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Western Press Review: International Criminal Court, Euro And Czech Television

  • Don Hill

Prague, 3 January 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Forecasting comprises the topic that many Western commentators take up today.


The New York Times editorializes on the likely effect of U.S. President Bill Clinton's signing a treaty to create an international criminal court. The newspaper says: "In signing the treaty establishing an international criminal court, President Clinton served American interests and the cause of justice worldwide. The court will enter into force when 60 countries ratify the treaty, which should happen in a few years. The court will then be empowered to try people accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Senate must still ratify the treaty, which is not likely to happen soon. But by signing it, Mr. Clinton has insured that Washington can have a voice in affecting the shape of the court."

The editorial describes with dismay a threat by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jesse Helms to present a bill that would forbid U.S. troops from participating in peacekeeping missions unless they were exempted from the court's jurisdiction, and to require the U.S. president to attempt to free any U.S. armed services members who were arrested under the court's jurisdiction.

The editorial says: "This mischievous bill is no favor to the Bush government, though some top Bush appointees have opposed establishment of the court. The bill would severely constrain the administration's ability to form a balanced foreign policy in the critical opening months of the new administration and could also constrain its operations abroad."


International Herald Tribune staff writer John Vanocur assigns a name to the body of opinion that professes, against whatever evidence, that the euro zone countries shining optimism are at the edge of a period of robust growth and that they and the euro single currency will prosper. He calls it the "euro line"

He has another name for those who amass evidence that Europe's economy is weakening and that the financial markets that had been keeping the euro currency weak are betting that way. That, he says, is the "euro whine."

Vanocur writes in a news analysis: "The euro line has almost daily support [right now]. Jean-Claude Trichet, governor of the Bank of France, and, by French supposition, the designated successor of Wim Duisenberg as president of the European Central Bank, leaped in [yesterday] and talked of the euro-zone economies experiencing 'robust, noninflationary and therefore durable' expansion. This approach appears narrowly fixed on the psychological lift of the euro's appreciation and the assumption that Europe, with its reliance on statistical terms on intra euro zone trade, has achieved a kind of immunity from the factors contracting American and Japanese business."


The Irish Times published today an editorial entitled, "The Euro's Future." The editorial says, "The euro is one of the key external influences on Irish inflation."

The editorial says this: "The falling euro was one of the main financial themes of 2000. Will the revival of the currency be a feature of this year? Certainly, the euro has made an encouraging start to the New Year, rising to a six-month high of over 94 cents against the US dollar."

The newspaper says: "It is tempting to conclude that the result of a US slowdown and euro zone growth will be a steady revival in the euro's fortunes in the months ahead. And this may well be the case. But experience suggests that currency forecasting is a difficult business. The worst may well be over for the euro, but any sustained signs of faltering growth in Europe could limit its strength."

The Irish Times editorial continues: "Doubts linger amongst the investment community about the long-term growth potential of the euro zone, and particularly the ability of the big French and German economies to consistently boost productivity and growth as the United States has in recent years."


Commentator Eckart Lohse writes in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that German and France are in for a long period of sensitive and prickly relations. Lohse writes: "What has happened is that the shifts spawned by the past decade of European history at last [at last month's EU summit in Nice] been called by name.

Lohse says: "During the first few years of Germany's division, French politicians and diplomats voiced their fears only behind closed doors. What they dreaded was that Germany would not be truncated -- and hence small enough to be palatable to France -- forever. They knew that reunification would come."

The writer says that former chancellor Helmut Kohl -- by giving first priority to Germany-France relations, by sensitivity and understanding, and by personal relations with French leaders -- kept this fear muted. Not so current Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, he says. Schroeder seems less aware of Germany's past, Lohse says, and he has not developed any personal connection with the French leadership.

The commentator concludes: "the political thinking of the 1960s protest generation now in power in Germany has its origins in a keen awareness of the country's historic guilt. This makes it even more important to observe how Mr. Schroeder and [Foreign Minister Joseph] Fischer are inching toward a reassessment of the influence of history on everyday politics."


Writing from Vienna in the Frankfurter Rundschau, Ulrich Glauber takes up the question of what will become of Czech public television in the aftermath of a journalists' strike against what they charge is a politically appointed new general manager.

He writes: "Editors at Czech public television probably had envisioned a different start to the year. The hard-core 50 employees on the news desk who went on strike on New Year's Day in protest against the appointment of [Jiri] Hodac have not left their cramped offices in Prague's broadcast house since the end of last year."

The German commentator writes of President Vaclav Havel's support for the strikers, but says, "Havel's views, however, at best carry moral weight. More important for the strikers is the support of the [trade union]. Its president, Richard Falbr, warned the government against sending in the police against the protestors and said the union would not tolerate such an abuse of the right to strike."

The writer says that the ruling Social Democrats originally endorsed the choice of Hodac by the Civic Democratic Party of former Czech Premier Vaclav Klaus.

Glauber writes: "But when the protest transformed itself into a mass movement, even the CSSD called for Hodac's resignation. [It is now clear] that the Czech Republic's laws on public broadcasting will be amended. The issue will be discussed in parliament on Friday."