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Western Press Review: Defining 'Europe'

Prague, 26 March 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Western commentary ranges over a number of European Institutions -- the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

WASHINGTON POST: Washington should ensure that Russia keeps within its borders

In yesterday's edition, commentator Lally Weymouth wrote on the goals of NATO expansion: "Last week, when President Clinton beld a summit meeting with Russian president Boris Yeltsin in Helsinki, the central question was: Would the Clinton administration be able to offer the Russians enough concessions to satisfy them in exchange for Russia's acquiescence in America's NATO enlargement effort and at whose expense?"

She contends: "Washington's interest should consist in ensuring that Russia keeps itself within its borders. Strengthening the states that border on Russia is the single most logical way to contain Moscow." And concludes: "NATO enlargement is an unmistakably worthy goal. Equally important, however, is making it plain that Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Baltic states have not been left out in the cold."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Poles see full NATO membership as the best way to ensure their future security

Christopher Bobinski, commenting in today's edition of the British newspaper, applied the NATO expansion issue to the particular situation of Poland. He writes: "Poland hopes to be among the first aspirant members from Central Europe invited at a summit of the 16-nation Western alliance in Madrid in July to join NATO. The bid to join the Euro-Atlantic defense community finds the country more secure in its borders than for well over 200 years, with no outstanding conflicts to cloud relations with its neighbors.

"But Poles still remember the damage wrought by invading armies marching across their flat northern European plain. By an overwhelming majority, they see full NATO membership as the best way to ensure their future security."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: The EU's mission lies in Central and Eastern Europe

The paper editorializes today on eastward expansion of a different European institution, the EU itself. The newspaper says: "There was a certain lack of confidence about yesterday's celebrations in Rome of the 40th anniversary of the treaties that gave birth to the European Union. Despite the EU's manifest achievements in consolidating peace and prosperity across half of Europe, the self-congratulations sounded less convincing than the self doubts. For perhaps the first time in its history, the EU seems to be in need of a fresh vision, a rejuvenated sense of purpose, a boldness and creativity of spirit of the kind which inspired its formation in 1957."

The editorial says: "For sure, the EU is committed eventually to absorbing at least 10 former communist countries -- Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the three Baltic states. Yet sometimes the EU seems scared of the implications of this proposed expansion." The Independent concludes: "Its mission lies in Central and Eastern Europe, where with determination, imagination and generosity, it will achieve results every bit as laudable as those it secured in Western Europe after 1957."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: Britain attacked EU plans for power-sharing

In a news analysis today, Sarah Helm writes of a discordant EU note. She says: "Malcolm Rifkind, the (British) foreign secretary, yesterday erupted with fury at the European Union's 40th anniversary meeting in Rome, attacking new plans for power-sharing as 'totally unacceptable.' " She writes: "The foreign secretary's words soured the mood at the anniversary meeting."

Helms says: "While the British onslaught caused irritation to other foreign ministers, they all were aware that the display was staged as much for British voters as for the company in Rome."

NEW YORK TIMES: A birthday party brings out a family's problems

Celestine Bohlen comments today: "There is nothing like a birthday party to bring out a family's problems, as happened (yesterday) when foreign ministers from the European Union's 15 member countries gathered to toast the Treaty of Rome." She writes: "The anniversary celebration comes at a critical moment in the European Union's history, as Western Europe's main partners face grass roots opposition to the fiscal requirements of a pending monetary union."

Bohlen says: "The pressures have led to friction among European nations, as they search for ways to accommodate what (Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini yesterday) called the straitjacket imposed by the criteria for monetary union set by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The OECE is the legacy of the Marshall Plan

The secretary general of the OECD, Donald Johnston, says in a commentary published today: "The OECD often is referred to as the legacy of the Marshall Plan."

He writes: "But there is a legacy far more important even than the institutions that grew from the plan, and more lasting even than the physical infrastructure built from the investment of the (thousands of millions) of dollars administered under it. That legacy is the vision that lasting peace, prosperity and security may be defended through military prowess but can be acquired only through economic development and cooperation -- indeed, through economic interdependence."

The OECD chief writes: "That vision must be carried forward to future generations not only in Europe, but all over the world." He says: "Europe has risen from the ashes of war because of the positive interplay of economic interdependence and the recogniton that the prosperity of each country depends upon the prosperity of trading partners."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Russians are protesting Ukraine's drift West

Author Elizabeth Pond contends today in a commentary that Ukraine is securing its own future security, not by seeking membership in NATO or the EU, but by declaring its nationhood and independence through a "drift West." She writes: "This week NATO warships paid a friendly visit to Odessa, and in August joint Ukraine-NATO naval maneuvers will take place near the Black Sea port. These operations cast NATO's shadow beyond its current and future borders, showing Moscow that the West cares about Ukraine's security."

Pond, who is writing a book about Ukraine, says: "These gestures, of course, do not constitute a security guarantee of the sort Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic will get if they join the Western alliance. But Ukrainians welcome these events as a sign that Ukraine is beginning to edge itself out of the classification of a former Soviet republic."

She writes: "By contrast, prominent Russians across the political spectrum -- who still think it unnatural for Ukraine to be an independent nation after three centuries of being a subordinate part of Russia and the Soviet Union -- are beginning to protest the Ukrainian drift West."

U.S. Interest Rates

Commentators in the United States examine today the action of the Federal Reserve Board yesterday forcing U.S. interest rates upward.

NEW YORK TIMES: Greenspan hinted at a raise in interest rates

Louis Uchitelle writes today: "(Board Chairman Alan) Greenspan had given plenty of hints that he and his fellow policy makers would raise interest rates. But he had also spoken optimistically about productivity, and that had left open the possibility that he just might let a strong economy run."

SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER: Americans face higher loan payments

Steward M. Powell writes: "Millions of Americans face higher monthly payments on loans for homes, cars and credit card balances as a result of the Federal Reserve's decision yesterday to hike short-term interest rates for the first time in more than two years."

WASHINGTON POST: Inflation is at a 30-year low

Art Pine says: "Ironically, the action comes at a time when inflation is at a 30-year low, with wage increases firmly in check and no major economic distortions seeming to threaten the six-year economic expansion."