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Western Press Review: The Politics Of The European Economic Union

By Ron Synovitz and Dora Slaba

Prague, 23 October 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The politics of European economic integration is the subject of western press commentary today.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: This super-union will be a global economic force

An opinion by columnist William Pfaff says that European Monetary Union will lead to the creation of what he calls "a European super union." Pfaff writes: "The European single currency is a leap into the dark. No one can be certain that the countries which join the currency union will be able to keep their budget priorities and business cycles close enough to one another for the currency to work. Nonetheless, they are determined to try, and the record shows that it is foolish to underestimate these European gambles."

Pfaff says the creation of the Euro currency will resolve what he calls "the problems presented by the countries in Central and Eastern Europe demanding EU membership." He says: "They can be admitted to the outer Europe, where they will not interfere with the 'deepening' Union of inner Europe. This super-union will be a global economic force with a capacity for economic decision and action rivaling that of the United States. The scenario for the start of the 21st century must be rewritten."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: European politicians haven't yet focused on proprietary trading

A news analysis today's by Robert Bonte-Friedheim addresses the threat posed to monetary union by the proprietary-trading desks of big commercial and investment banks. Bonte-Friedheim says European politicians are overly concerned about the threat to the euro's stability from so-called hedge funds. He writes: "Remember Black Wednesday, the day in 1992 when, lore has it, that well-known hedge-fund manager George Soros 'broke' the Bank of England by forcing it to devalue the pound and earned a tidy 1 billion pounds in the process? The proprietary desk were there, too."

Bonte-Friedheim notes that while the rest of England refers to the crash of the pound as "Black Wednesday," the proprietary traders in London call it "White Wednesday" because of the money they earned. He says: "Indeed, letting hedge funds get the ink (negative press coverage) has its advantages, as shown recently when Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad accused Mr. Soros of crimes against his country and ignored prop desks, which, market sources say, have been making a bundle by betting that overvalued Asian currencies would fall."

Bonte-Friedheim concludes: "European politicians haven't yet focused on proprietary trading because it's a less-public activity where top bankers, who aren't accountable to outside clients, invest their institutions' own money in closely-guarded ways... Many banks are licking their fingers at these kinds of profits."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: President Santer is tackling the unemployment issue with great determination

Andreas Oldag praises a speech made yesterday by EU Commission President Jacques Santer to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. In particular, Oldag compliments Santer's call for a European employment policy. Oldag writes: "It is very much to the credit of the Brussels authorities that Commission President Santer is tackling the unemployment issue with great determination. What issue could provide better evidence that the EU is not just a lofty, bureaucratic institution but also takes care of people's immediate worries?"

But Oldag goes on to complain about the view of many members of the European Parliament that Brussels can "just hand out millions to create more employment." He writes: "The EU is already supplying gigantic subsidies. The Commission should concentrate on the areas which can be sensibly tackled from Brussels. The first is the completion of the common market: despite great successes there are still many impediments to free movement of goods and people. Unfair tax competition blocks investments. The current practice of EU member states to nurse outdated businesses back to health with state funds hinders the development of competitive industries. If the Commission were to contribute toward breaking down these hindrances, there would also be more jobs."

GUARDIAN: Politicians offered a much grimmer perspective of mass unemployment

Martin Walker says today that Santer's depiction of Europe is too optimistic in terms of the willingness of countries to join monetary union. Walker says: "As leaders of the main political groups debated the address in parliament, they offered a much grimmer perspective of a continent battered by mass unemployment and deeply cynical of grandiose promises." Walker notes that: "By the time Mr Santer finished his speech, only 21 of the 626 members of the European Parliament were still in the chamber, even though the Amsterdam treaty has given the parliament new powers to review and even block the EU's big strategic goals of enlargement and monetary union."

Walker concludes: "An EU that is proposing to harmonize tax rates and monetary policies now finds itself confronting a serious cleavage" over moves by France and Italy to cut unemployment by introducing a 35-hour work week.

Western newspapers today also are commenting on the resolution of a political crisis in Russia between the Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's government and the Communist-dominated State Duma.

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE: The Duma backed down from the threat of a no-confidence vote

An editorial today say the Communists' threat of a no-confidence vote was "not so much aimed at Prime Minister Chernomyrdin as it was against his deputies (Anatoly) Chubais and (Boris) Nemtsov." The newspaper says: "Yeltsin's two foster sons are dedicated followers whereas the prime minister has tried to reach at least a reasonable relationship with the Duma. This time Chernomyrdin also made offers to the opposition, resulting in some vague compromises from the government that led the Duma to back down from the threat of a no-confidence vote. The fact that their leader Gennady Zyuganov has agreed to this compromise may cause Zyuganov considerable discomfort in his own ranks. On the other hand the government also will have to learn a lesson from the conflicts of the recent days. Yeltsin has achieved a tactical victory. But at the same time he will have to try to achieve a better relationship with the Duma."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Boris Yeltsin has again made his claim to the position of the powerful ruler

An analysis piece by Miriam Neubert says that the withdrawal of the motion for a no-confidence vote means political disaster for Zyuganov. Neubert says: "Boris Yeltsin has again made his claim to the position of the powerful ruler over the government. The Duma has, in this way, strengthened his position as the head of the house in Russia. Now Zyuganov's own followers are accusing him of being an opportunist."

Neubert predicts that Zyuganov M-A-Y attempt to win back his lost prestige by raising objections to the 1998 budget. She concludes: "This is not a good omen for a country which is just now trying to achieve credibility in the international economy."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Recent events complete a striking transformation in Mr Chernomyrdin's reputation

Moscow correspondent John Thornhill says Chernomyrdin is the big winner of the political feud. Thronhill says: "The recent turn of events completes a striking transformation in Mr Chernomyrdin's reputation, putting him back at the center of the Russian political stage and sparking speculation he may succeed Mr Yeltsin (as president) in 2002."

Thornhill continues: "It was previously thought Mr Chernomyrdin had been largely marginalized by Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, the two first deputy prime ministers, who had been busy setting the government's reformist agenda." Thornhill concludes: "But while the political elite in Moscow may be singing Mr Chernomyrdin's praises, it is not clear the rest of the country is similarly minded. Opinion polls show Mr Chernomyrdin has the support of just two percent of the population."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Communism seems all but dead in Russia

Michael Specter says that the future of Russia's Communist Party has darkened because of what he calls "a new loss to Yeltsin." Specter writes: "After years of ideological intransigence and increasing political irrelevance, all it really took was a huff and a puff to bring the party of Lenin and Stalin to its knees." Specter concludes: "The Communist Party of Russia... controls the country's toothless Parliament and not much else... Communism as an idea and an institution seems all but dead in Russia."