Just who is isolated in Europe? Tony Blair is allegedly “isolated” from the rest of the continent as a result of his support for U.S. policy on Iraq. The Franco-German anti Iraq war declaration this week was clearly a sign for some commentators that Tony was on his own. Not true. Spain and Italy have both come out supporting the U.S. and Spain is even willing to send troops. Isolated? I would say that the big five in Europe are split right down the centre. I found this week's Chirac-Schroeder summit rather worrying. You got the impression that that they thought they were speaking for Europe because at the end of the day they are the heavyweights and the rest of the EU nations (apart from Britain) will just step into line. Chirac was speaking for France and Schroeder for Germany. End of story. I must admit that I favour France's declaration that war should be the last option rather than the sabre rattling of Bush, Blair, Aznar and Berlusconi.

But I also thought that the European Union was a bit more than just Britain, France and Germany. An equal voice among all members, I thought. Perhaps Europe should try and settle its differences and come to a mutual agreement involving all members on Iraq. This is the only way that European integration will work successfully. The EU faces one of its biggest tests in recent years on Iraq. There are other issues at stake also, such as NATO. France and Germany don't run Europe. At the end of the day they are two cogs in a malfunctioning machine known as the European Union.

Jason Moore

Return to normal

Elections in the Netherlands do not usually excite interest beyond the borders of Holland, but last year the extraordinary rise of an anti–immigration party, led until his assassination just before the election by the charismatic Pim Fortuyn, sent shock waves through other European countries where immigration is a growing problem.

Those in Fortuyn's party who were left to carry out his policies proved incapable of doing so and the party soon began to disintegrate.
In the election held this week, following the collapse of a centre–right government, the rump of the Fortuyn followers was further reduced to a point of insignificance.

One lesson to be drawn from the past year is that an occasional shock to a political system may bring unexpected benefits.
After thinking over what they had done when they succumbed to the anti–immigration arguments, 80 per cent of the Dutch electors turned out to vote and split their support between the two main parties which have served them well in the past – the Christian Democrats won 44 seats and the Labour party 42. Labour's result was the more impressive because it represented a return of most of the supporters who had previously defected to the Fortuyn group and taken some 20 seats with them.

This recovery can be attributed in considerable measure to Labour's new leader, Wouter Bos.
PP Coalition–building will now be necessary – something that the Dutch take to quite naturally and think quite normal, unlike the British.