PRESIDENT Clinton was described as ``a European in Paris'' after a day-long visit to the French capital Tuesday, during which he encouraged Europeans to continue the integration of their continent even while opening up to the new free-market democracies of Eastern Europe.
Though his meetings and major foreign-policy speech involved French leaders, the American president clearly meant to address all of Europe. ``We must set our sights on a strategic star,'' he told the French National Assembly. ``Let that star be the integration and strengthening of the broader Europe.''
With European Parliament elections today and Sunday, and Austrians voting in a referendum on European Union membership Sunday - a referendum expected to influence the outcome of membership referendums in three other candidate countries this fall - and with talks for settling the Bosnian conflict at a crucial stage, a doubt-ridden Europe got a pep talk from the leader of the Euro-American partnership.
In the major policy address of Mr. Clinton's eight-day European tour, he referred to the determination that led to fascism's defeat in Europe nearly 50 years ago, acknowledging the challenge of ``uniting our people around the opportunities of peace'' at a time when ``they do not feel themselves in imminent peril.''
Principles of integrated Europe
Clinton said creation of an integrated Europe, to which he pledged full American support, hinges on the successful extension of three driving principles: security, free-market economics, and democracy.
Concerning security, the president cited the attraction of NATO's Partnership for Peace program - a kind of interim association focused on former members of the Warsaw Pact. And he reminded French lawmakers of NATO's decision to allow Alliance equipment to be used by the Western European Union, the EU's developing defense organization.
On the Bosnian conflict, Clinton insisted that diplomacy had not been barren. The war has been contained, an air war has been precluded, and the largest humanitarian effort ever undertaken has saved perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives, he said. His Bosnia summation appeared to convince few French analysts. But his praise of France's crucial role in maintaining the largest contingent of peacekeepers in Bosnia and a post-speech declaration that lifting the arms embargo now would only add to hostilities, seemed certain to please French officials.
On free-market economics in Eastern Europe, Clinton encouraged Western Europe to open up to the East's products - a policy that trade-sensitive France has been reluctant to adopt. ``If our new friends are not able to export their goods,'' he said, ``they may instead export instability.''
Clinton's day in Paris took place at a time of mixed signals about the Continent's direction. Signs are growing that the worst post-war recession is over or ending in Western Europe. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development this week revised upwards its growth forecasts for industrialized countries, predicting increased European exports.
But still-rising unemployment - already at a record 11 percent in the EU - and newly rising interest rates in the US are dampening hopes for European growth.
On Monday, EU finance ministers retreated further from an ambitious economic program for job creation and infrastructure development. The Paris daily Le Monde lamented in a front-page editorial that EU governments appeared to have ``neither the necessary will nor the necessary imagination'' to overcome the economic challenges of Europe-wide projects.
EU unity has been made to look like a masquerade by an internal quarrel over Greece's decision to close its border with the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. Greece's actions, accompanied by a growing tension with neighboring Albania over the latter's Greek minority population, have embarrassed the EU - especially when Greece holds the Union's rotating six-month presidency.
European leadership coordination
On a brighter note for Europe's integration, Germany and France have pledged to coordinate during their consecutive EU presidencies, which begin with Germany in July. That should boost prospects for Eastern Europe's integration into the EU, a goal the German government places at the top of its list. This week Spain chimed in, saying it would also coordinate with its predecessors during its July 1995 presidency, taking the EU to 1996 with integrationists at Europe's helm.
That is significant, because in 1996 the EU holds a new institution revision convention that could determine if Europe is able to work as the kind of strong, equal partner Clinton says he wants.