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Western Press Review: Corruption At The EC And Quelling Dissent In Ukraine

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 25 September 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Analysis in major media outlets today focuses on corruption at the European Commission, security and political stability in Iraq, quelling dissent in Ukraine, German-U.S. relations, and some of the unfortunate similarities between the U.S. and Russia, among other issues.

THE INDEPENDENT:

An editorial in Britain's "The Independent" today says, "There is something almost comically secretive about the EU's own official report into the latest bout of corruption that has been discovered in the Commission."

Instead of being made public, the report has initially been released with "great secrecy" to only a few senior members of the European Parliament. The president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, faces the European Parliament today in response to the report, but in a closed session. The paper says all this "is a strange way to behave, given that it is money supplied by the taxpayers of Europe that went astray in the Luxembourg HQ of Eurostat [the EU's statistics agency]."

"The Independent" says it is still hard to say what should be done in the wake of the scandal. But it says Prodi "would be well advised to ensure that any EU officials criticized in the report are dealt with in a way that demonstrates that he and his colleagues mean it when they declare that they want to root out corruption in the European bureaucracy." If this includes demanding the resignations of some EU commissioners, Prodi "should not flinch from that."

As the paper puts it, the "prospect of a jail term is a fine way to concentrate minds at the top of any organization, including the Commission of the European Union. Some radical action is certainly needed to restore faith in the integrity of the EU's machinery."

THE NEW YORK TIMES:

U.S. President George W. Bush "was right to refuse a rushed transfer of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government as the price to pay for greater international participation in the postwar effort," writes Noah Feldman in "The New York Times." Feldman is a law professor at New York University and was a constitutional adviser to the Iraqi Governing Council.

Rebuilding Iraq "is a two-track process," security being one track and politics the other. He says the problem of security "will not be overcome simply by bringing in more soldiers, American or otherwise." And the political reconstitution of Iraq "could be derailed if the coalition fails to help Iraqis achieve security before turning things over to an Iraqi government that can actually rule the country."

The ultimate answer to Iraqi security issues is "creating an effective Iraqi security force -- fast. Only Iraqi police officers and soldiers, knowledgeable about local conditions and populations, and with access to high-quality local intelligence, stand a chance of breaking Sunni resistance cells and identifying foreign agents."

Feldman says: "Actual control is the indispensable hallmark of sovereignty. Nothing could be worse for the future of democracy in Iraq than the creation of a puppet government unable to keep the peace."

If Iraqis, "with international help, can keep the peace, they will achieve democracy. Otherwise, America's pragmatic and moral duty to help Iraq become a free nation will be almost impossible to fulfill."

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE:

Writing in "The Wall Street Journal Europe," Central European and Eurasian affairs analyst Adrian Karatnycky of Freedom House remarks that three years ago this month, Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze was abducted and his body later found in a shallow grave outside Kyiv.

Allegations have been plentiful that the administration of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma is somehow linked to the killing of the journalist, known for his hard-hitting investigations into high-level corruption. Karatnycky says the killing has "forced the U.S. and Europe [to] reassess their approach to this strategically placed country. As long as the Gongadze case remains open, Washington and Brussels must think carefully about closer relations with President Leonid Kuchma."

He says long-standing efforts to stifle protest reflect "the authoritarianism of President Kuchma and his inner circle, making life difficult for the opposition and free media. Among the troubling trends is greater state control of mass media, in particular national television." Kuchma's ways have led to his "isolation and estrangement from Europe and the U.S., making him more dependent on Russian support."

Ukraine is now "at an important crossroads in its history. Opposition parties show strength and there are rumblings of discontent among some of Mr. Kuchma's supporters. This presents an opportunity for the EU and U.S.," says Karatnycky.

Washington and Brussels "should continue to distance themselves from Mr. Kuchma while supporting the opposition and reaching out to moderates and centrists" in Ukraine. With pressure from within and without, he says, Ukraine "may yet jettison its stifling legacy of corruption and misrule."

THE BOSTON GLOBE:

In a contribution to "The Boston Globe," economics professor Marshall Goldman of Wellesley College remarks that several political pundits have urged U.S. President George W. Bush to reproach Russian President Vladimir Putin at their meeting this week for stalling or reversing many of his country's democratic reforms.

But Goldman says Bush "may find it inconvenient if not hypocritical should he try to call Putin to account for backsliding into habits that increasingly resemble those common to the old Soviet Union. Citing the increased threat of terrorism, the [Federal Security Service] FSB [has] reinstituted wiretapping and random identity checks." The threat of terrorism is real, he says, but "there is a growing concern that such threats are sometimes exaggerated to justify curbing civil [liberties]. Yet how can Bush criticize Putin for this without reining in his own Attorney General John Ashcroft for exactly the same thing?" Goldman asks.

Ashcroft has introduced two separate Patriot Acts that would expand the U.S. government's ability to monitor civilian records and communications.

He goes on to note that Russian journalists "are bemoaning the fact that Putin has moved aggressively to reduce the number of independent media outlets." But Goldman asks rhetorically, "Who are we to complain about Putin when our own Federal Communications Commission has proposed regulations that also allow the increased concentration of media outlets in a few hands?"

As these presidential "soulmates" meet in the U.S. this week, Goldman says, "Sadly, they may find they have even more in common than they initially assumed."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG:

The "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" discusses U.S.-German relations following yesterday's first formal meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder since last year, when Germany joined France in vocally opposing the invasion of Iraq.

The paper says the two sides "have buried the hatchet," as Bush and Schroeder say they have overcome the differences that divided them over the ouster of Saddam Hussein. The paper says the content of the meeting was far less important than the fact that it took place at all.

The paper says Americans are more forgiving toward Berlin than they are of Paris, for they understand Germany's pacifist stance given its World War II history.

But Schroeder has more in common with former U.S. President Bill Clinton in that he is "a self-made man," the paper says, whereas French President Jacques Chirac is "a product of the French elite and should have greater affinity with the Bush political dynasty."

But Chirac's "lecture" this week at the UN about the blessings of multilateralism and the fact that the U.S. is not endowed with any special rights did little to endear him to U.S. politicians. The paper sums up the U.S. position toward the German and French statesmen by saying it is made up of "political differences [and] personal aversions."

LE FIGARO:

Writing in France's "Le Figaro," Alexandre Adler discusses the possibility that deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein might seek asylum in a sympathetic country.

In the weeks leading up to the U.S.-led war, Washington offered Hussein a chance to go into exile rather than bring the U.S. onslaught to his nation. But Adler says it seems the mixture of a sense of Bedouin honor and the "suicidal despair that characterized [his] erratic and violent policies" prevented him from taking Washington up on the offer.

On the run for six months now, Adler says perhaps Hussein will reconsider.

But the Americans are confronted with an insoluble problem, Adler says: What to do with the former Iraqi dictator? Washington works tirelessly to circumvent The Hague criminal court, which would have been one option. And it would be worse to entrust a trial to the still amorphous Iraqi interim government. The temptation likely exists in Washington to assassinate the ousted leader, but this would risk donning him with an undeserved "martyr's halo."

Adler says better to let him finish out his days in a country such as Saudi Arabia until such time as he is ready to join his two late sons "in a better world." But Hussein's exile would, of course, need to take place alongside the disarmament of the last of his supporters in Iraq and a successful crackdown on attacks in Baghdad.

THE WASHINGTON TIMES:

Writing in "The Washington Times," Jack Kelly says the troubles being experienced in Iraq should not obscure the advances that have been made. "Iraq is a dangerous place," he writes. "Saddam Hussein is still at large, as are thousands of his diehard supporters. They've been joined by hundreds, perhaps thousands of foreign terrorists. Though these 'insurgents' cannot challenge the U.S. military for control of any part of the country, they'll be able to conduct remote ambushes and terror bombings for months to come."

But Kelly says, "viewed in historical perspective, things in Iraq are pretty good, and getting better. The insurgents are a tiny -- and dwindling -- minority. Most of the country is at peace. Nobody is starving. Signs of reviving economic activity are everywhere. [Iraq] hasn't been transformed into Switzerland in less than six months. No reasonable person ever expected that it could be. But an unrealizable ideal should not obscure the significant progress that has been made."

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)

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