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Western Press Review: Europe Verges On Unity


By Don Hill/Esther Pan



Prague, 1 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Two major international developments take great leaps this weekend, potentially bringing Europe forever out of its contentious history into a breathtaking new unity. NATO expansion won enthusiastic approval from the U.S. Senate yesterday. And, starting today, the EU begins the final, irrevocable last lap toward monetary union.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The introduction of the euro will have far-reaching implications

The Chicago Tribune's Ray Mosely writes from Brussels in a news analysis of the labor pains of the euro: "European leaders meet here (today) for one of the most momentous summits in the European Union's history, a meeting that will set the stage for the introduction next January 1 of a European single currency that could become a challenger to the almighty dollar.

Moseley says: "The introduction of the euro, the main business of the summit, will have far-reaching implications for European and world economies. Initially, 11 European nations stretching from Finland in the north to Portugal in the west and Italy in the south will participate, abandoning their national currencies to create the second-largest economy in the world after that of the United States."

FINANCIAL TIMES: The prize that lies ahead for Europe is a tempting one

The Financial Times, London, editorializes today that the euro is likely to increase competition, lower prices, improve productivity, bolster trade, and promote political stability. The newspaper says: "Sometimes a (so-called) historic event really is historic." It says: "The prize that lies ahead for Europe is a tempting one. If the euro lives up to its potential, the economies of member countries will benefit greatly. There will be greater competition, more efficiency and better deals for the consumer. Price transparency will exert powerful downward pressure on costs. And those economies that have had unpredictable inflation rates, such as Italy and Spain, will permanently shift to a new era of low and stable inflation, a clear gain to savers and to industry."

NEW YORK TIMES: For the United States, the benefits of a successful euro could include greater political and economic stability

And an analysis in Wednesday's New York Times by Richard W. Stevenson concludes that the effect on the U.S. economy and the dollar will be mixed. The writer says: "There is a growing consensus on both sides of the Atlantic that monetary union will have substantial ripple effects on the United States. And the euro could bring profound changes to an international financial system in which the dollar has been the anchor since a system of fixed exchange rates collapsed in the early 1970s and the dominant currency since the British pound started to lose influence and strength in the 1930s and '40s. For the United States, the benefits of a successful euro could include greater political and economic stability on a continent that has spawned world wars. It could also make Europe an easier, less expensive region for American companies to sell their products and services."

DIE WELT: The euro is destined to change the events of the third millennium

Columnist-commentator Christian von Hiller wrote yesterday in Germany's Die Welt: "Only one person in Europe has ever undertaken a project of this magnitude in the past. Charlemagne succeeded in the colossal task of reuniting Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire when he was crowned holy Roman emperor in 800 AD." Von Hiller said: "The euro is destined to change the events of the third millennium. The common currency is intended to help unite the continent that has argued and battled for hundreds of years."

DERNIERES NOUVELLES D'ALSACE: The presidency of the European Central Bank promises to be the principal hot point

Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace, Strasbourg, focuses in an editorial on a current controversy. It says: "The question of the presidency of the European Central Bank promises to be the principal hot point at the Brussels summit on the euro this weekend. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel yesterday declined to designate another candidate besides the Dutch Wim Duisenberg or the French Jean-Claude Trichet. One of these men will take the job, declared Kinkel, indicating that the decision will be made in Brussels in any case. But while waiting, Bonn has launched the candidacy of a falcon of the Bundesbank, Otmar Issing."

DE VOLKSKRANT: Giving up the guilder is a small price to pay for stronger European unity

De Volkskrant, from Amsterdam, says today in an editorial: "The euro is at heart not an economic project but a political one. The euro is the symbol for ever greater cooperation in Europe since the Second World War. Often political cooperation follows economic projects." It says: "Giving up the guilder is a small price to pay for stronger European unity."

EL MUNDO: The change to the euro means we need a new linguistic creation

Commentator Manuel Hidalgo, writing in today's El Mundo, Madrid, contemplates the linguistics of the thing: "The change to the euro means we need a new linguistic creation for (small change). Euroteros? No way! This urgently demands a creator of the language who can save the day with a precise word for those we call peseteros. The contest is open. What is interesting here is that the prefix euro, with those who use it as an adjective, will take substance with the currency. This is more significant than we may think: that the adjective of Europe can be many things, but the substance is, for lending and circulation purposes, money."

LA REPUBBLICA: A change comes onto the old continent with stronger political implications

The final word on the euro comes from today's La Repubblica, Rome. The paper editorializes: "The birth of the common currency is a turning point without precedent in the changeable history of Europe. No one knows where the adventure beginning in Brussels will lead. After 50 years of peace Europe is seeking to banish wars, totalitarianism and partitions by becoming a unified object -- and the only common denominator today is currency.

"It is a one-dimensional construction, because it has the market as its only horizon, without politics or institutions. And so onto the old continent comes a change with stronger political implications: that 11 countries with 290 million inhabitants would celebrate a relinquishing of sovereignty -- when the euro replaces their national currencies -- without being pushed to it by war."

On NATO:

NEWSDAY: The U.S. Senate confirmed Europe's post Cold War transformation

"The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved (yesterday) adding three formerly Communist countries to NATO, confirming Europe's post Cold War transformation into a Western dominated continent and limiting potential Russian influence for the foreseeable future," Roy Gutman writes today in the U.S. newspaper Newsday.

WASHINGTON POST: NATO expansion is by far Congress' biggest achievement so far this year

In a Washington Post news analysis, Helen Dewar says the Senate action was foreordained: "Approval was virtually assured before the debate even started: It was the result of months of laborious efforts by the administration and Senate supporters, reinforced by the powerful symbolism of NATO's inclusion of former Warsaw Pact members, pressure from ethnic constituencies and the prospect of new markets for the American defense industry at a time of shrinking U.S. demand. The vote constituted a major foreign policy victory for both Clinton and Republican leaders, who joined in a rare joint effort to win Senate approval, brushing aside partisan hostilities that have stalled, delayed or complicated other major legislation. NATO expansion is by far Congress' biggest achievement so far this year."

HOUSTON CHRONICLE: Expanding into former Warsaw Pact territory on Russia's doorstep will only isolate the new democracy

But Greg McDonald notes in a news analysis in the Houston Chronicle that contrary viewpoints did arise. He writes: "With Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland added to the Western alliance membership, NATO would abut Russia along a narrow strip of land on the Baltic. Supporters do not see that situation as something that might provoke Moscow, calling it a natural expansion to include the new democracies in Eastern Europe.

"Opponents said that expanding into former Warsaw Pact territory on Russia's doorstep would only isolate the new democracy and create bigger military headaches for the United States. They urged their colleagues to consider the possible consequences."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: NATO expansion remains an idea for which no convincing case has yet been made

Before the vote, the Los Angeles Times worried editorially: "Is NATO expansion an irredeemably bad idea? No. But it remains an idea for which no convincing case has yet been made. And that makes the action the Senate is about to take a cause for concern, not celebration."



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