By George Parker in Bucharest
Romania's president has warned France to stop lecturing his country over its close links with London and Washington, as he prepares to sign a treaty to join the European Union.
Traian Basescu said he wanted to form a "special relationship" with the US and Britain to improve security in the Black Sea region, and aligned himself with London's liberal economic policies.
The stance has angered France, Romania's biggest supporter in the EU, and could exacerbate fears in Paris that it is losing its grip on an expanding union.
Romania and Bulgaria will sign the accession treaty next Monday, paving the way for them to join on January 1 2007, bringing the union's membership to 27.
Members of Romania's centre-right government made clear in interviews with Brussels-based journalists that they saw themselves as Atlanticists and pro-free-trade, a mindset dubbed by Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, as New Europe.
"Traditionally we have worked together with London and Washington," Mr Basescu said.
"traditional" poate ca e cam mult spus...
Romania sent troops to Iraq, and he said he had resented French criticism of that policy. Jacques Chirac, French president, had caused offence in 2003 when he told EU candidate countries to "shut up" over Iraq, he said. Michel Barnier, French foreign minister, had recently compounded the insult when he said Mr Basescu did not have "a European reflex".
'lipsa reflexului european' va fi o sintagma ce va face ecouri din pacate
"Romania is a country which has respect for itself," Mr Basescu said. "France is one of our main supporters, but at the same time we do not like these kind of declarations."
Asked which economic model he would pursue, he said it would be a "more liberalised" system. "We want to have a state with minimal involvement in the economy," he said.
Mr Basescu's pro-Washington approach has disconcerted Paris, which has deep historic links with Romania.
In a separate interview, Calin Tariceanu, Romania's prime minister, said he was "worried" the EU constitutional treaty might be rejected by France, provoking a political crisis in Europe.
o astefel de rejectie poate veni in oarecare masura si din cauza 'fricii' francezilor de atitudinile si comportamentul 'noilor europeni'
"It would cause enormous disillusionment to see external political issues interfering with the accession of Romania and Bulgaria," he said. But Mr Tariceanu also said he was confident his country would complete the reforms demanded by Brussels and join the EU on schedule.
daca n-ar fi fost vorba de politica in primul rand, domnule Tariceanu, Romania si altii n-ar avea ce cauta in Europa; ce credeti ca este unic si intrinsec in 'noua Europa' fara de care 'vechea Europa' sa nu poata functiona?
Bucharest is trying to crack down on graft and improve the judiciary's performance: areas selected for criticism by the European Commission.
With gross domestic product per head of little more than 30 per cent of the EU average, Romania will be the poorest country to join the union, and some EU members will impose restrictions to stop its workers heading west to find jobs.
Recently, 86 per cent of Romanians backed joining the bloc.