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Western Press Review: European Institutions And National Politics

  • Don Hill

Prague, 17 September 1997 (RFE/RL) -- From expanding the EU and organizing European monetary union to the politics and economies of individual countries, substantial Western commentary concentrates on European issues.

WALL STREET JOURNAL: European recovery will gain momentum

In a news analysis today of the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Review, made public yesterday, it is said IMF predicts that the global economy is entering a give-year period of prosperity. Staff writer David Wessel says one reason for the IMF's optimism is its finding that "unemployment and unused industrial capacity in continental Europe have kept the world economy from overheating, despite strong growth in the United States and some smaller industrialized countries." He says: "The agency expects the European recovery to gain momentum thanks to healthy export and interest-rate reductions made last year."

Wessel writes: "The IMF warned, however, that if European economic and monetary union isn't accompanied by moves to make labor markets more flexible and to reduce government budget deficits, 'there are likely to be serious consequences for Europe.' "

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The European Union is totally at odds on the EU's enlargement

In today's Suddeutsche Zeitung, commentator Josef Joffe reports that EU nations are embroiled in a strange dispute over EU enlargement. Joffe writes: "While Europe gazes spellbound at the euro and behaves as if the strict synchronization of national economic policies that a monetary union requires were totally guaranteed, the European Union is totally at odds on another key issue. It is that of the EU's enlargement, and it could be even more important than the common currency.

"The dispute among EU foreign ministers testifies to a strange split, with the Germans on one side favoring a small enlargement to include, say, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic so as to keep the cost, especially the cost of farm subsidies, to a minimum. On another are Athens and Madrid, who would soonest see no new members from eastern Europe because they are afraid for their own subsidies. And, finally, there are Belgium, France and Italy, who are taking an entirely different approach, arguing that the EU must first reform and only then enlarge."

He concludes: "Meanwhile the new democracies will be kept waiting. That is bad enough. The EU countries' proneness to disputes is even worse. They hold forth scant promise for the euro, which presupposes an iron common resolve."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Germany is tired of playing paymaster for the rest of Europe

Commentator Lionel Barber inaugurates today a regular bi-weekly column on Europe. Barber says that the EU nations, especially Germany, are myopic in their squabbling over expansion, focusing on the short-term costs and losing site of wider benefits. He writes: "Germany used to be the champion of the European Union's plans to expand eastwards." He says: "This week, the enlargement debate took off in Europe and the Germans turned coy." Barber added that the German message was: "Germany is tired of playing paymaster for the rest of Europe and is worried about the costs of admitting new members." The columnist believes that enlargement will proceed and that the quarreling's main effect is to make Europe look nearsighted. He concludes: "Enlargement will go ahead. The commitment stands. But once again the EU risks being seen by the world as myopic in the face of a historic challenge."

WASHINGTON POST: Moody's overstates its case

In a commentary today, an officer of a global money management firm takes Moody's rating agency to task for a Moody's report on Polish politics and their probable economic consequences. Charles Gati of Interinvest writes: "Moody's is concerned about the outcome of this Sunday's Polish parliamentary elections, which the pollsters call a tossup. The rating agency says that if the Democratic Left Alliance, dominated by ex-Communists, should lose after four years in power, 'Poland's economic achievements registered to date' will be imperiled."

The investment expert says: "This is strong stuff, the kind of unwelcome warning emerging countries often hear from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank or George Soros." He adds: "What makes the story intriguing is that the financial community in the West and in Warsaw too is rooting for the reelection of Poland's ex-Communist government and against Solidarity, the brave popular movement that undermined communist rule a decade ago. The reason: On economic issues, the modern, even suave ex-communists stand to the right of Solidarity and especially the two small parties that are its potential coalition partners."

Gati contends: "The polarization of Polish politics is more apparent than real. Leaders of Solidarity are not a bunch of untested demagogues. Nor is the still-active red-boy network as effective as it used to be. Moody's overstates its case."

DIE WELT: Sweden's unpopular Social Democratic government has sharply changed course

Commentator Alfred Zaenker writes today about new policies announced by the ruling Social Democratic Party in Sweden. He says the party's rekindling of socialistic welfare programs constitutes a desperate bid to rekindle its political popularity. Here's how Zaenker puts it: "In an act of political desperation, Sweden's unpopular Social Democratic government has sharply changed course by shelving austerity and announcing generous increases in spending on social programs. Exactly one year before parliamentary elections, the turnaround is aimed at appeasing labor unions and stanching the steady bleeding away of Social Democratic support toward the formerly communist Left Party."

Zenker writes: "The Swedish economy responded well to the initial success of the government's drive to put its financial house in order, with top firms like Ericsson, Electrolux, SKF, Volvo and Astra as well as the important wood finishing industry all expanding." And he says: "Economists and business officials, meanwhile, worry that the confidence of foreign investors in Sweden, won so painfully, could disappear and bring the currency, the krona, under pressure. If that happened, experts say that many large firms could decide to move their head offices abroad."

NEW YORK TIMES: Kohl is certain the tide of unfavorable opinion surveys will turn

And is an analysis today Alan Cowell addresses the smoldering political question in Germany. Can the politically tenacious Chancellor Helmut Kohl reestablish his grip on office in the coming German election year? Cowell's answer is that Kohl evidently thinks so. The writer says: "Kohl, Germany's most durable postwar chancellor, has been in power since 1982. He displays certainty that a tide of unfavorable opinion surveys will turn, as they have in the past; that reports of his political demise are exaggerated, and that German voters troubled by the introduction of a new European currency to replace their cherished marks will find, as they have in the past, that their leaders know far better than they do what is best for them."

The analysis says: "Seen close up, Kohl -- large, tall and impatient with contradiction -- seems to set more store by bluntness than by charm, his voice booming over those of his interlocutors, his hands reaching out to grasp those he is addressing to press home the points he is making."