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Western Press Review: European Monetary Union; Serbian Media

Prague, 12 June 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today focuses on the political maneuvering in Europe over attempts to launch a common European currency, the euro.

THE NEW YORK TIMES: Giscard d'Estaing on saving the 'euro'

The New York Times today publishes an opinion piece by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing (1974-1981). In it, Giscard d'Estaing calls the recent election victory for French Socialists "a political earthquake" that "will have a major impact on European unification." He says: "The shock waves will be felt in the efforts to reform, strengthen and enlarge the institutional framework for a unified Europe as well as in the plans for a common currency."

Giscard d'Estaing says that the crucial political question for a common currency is whether "the advantages of inaugurating the euro on the planned date outweigh the risks." He says that if European leaders push to meet the current deadline, then the Maastricht treaty's strict budgetary criteria will have to be replaced with what he calls "a more flexible approach." He writes: "If Europe clings to the strict criteria, not a single major country will be able to meet them except by resorting to an accounting trick, and the European project will fail. Or perhaps be delayed, but until when? Will the political conditions for a single currency ever be better than now?"

Giscard d'Estaing concludes that "Putting the euro in place by the scheduled date is an imperative. We need it to bring about a stable unified market, encourage competition on an even playing field and attract international investment." He says: "We must save the euro, and make it succeed."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: France and Germany will make up

A news analysis in today's International Herald Tribune by Tom Buerkle says that France and Germany appear to be heading toward a resolution in their latest dispute over European monetary union. But Buerkle writes: "The history of their differences suggests that any accord will be no more than a momentary truce in their long struggle for control of Europe's economic agenda." Buerkle says both Paris and Bonn have "starkly different interpretations" of the compromise plan that officials hope will resolve the monetary dispute in time for a summit of EU leaders in Amsterdam early next week.

Buerkle concludes that: "The nations' cultural differences have clashed ever since the ink dried on the Maastricht treaty in 1992." He says the heart of today's dispute is France's frustration about what Paris sees as an imbalance in the Maastricht treaty -- "German-inspired rules codified for low deficits and inflation while plans for broader economic management were left vague."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Most Germans oppose monetary union

The Wall Street Journal Europe publishes an unsigned editorial today saying that a majority of Germans oppose the common currency project, and that the German economy may not be ready to meet the strict Maastricht criteria. The newspaper says: "German Chancellor Helmut Kohl... doesn't face problems so much as sit on them until they go away. That may have served him well so far, but even Mr. Kohl's weight may not be enough to squash the obstacles to his European monetary union dream." The editorial concludes that "the words 'back down' don't translate easily into German and are not part of Mr. Kohl's vocabulary anyhow." But, it says, bringing about monetary union will require "a compromise that takes neither the interests of the German economy nor the will of the German people into account."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Frantic negotiations

An analysis today by a team of reporters at The London Daily Telegraph describes the negotiations between France and its EU partners as "frantic." But the article says there are "signs of a less confrontational line" from Paris. The reporters say hopes are high "that an agreement will be thrashed out at a Franco-German summit in Poitiers (France) tomorrow." But they also warn that the dispute over a single currency could interfere with next week's Amsterdam summit -- the main purpose of which is to bring out institutional reforms within the EU. The authors conclude that the monetary dispute could force a second summit to be held next month to achieve those institutional reforms.

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMIENE ZEITUNG: Employment policy vs. state policy

An unsigned editorial in today's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says: "A currency union will not free member countries of their own problems. On the contrary. A single currency is going to place even more pressure on countries to fit in." The newspaper concludes that "it is sheer nonsense to form battle lines of an employment policy versus a state policy as the opposition proposes. All these are categories of an old way of thinking which only point to the need that changes must begin in the minds of the people."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Bad omens for Amsterdam summit and the 'euro'

Josef Joffe's opinion piece in today's Suddeutsche Zeitung says that demands of France's Socialist government are similar to views that have been expressed for a long time by German politicians from left to right." Joffe says: "This is not a good omen neither for the Amsterdam summit nor for the euro. And the people must worry even if they do not understand the subtleties of macro-economy as Kohl does. The man in the street asks how a good thing like European integration can flourish when the path toward it is paved with untenable or contradictory pledges."


The recent sale of a part of Serbian state television to two foreign firms has also attracted newspaper comment

FINANCIAL TIMES OF LONDON: A financial lifeline for Milosevic

The Financial Times of London is calling the sale of a 49 percent stake of Belgrade's state telecom, Serbian PTT, "a financial lifeline" for Slobodan Milosevic. In an unsigned editorial yesterday (FF-144/11), the Financial Times noted that Italy's STET and Greece's OTE are paying 80 percent of the 922 million dollar sale in cash.

The newspaper says: "This is very good news for Mr Milosevic, who has been struggling to find a way out of the financial sanctions which exclude Belgrade from IMF membership and access to international capital... Whether the deal will prove to be such good news for the two foreign telecoms companies or Serbian consumers is more doubtful."

The Financial Times calls Milosevic "a consummate political operator who remains the most powerful politician in Serbia despite having led his country into international isolation and poverty." The newspaper says Milosevic "is preparing another complicated maneuver to keep himself in power... switching his power base from the Serbian presidency to the presidency of the Yugoslav federation, a hitherto largely symbolic post. To achieve his aim," the editorial continues, "Mr Milosevic has to find some means of paying the overdue wages of state and other employees whose votes will be essential. The money from the Greek and Italian telecoms companies will do very nicely."

The Financial Times concludes that "Serbia desperately needs foreign capital and know-how, but its political leaders have yet to demonstrate their ability to emulate the economic and financial reforms which have enabled neighboring Slovenia and Croatia to recover from war and re-establish their international credibility. For that, money alone is not enough."