The EU decision to delay Turkey's membership talks is a clear rebuff to the US, which campaigned long and hard for an early date, and a sobering reminder to Britain of the irresistible strength of France and Germany when they work together.
As Turkish officials and the media slammed the "prejudice" shown by the Copenhagen summiteers, Europeans were expressing irritation at the massive pressure from Washington on behalf of its NATO ally.
Faced with new signs of EU-US tension, Tony Blair put on a brave face, insisting that Turkish membership talks would follow automatically from the review of progress on human rights in December 2004, and that the decision had to be seen in the perspective of 40 years.
But there was no disguising Britain's unease that its instinctively Atlanticist position had lost to the more European-centered approach of Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder. France and Germany, in the latest in a series of joint policy initiatives that have worried Britain, suggested that the talks should begin in 2005 after a review in 2004. Turkey wanted 2003.
Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, wrote this week to Joschka Fischer, his German counterpart, telling him the offer was just not good enough. Mr Blair, Mr Bush's closest EU ally on Iraq, said as the summit began that 2005 was "too late" to launch negotiations. Hours later the leaders endorsed the Danish compromise under which a review would take place in December 2004. No date for actual talks was promised.
Britain was not alone in wanting a better outcome for the new reformist government in Ankara. Pro-American Spain and Italy were enthusiastic, as was Greece, which believes that its often difficult relations with its Aegean neighbor will be easier to manage with Turkey safely inside the EU.
But Mr Chirac and Mr Schröder both lead parties which are hostile to the idea of EU membership for 68 million Muslims.
"What the Americans fail to understand is the difference between a military alliance like NATO and the EU," a senior official said. "What we have to do is to persuade European consumers that they should be happy to have a Turkish head of the food standards agency. The EU is not about foreign policy but domestic issues."
Pascal Lamy, the French trade commissioner, said: "It's classic US diplomacy to want to put Turkey in Europe. The further the boundaries of Europe extend, the better US interests are served. Can you imagine the reaction if we told the Americans they had to enlarge into Mexico?"
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002