Cablegate: Uk Pleased with First Month of French Presidency;


DE RUEHLO #2055/01 2191527
P 061527Z AUG 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L LONDON 002055



E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/07/2018



Classified By: Political Counselor Richard Mills for reasons 1.4 (b) an d (d)

1. (C) Summary. France has "listened to" London during the first month of the French Presidency of the EU, especially on issues of current importance to the UK such as Zimbabwe and Iran, and the FCO tells us HMG is optimistic about prospects for the remainder of the Presidency. Despite initial concern about French "overreaction" to the Irish vote on the Lisbon Treaty, London now believes President Sarkozy has struck the right note, according to Paul Williams, the new EU Correspondent at the Foreign Office. London wants to "give the Irish Government the time to listen to its voters" and then advise on what steps are needed to address those voters' concerns. HMG is prepared to "seriously consider" a deal on maintaining the current number of EU Commissioners and addressing Irish concerns about how EU security and defense policies impact Irish neutrality. HMG will not support any solution that leaves Ireland outside the current EU governing framework and creates a two-tier EU governance system. On other issues, the EU has no thought-out plan for addressing the Ukrainian Government's interest in EU membership and Williams said managing Kiev's expectations "will be a challenge." HMG has been closely working with Paris on an expanded EU sanctions package against Iran that implements and goes beyond UNSCR 1803, which will be announced soon. End summary.

French Off to a Good Start --------------------------

2. (C) HMG is pleased with the French Presidency thus far, Williams told Polcouns on August 1. The atmospherics and the substance of the Presidency have been "right on target," from the UK viewpoint, Williams said, noting the British were especially pleased at how much consultation Paris has undertaken with UK officials in Brussels and London, especially on issues of importance to HMG, such as Zimbabwe and Iran. The French have "let us take the lead on Zimbabwe," Williams claimed, and given Downing Street's strong interest in the issue, that has earned Paris some goodwill from the British side regarding other issues on the French Presidency's EU agenda.

3. (C) Williams pointed to the French reaction to the Irish vote on the Lisbon Treaty as an example of where the French Presidency has responded well, despite "some initial over-reaction." The UK view is that the Irish Government must be given all "the time needed" to work out the necessary steps to address voter concerns and report back to other EU governments. In the meantime, it sends exactly the wrong message to Irish voters, especially those concerned the Treaty gives the EU significant new powers, to have the French Presidency and EU Members wringing their hands over the defeat and arguing that a solution to the Treaty defeat must be worked out quickly. Williams was pleased that President Sarkozy and his government were now striking the right note about the Treaty, stressing the need to listen to Irish voters and giving the Irish Government time to work out a solution.

HMG Open to a Lisbon Treaty Fix --------------------------------

4. (C) Eventually Dublin will report to fellow EU Members that it needs some "fixes and work arounds" in order to take the Treaty back to the Irish voters, Williams speculated. He expected the Irish will want to maintain an Irish Commissioner and said London would "seriously consider" a deal that maintains the current number of commissioners as the price of an Irish ratification. He also expected that there will need to be some kind of EU statement or side agreement that addresses Irish concerns about the impact of EU defense and security policies on Irish neutrality ("a fairly tattered principle, but obviously a crucial part of the Irish national mythology," Williams commented), which London would not object to either.

5. (C) What London cannot accept is any resolution that creates a governance system for the EU under which Ireland opts out of the Treaty or most portions of it, creating a two-tier system for EU decision making and how Members engage with EU institutions. Williams did not think this was feasible in any case, but said HMG is firmly opposed, as a matter of principle, to the idea of Members opting out of agreements on the EU voting system, selection of a EU Council President, and other key governance responsibilities.

6. (C) The Irish Government may find that there is no fix that can change Irish voters' minds and that the defeat of the Treaty was a popular expression of frustration that, for all the economic benefits the EU has brought Ireland, the Irish people never agreed in 1973 or since to join a federal, centralized supra-state, Williams commented. The deal before the voters in 1973 was economic free market integration, "not political integration," and there may be no way to move forward until Irish voters are given the chance to decide that fundamental question. Williams noted that the same dynamic was at work in the UK -- the British people in 1973 agreed to join a free trade market and the arguments were over "economic pros and cons, not joining a political union." Because the UK public had "bought" the economic arguments for membership there is little serious debate about why the UK needs to be a part of the EU's economic work, Williams said, but there are "serious doubts in Middle England" about the political and security side of the EU.

Progress on Iran; Not on Ukraine ---------------------------------

7. (C) Williams admitted that "it is heavy lifting" on Iran within the EU, but London and the French Presidency were working closely and there "would be very important progress" on Iranian sanctions announced in early August. A EU sanctions package that implements UNSCR 1803 and goes beyond 1803's requirements had been agreed in late July, according to Williams, who provided no further details, but said new sanctions had taken a lot of work by Paris and London to achieve.

8. (C) Asked about EU thinking on future Ukrainian membership, Williams said that although it was far in the future, it was frustrating that EU Members could not agree amongst themselves on future membership for Kyiv. There is "no plan, and no agreement" on how to work with Ukraine, Williams said, and he worried that Ukraine had unrealistic expectations about how soon or how likely an accession process was. "Managing Ukrainian expectations will be difficult," he added. The UK view is the EU Membership for Kyiv is a realistic goal and its important to keep that possibility on the table as an incentive for economic and political progress in Ukraine, but he intimated that was not the majority view among EU Members.

Comment -------

9. (C) Williams' comments on the Lisbon Treaty and the need to "go slow" in addressing Irish concerns reflect the political sensitivity in the UK to any EU effort that is seen as overriding the will of the voters. The Brown Government's decision not to hold a referendum on the Treaty remains a volatile political issue here -- it will be re-ignited if the anti-EU UK media can point to how Brussels is ignoring the will of the Irish voters. Although Williams may have characterized UK opposition to any two-tier governance system for the EU as "a matter of principle," it is also in the UK national interest to block any two-tier governance system. As an EU Member which itself "opted out" of many key aspects of the EU project -- most notably the Eurozone and the visa-free travel area -- London has long been concerned about any suggestions that some Members should have less right to sit at the table or make governance decisions than others. It will not want Ireland, even if Dublin seeks it, to establish the precedent in this case. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX

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