Republican victory worries Europe

BRUSSELS NOV. 7. The Europeans on Thursday greeted the news of the strong Republican victory in the United States elections with mixed feelings, amid growing fears that the Bush win may be treated as a mandate for war in Iraq.

The European perception is that with Democrats losing control of Congress, there is less hope of a shift in the Bush administration's thinking on the issue.

On the positive side, the stunning Republican victory could pave the way for crucial tax reforms that may provide the economic stimulus for the U.S. and European economies. This may herald extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement to the European Union countries. Senior European diplomats were on Thursday quoted as saying that a buoyant Bush administration now had little reason to shift from a unilateral foreign policy stance. "The Europeans will continue to give the U.S. a free hand to pursue its own interests because neither the U.S. nor the E.U. has collective or institutional clout,'' an E.U. official said. "The only ones that have any clout are France and Britain because they sit on the U.N. Security Council. But, neither speaks for Europe... . The myth that the Democrats or American liberals would appear on the political scene is now over, at least in the short-term. ''

The E.U. is a divided house. Germany is trying hard to mend its diplomatic fences with the Bush administration, which has yet to respond positively to Berlin's overtures. France and Britain follow their own agenda, although the former is seen as taking initiatives to challenge the extreme U.S. stance on Iraq. Italy and Spain are more interested in cultivating bilateral relations with the Bush administration - even to the extent of providing military support over Iraq.

According to European commentators, the election results also reveal the stark contrast between the U.S. and Europe. Mr. Bush carries a poor image in the European media and forums but he has secured his power with an agenda that no mainstream European party could put before its voters and win.

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