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Western Press Review: 40 Years Later, Whither The EU?

Prague, 25 March 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary seizes the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome to express a mix of Euro-enthusiasm and Euro-skepticism like that found among Europe's politicians and, indeed, among Europe's people themselves.

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: European integration is an up and down affair

Writing in a news analysis from Brussels, Brian Coleman says today: "Politicians will pop champagne corks today to celebrate the European Union's 40th birthday, but the affair promises to be flat. Even as leaders from across Europe gather in Rome for the festivities, their party will be tempered by anxieties about the entire project of integration."

He writes: "Plans to launch a single currency in 1999 are beset by doubts. So, too, is a continuing constitutional conference to update the Treaty of Rome itself to prepare for the addition of as many as 11 new states from Central and Eastern Europe." Coleman says: "Most EU politicians are quick to point out that the process of European integration has always been an up-and-down affair."

DIE WELT: The assumption is the Euro will extend Germany's monetary stability

In today's edition of the German newspaper, Wilhelm Hadler comments: "There will be no lack of fine words when European Union foreign ministers celebrate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome (today), but the occasion justifies setting aside day-to-day business for once." Hadler says: "The Treaty of Rome was mainly aimed (at) setting up a community based on law that was to have independent institutions."

He concludes: "At the same time, advocates of the proposed common European currency, the Euro, are working on the assumption that it will succeed in extending Germany's culture of monetary stability to the entire European Union. On this question, too, time alone will tell."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: Europe has to ascertain what its mission is

From Rome, Sara Helm writes today in a news analysis: "Flowerbeds in the Piazza Venezia have been laid with the colors of Europe and the Piazza Campidoglio has been decked with European flags."

She says: "As anyone who has had a 40th birthday knows, the biggest question of all is, what is it all for? Vaclav Havel, president of the Czech Republic -- an aspiring (EU) member -- asked this question in particularly poignant terms during a recent address to the European Parliament. 'I find,' he said, 'that as Europe goes ahead with its unification it has to rediscover, consciously embrace, and in some way articulate its soul or its spirit, its underlying idea, its purpose and its inner ethos (and), finally, ascertain what its mission is.' "

NEW YORK TIMES: A single European currency has stopped being a joke

Earlier this year Edmund L. Andrews contributed a commentary on the EU to a special "Outlook '97" section. He wrote: "A funny thing happened on the way toward creating a single European currency. It stopped being a joke. "

He said: "After having been dismissed by many as almost dead just one year ago, the Euro will be the biggest single topic in European business circles in 1997. If all goes according to plan, Germany and France will lead a core group of perhaps eight countries in the new European Monetary Union and the new currency will debut on January 1, 1999. The debate this year will no longer be about whether as much as about how and who."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: The EU has produced peace, freedom and stability

German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel writes in a commentary published today: "What began (40 years ago) as a vision of hope has produced the greatest achievement of the second half of this century -- peace, freedom and stability, initially for Western Europe, but now with the potential to embrace all of our once-divided continent."

Kinkel says: "Europe is more than a high-class free-trade zone. The authors of the Treaty of Rome had a vision, that of overcoming the spiritual, political and economic consequences of the war, and they created a successful model of peace and prosperity."

He concludes: "The building of the common European house is a task extending far beyond our generation."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Workers want politicians to concentrate on the social and political side of integration

Alan Friedman writes in a news analysis today: "Worker unrest is spreading across Europe as hundreds of thousands take to the street, driven by a fear of job losses, spending cuts and a growing sense of financial and social insecurity."

He contends: "A large part of the message from unhappy workers is that they want politicians to concentrate more on the social and political side of European integration and less on the Europe of fiscal austerity."

And writes: "The celebrations planned (today) to mark the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome that founded the European Community are thus likely to prove but a brief respite from the daily polemics over the EU's army of 18 million jobless people."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Should Europe be built on the backs of the have nots?

A commentary by Heribert Prantl in today's edition asks: "Should Europe be built on the backs of the have nots?"

Prantl says: "German Finance Minister Theo Waigel's proposal to help meet single currency convergence criteria with cutbacks in the welfare state is a scandal. Whoever thinks about and plans Europe with an attitude like Waigel's shouldn't be surprised to find that the people begin to ask themselves whether or not they want a united Europe after all. If anybody wanted to design a Europe unpalatable to its citizens, then this would be the way to go about it.

"Theo Waigel, the minister of the Christian Social Party, acts as if the welfare state were a luxury only affordable in times of prosperity rather than a constitutional right. His proposal is just another piece of the political puzzle of social injustice that tries to make the victims of economic decline the perpetrators."

U.S. commentary today gives Vice President Al Gore substantial attention on the occasion of his state visit to China, but the scrutiny is not necessarily favorable.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Gore kept human rights on the back burner

Thomas M. DeFrank writes from Beijing: "While keeping human rights on the back burner, Vice President Gore watched China sign multi-million-dollar business deals (yesterday) with two American companies."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Gore paves the way for a state visit by China's president

Liz Sly writes: "Gore's visit also carried additional significance in light of the warming relations, and Gore also will be paving the way for a state visit to Washington by President Jiang Zemin in the fall."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Did China try to influence U.S. elections?

Elizabeth Shogren says: "Gore's four-day visit is somewhat clouded by the political controversy at home over allegations that China illegally tried to influence U.S. elections."