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Western Press Review: Spotlight On British Elections Widens To Include EU

PRAGUE, 5 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The European Union is bracing to feel an impact from Labour's massive election victory in Britain last week. Western press commentary says the results will affect European politics, economics, and diplomacy.

NEW YORK TIMES: European leftists welcome election results

In a news analysis today, Craig R. Whitney writes from Paris that left wing parties in other European nations are cheering the election outcome in Britain. Whitney says: "Since (Prime Minister) Tony Blair's election victory for the Labour Party in Britain last week, other leftists in Europe have found new reason for hope. Elections will take place in France at the end of this month, in Germany next year and soon after that in other countries across the continent where Socialists and Social Democrats have found themselves frozen out of power in recent years."

But Europe's leftists may be unwilling to follow the Labour Party's shift to centrist policies, he writes. Whitney says: "Labour's sin, as some of its Continental cousins see it, was adopting the pro-business, anti-government, tax-cutting philosophies that conservatives everywhere insists are the only way to compete in the global economy."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: French Socialists cheer

Also from Paris, Thomas Kamm writes today in an analysis that, far from emulating Labour's tilt rightward, French Socialists are eager once more to increase government economic intervention. Kamm says: "Unlike the recent British elections, the snap parliamentary elections that will take place later this month in France are exposing sharp differences between the ruling center-right coalition and the Socialist opposition."

Kamm writes: "The center-right would likely pursue its current austere policies if it wins, while accelerating the pace of some measures, such as privatization and cuts in spending and taxes." He says: "The Socialists, in a turn to the left, want to relaunch economic activity through an increase in wages and jobs and a cut in working hours -- thought they say most of the measures would be negotiated, not imposed. At the same time, both sides say they are in favor of European monetary union -- through Socialist support is far more conditional."

LE MONDE: Election results a part of EU's big three agreement

The French daily comments today that the British results appear to be part of growing agreement among the EU's big three -- Britain, France, and Germany. The newspaper says: "One should be pleased about Blair's election triumph at a moment when Europe is entering an important stage in its history with the Euro (single currency). (There is) a development towards a greater consensus among the three great nations of the union -- with a Labour Great Britain which wants to embrace a dose of social solidarity in the flexibility of its economy, and a Germany and France who are looking for more competitiveness and yet want to preserve the level of their social protection.

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: Continental parties learn from Labour's tactics

Kenneth J. Garcia, writing in a news analysis today, sees signs that Continental parties will learn from Labour's tactics. He says, however, that Blair will find it difficult to lead England deeper into the EU.

Garcia writes: "Labour's landslide has now become the model for other centrist leading parties in Europe. The Social Democratic Party, Germany's longtime opposition party, has begun mirroring Blair's campaign -- even down to which party member most closely resembles the photogenic British leader. Yet for all the people who made the constant comparisons between Blair and Bill Clinton, perhaps the most unnerving one is whether Blair will continue to hug the center or use his huge majority to push through programs he addressed during the campaign."

Garcia says: "Perhaps the thorniest issue will be over Europe -- a continent that Britons seem to believe they are part of only when it suits their purposes. The Tories self-destructed over the idea of a single European Union and currency, and Blair has so far nimbly danced around the question."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: EU central bank--How will it work?

A staff-written news analysis says that the EU's drive toward greater union is scheduled to take a major step at the end of next year in creating an EU central bank with monetary policy making authority. One question looming, says the analysis, is how it will work.

The analysis says: "In just over a year and a half, if everything goes according to schedule, Europe will swap the Bundesbank, the Bank of France, and other tried and tested monetary institutions for an untested supranational central bank charged with managing a still-nonexistent currency." It says: "In Paris and Bonn, officials are asking how the ECB (European Central Bank) will coordinate its monetary policy with the politicians in national European capitals, who will retain responsibility for taxation."

HANDELSBLATT: Blair's triumph good news for Europhiles

Torsten Riecke comments today from London in the German newspaper that Blair's triumph seems to signal good news for Europhiles. He writes: "Backed by a comfortable majority and a little bit of courage, (Blair) can press for a Europe-friendly policy and oppose the Euroskeptic public (in Britain). " Riecke says: "It would be grotesque for Great Britain to stand on the sidelines at this decisive phase for the EU."

He comments: "Europe also is watching the new government in London for another reason. (The new) Labour prime minister aims to tame radical Thatcherism without jeopardizing its economic successes. He is seeking nothing less than a new economic-political consensus in an economy dominated by world competitiveness."

The German commentator says: "All the European industrial societies are faced with the same task. Blair, though, has the advantage that Great Britain already has accomplished its economic restructuring. If he succeeds in establishing a new social peace according to the British model, then he need not fear (for his place in history)."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Britain's transition influences EU

Rupert Durwall comments today that the influence of Britain's political transition on the other nations of the EU will work both ways. Durwall was special advisor to Norman Lamont, chancellor of the exchequer in Britain's just-ousted Conservative administration. Durwall says: "Europe will continue to dominate British politics." He says: "The Euroskeptics have won the argument inside the Conservative Party (and) they are in tune with the public mood. Labour has not yet confronted the central dilemma of Britain's European policy, caused by the ineluctable pressure for further integration. (That is that) Britain's aspirations to remain independent are not compatible with those of its European partners."

NEW YORK TIMES: Labour makes its first nod toward Europe

Warren Hoge writes today in a news analysis: "The Labour government will make its first nod toward Europe today, signaling at a meeting in Brussels that it is willing to sign the so-called Social Chapter, a list of proposals for European-wide reforms and standards in workplace conditions. Blair said in his campaign that he was wary of committing Britain to a single European currency in 1999 and would in any event submit the matter to a national referendum. But he pledged that, unlike the Conservatives, he would agree to include Britain in the Social Chapter."