragging its heels over enlargement,” Philippe Moreau-Desfarge of the French Institute on International Relations said.
While the row that broke out over President Jacques Chirac’s rebuke to central European states’ support of the US war on Iraq that they “lost a good occasion to keep quiet” still stings in Warsaw, Prague and Budapest, it was just the latest in a long string of run-ins, analysts said.
In the early 1990s, for instance, Chirac’s predecessor, Francois Mitterrand, suggested that central Europe form its own bloc rather than seek to join the wealthier western European club.0