Prague, 11 July 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today looks at Turkey's political upheavals, accountability in EU politics, the possibilities for U.S. military action in Iraq, American corporate ethics, and reforming the EU's Common Agricultural Policy.
In the British-based "Financial Times," Quentin Peel and Leyla Boulton discuss some of the implications of ongoing political upheaval in Turkey. At least five ministers have resigned from Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's Democratic Left party, and two of three parties in his ruling coalition have spoken out in favor of early elections.
Peel and Boulton say Turkey's political crisis could not have come at a more crucial moment. Ankara is currently "under huge political pressure" from Washington to provide support in any future U.S. military operation in Iraq. Turkey's relations with the EU are also at a sensitive stage: Disagreements with Greece are blocking the creation of a common European defense policy and the anticipated EU rapid-reaction force. Turkey is also still working toward meeting the criteria for EU membership. Furthermore, Turkish forces are now leading the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan.
Peel and Boulton note that two-thirds of the Turkish electorate favor EU membership. They say reformist politicians hope to form a new alliance that would "steer through radical human-rights reform" and further Turkey's economic program, in order eventually to persuade the EU to set a date for accession talks.
But first, say the authors, Prime Minister Ecevit "must be persuaded to step down."
The British "The Guardian's" editorial today says Turkey's political turmoil threatens to have "wide, potentially destructive ramifications." As ailing Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's power base seems to be eroding, his political rivals are maneuvering for position. The paper says gains "by either the Nationalists or the Islamic-minded Justice party [might] complicate Turkey's own plan for EU membership, the civil reform program on which it hinges, and relations with Greece and NATO."
But the paper points out that "the immediate pain is being felt at home. Ordinary Turks are suffering high unemployment and acute economic dislocation, partly caused by hard-nosed IMF-initiated restructuring." The prime minister's "reluctance to relinquish power and to allow a new coalition to be formed, or early elections called, seems increasingly unrealistic," which may lead to "an unedifying end to a long, mostly distinguished career" in office. "The Guardian" concludes that Turkey's democratic process, which it says is "less than deeply rooted, is itself once more on trial."
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE:
Writing in "The Wall Street Journal Europe," Geneva-based economist Keith Marsden discusses accountability in EU politics. Following highly publicized corporate-accounting scandals in the U.S., he remarks that dodgy business practices may also be more common in Europe than is generally acknowledged.
Marsden says EU governments themselves are guilty of dubious accounting. "False reports from public agencies and misleading statements by political leaders have created erroneous impressions about the effectiveness of government policies and programs." He says such "dubious accounting" leads to "heavy costs in the form of wasted resources, swollen bureaucracies, higher taxes, and lost jobs and income."
Such obfuscation also carries opportunity costs, Marsden says. Voters "would press for greater private provision of services if they knew how their taxes were really being used." But the public, "bombarded by bloated claims and ambitious targets" instead of actual achievements, continues to support "state-dominated health and education systems that remain outdated and under-capitalized." Marsden concludes that EU political decision making must be made "more transparent, and based upon verifiable data readily available to the general public."
A "Stratfor Commentary" piece discusses some of the strategic options for the United States, should it decide to launch a military operation in Iraq. The commentary says covert action would be the most difficult option and the least likely to succeed. "Sparking an internal coup is equally unlikely," says "Stratfor Commentary." Both these options have the same flaw: The U.S. would have little influence in any Iraqi successor government.
"Stratfor Commentary" says the "Afghan model" of warfare, in which U.S. special-operations forces act in concert with local troops and under U.S. air cover, might offer the best solution. But the commentary points out that the Iraqi opposition is not made up of seasoned fighters like Afghanistan's Northern Alliance forces. The Iraqi Army would also be a more formidable opponent than the ill-equipped Taliban regime.
But whatever military option is chosen, the report says a number of hurdles remain before any action can be taken. U.S. military resources remain engaged in Afghanistan, and it might take months for training, maintenance, and repair schedules to be sufficiently ready for an attack on Iraq.
Politically, the U.S. must also ensure the acquiescence, if not support, of the industrialized world for its campaign. Finally, a successor regime must be ready to take over in Baghdad. "[Given] the squabbling factions that make up the Iraqi opposition," says the report, this will be "no easy task."
Belgium's "Le Soir" carries an item by Edith Lederer discussing the U.S. decision yesterday to withdraw its insistence that U.S. peacekeepers be immune from prosecution at the International Criminal Court, or ICC. Instead, at a meeting of the UN Security Council, the U.S. proposed exempting peacekeepers from prosecution for one year. Lederer says several of the other 14 Security Council members felt the U.S. did not go far enough. Nonetheless, the working atmosphere was positive and they welcomed that the U.S. finally seemed more willing to negotiate.
In presenting its proposal, Lederer says the U.S. was careful not to speak of "immunity" from the court. But she says the United States also made clear that it intended to renew its demand for a 12-month exemption for peacekeepers as long as would be "necessary." The U.S. had come under intense criticism from other UN member states for making its initial demand of immunity from the court for U.S. citizens. Canadian Ambassador Paul Heinbecker warned that the American proposal ran counter to the principle of equality and equal responsibility before the law. Even India, which also did not support the creation of the ICC, suggested that American concerns were centered on only "extremely unlikely" scenarios.
An editorial in the "Chicago Tribune" says U.S. President George W. Bush's speech this week addressing corporate malfeasance was "adequate -- no more and no less."
But the 9 July speech will not have a lasting impact, the paper says. Bush will make an impact on this issue "only if he now takes the lead in pushing for more aggressive prosecutions and for regulatory reforms that deter fraud without putting unnecessary clamps on the U.S. economy," says the editorial. Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission "can go a long way toward ensuring transparency in corporate dealings. But in the end, investors' trust in corporate America will be restored only when corporate America takes the steps to earn it."
But the paper says Bush's Wall Street speech did send "the right message: that a handful of corporate cowboys have deeply shaken the public's faith [and] that political and business leaders must respond to that." But the "Chicago Tribune" adds that swift and sure action must follow, as "faith will not be restored simply by Washington decree."
An "Irish Times" editorial looks at European Union Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler's proposals yesterday for reforming the EU Common Agricultural Policy, or CAP. Fischler suggested that the CAP must move away from awarding subsidies based on gross output and instead be granted as a reward for farmers' ensuring high-quality products, food safety, animal welfare, and environmental and rural development. The paper says on balance, Fischler's proposals "are a sensible and welcome step" that deserves "serious debate and assessment."
The editorial says "Radical reform is needed to retain a credible CAP." It notes that reform proposals have been criticized by farming organizations for having the potential to reduce the incomes of farms as the subsidies are scaled back. But the paper says the European Commission seeks to rechannel these funds "toward food safety and environmental and rural development," which would benefit other farmers and rural communities. "Decoupling subsidies from output would reduce the incentive to over-produce," it adds.
"These are desirable changes from the point of view of taxpayers and consumers," writes the "Irish Times." The impact of these proposals on farmers will be negotiated "vigorously" and their detailed implications will be examined. But in order to retain credibility, the paper says, agriculture ministers will need to adopt the European Commission's plan.