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Western Press Review: From The EU To Korea

By Joel Blocker, Anthony Georgieff, and Dora Slaba

Prague, 24 June 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentators touch on a wide variety of subjects today. Several discuss issues related to the European Union, while others take up problems in Turkey, Kashmir and between the two Koreas.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: NATO and the EU are rivals for influence over Europe's future

In a commentary for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, columnist William Pfaff says that NATO's intervention in Kosovo has not only changed the 19-member trans-Atlantic alliance but the 15-nation EU as well -- making the two organizations "rivals for influence over Europe's future." He writes: "Taking charge of Kosovo will change the ... Union. By acting on the (justified) assumption that Balkan stability and reconciliation are essential to European stability, the EU puts itself in the Balkans for the long term. ... This changes the direction and significance, as well as the nature, of EU expansion."

The commentary goes on: "The Central and East European applicants for EU membership thus lose their priority. They have already found their wait irksome, even unreasonable. While the EU has ostensibly been assessing their qualifications and awaiting internal changes to conform to EU norms, the real reason for the delay has been that the West Europeans have not decided what Europe they want."

Pfaff adds that if "they want a 'federal' Europe they cannot, in the foreseeable future, take in the Central and East European candidates. The cost of reducing existing economic and social differences would be too great for a Western Europe suffering high unemployment and sluggish economic performance."

He argues, too, that Central and East European nations "are disillusioned with Western Europe, [saying] that the EU has been arrogant in it demands for reform and highly protectionist [in contrast to NATO, which is seen] 'as a welcoming community of values and destiny.'" Pfaff concludes: The EU's "risk is to find itself politically outflanked by NATO in Central and Eastern Europe, at a moment when the Kosovo war has revealed its military dependence on the U.S. Such a loss of independence may be the price of [Europe's] indecision."

BERLINGSKE TIDENDE: The euro is a beautiful but useless project

Denmark's Berlingske Tidende daily calls the euro, the EU's new common currency, "a beautiful but useless project" in an editorial today. The paper writes: "[The euro's] exchange rate dropped [further yesterday] simply because of a few unclear remarks [to a group of Italian industrialists] by the soon-to-be President of the [EU's Executive] Commission, Romano Prodi. The market reacted by pushing the euro down ..."

According to the paper, "the incident shows that the most enthusiastic euro countries [such as Italy] are the ones that have trouble adhering to the budgetary discipline that is the key element of [EU monetary union]. The [currency] market reacts hyper-sensitively to all economic signals. It is bound to react vehemently today when the German government reveals the savings plan that it has worked out to avoid the kind of [high-deficit] problems that the Italian budget is now experiencing."

The editorial concludes: "If the Germans relax their control over their economic development, as they are expected to do today, they may succeed in provoking some artificial growth, but the euro project will find itself in even greater difficulties."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Britain will remain outside a uniting Europe for a long time

The International Herald Tribune carries a commentary by former EU official Roy Denman, who believes Britain will now remain outside the euro zone for "perhaps 10 to 20 years, perhaps even longer. This," he says. "is a major change [in British policy]."

Denman writes that Prime Minister Tony Blair's announced intention to hold a referendum on Britain joining the EU monetary union "has been blown away by the British vote in this month's European [Parliament] elections. Labor's abject defeat by an apathetic electorate," he says, "... revealed an intense public hostility to the euro, which has clearly shaken Mr. Blair."

He adds: "The crucial issue is political. A Britain genuinely committed to building a European federation could play a major role in the world. ... If Mr. Blair put this to the people with courage, he could change the mood. But he will not," Denman concludes. "Britain is going to be outside a uniting Europe for a long, long time."

WASHINGTON POST: Food has become a new trans-Atlantic battleground

In The Washington Post today, foreign-affairs columnist Jim Hoagland discusses what he calls "Europe's food fright." He writes: "At loggerheads over the quality and importance of food throughout history, Americans and French now diverge on its safety. The old saying that Americans eat to live and the French live to eat takes on new meaning as scientifically altered vegetables and beef move on to the cutting edge of international politics."

The commentary continues: "The narrow-gauge politics of trade animates a continuing intercontinental food fight, with U.S. farmers eager to dominate markets Europeans would like to keep to themselves. But the fears and suspicions European consumers increasingly voice about so-called Frankenstein food grown in the U.S. and exported to them seem to go far beyond the usual search for commercial advantage or national pride in agriculture. Food has become a new trans-Atlantic battleground on which science, theology, superstition and trust in government are clashing forces."

Hoagland adds: "The Belgian government fell this month in part because of its dismal handling of a food scare involving reports of cancer-causing chickens and animal fats. France and other European countries have swept Coca-Cola from supermarket shelves because of mysterious headaches and stomach upset reported by consumers ...

"Food safety," he sums up, "is becoming an explosive issue that needs to be handled with openness, candor and sensitivity by U.S. corporations and officials. Giving the impression that U.S. politicians and corporations are determined to ride roughshod over Europe on food safety would be catastrophic for U.S. political and commercial interests abroad."

NEW YORK TIMES: Turkey should spare Ocalans life

The New York Times today discusses the ongoing trial of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan in Turkey. The paper writes in an editorial: "For weeks Ocalan, whose 15-year campaign of terrorism and violence has resulted in some 30,000 deaths, has been proposing a deal. Spare his life, he says, and he will work to persuade his militant followers to negotiate a peaceful solution to the Kurdish revolt."

According to the paper, "Ocalan's offer should be tested. He ought to pay for his crimes. But lengthy imprisonment, not hanging, is the appropriate punishment. Ankara should not pass up what could be a rare chance to end Turkey's most corrosive political problem."

The NYT continues: "Over the years, Turkey's harsh response to even non-violent Kurdish activism has led to severe human-rights abuses. Writers, journalists and elected officials have been arrested and peaceful political parties banned. These abuses have made Turkey a pariah in Europe and set back its ambitions for European Union membership. In response to Ocalan's violence, the country's armed forces have devastated Kurdish-inhabited areas of southeastern Turkey, razing villages and driving tens of thousands of refugees to Ankara and Istanbul."

The editorial concludes: "Ocalan now offers a realistic chance of ending this conflict. Turkey should spare his life and see whether he can deliver."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: India and Pakistan remain adamant

Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung turns its attention to the recent outbreak of violence between India and Pakistan in the disputed province of Kashmir. The paper says that the "conflict over Kashmir has persisted in spite of diplomatic efforts to resolve the problem. Pakistan has now signaled a willingness to negotiate and seems ready to accept international mediation. [But] the Chinese mediators who were supposed to act have not yet materialized."

The editorial goes on: "India has resolutely rejected a mediation of the conflict by the G-8 [Group of Seven industrial countries plus Russia]. It demands first a retreat of [what it says are Pakistan-supported] rebel troops. India's Interior Minister even goes as far as to say India is preparing for war, and threatens that Pakistan will have to pay a high price."

The FAZ sums up: "It is questionable whether the two sides, which have been accelerating the conflict for weeks, will reach such a climax [that is, all-out war]. Still, the two sides remain adamant and mediation is barely in sight. ... In a new conflict, the use of atomic weapons [by both nuclear-capable nations] is at least possible ..."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: It takes two to tangle

Finally, a commentary in the Los Angeles Times by Asian specialist Tom Plate assesses the latest outbreak of hostilities between North and South Korea. Plate writes: "They're at it again. In the waters of the Yellow Sea, off the politically stormy western coast of the Korean peninsula, North and South Korean gunboats have been pointing fingers and gun turrets -- and, last week, blasting away at each other. Can't these Koreans get along?" he asks. "Maybe not," he answers.

The commentary continues: "Perhaps what both need is one more notch of military escalation so they can see the horror ahead of them. The destruction on the Korean peninsula could make Kosovo look like a Scout picnic. Sure," Plate adds, "the ruffians up North are far, far more reprehensible than those crony capitalists in the South. But the Republic of Korea, a democracy only since 1988, has its share of mean-spirited enemies of peace. Don't believe that these dust-ups are all one side's fault. It takes two to tangle."

Plate writes further: "No one would disagree that North Korea, far more than the South, looks for trouble. ... But let's not forget about South Korea's contribution to instability. Its domestic politics can be roiling and nasty. Vile regionalism and political factionalism can undermine any trend that might bring North and South together. After all, the South Koreans have their hawks and Cold War psychos, too."