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Western Press Review: France Moves Toward Big Politics

Prague, 5 November 1997(RFE/RL) - The future of Europe once again proves to be food for thought in today's dailies .


Burkhard Bischof notes in an editorial in Austria's conservative daily Die Presse that the new Polish foreign minister, Bronislaw Geremek, and the Czech foreign minister-designate, Jaroslav Sedivy, are both francophiles, confirming the adage that "big politics cannot be conducted in Europe without the participation of France."

Bischof points out, however, that "French policy toward Central and Eastern Europe in recent years certainly has not been particularly marked by initiatives and ideas full of fantasy nor through unusually generous support. The Federal Republic of Germany has become a special political and economic point of reference for the new democracies since neither Paris nor London are excessively active in the region and have left the field open to Bonn and Washington."

Bischof concludes that "The Central Europeans' discussion partners are primarily acting as 'attorneys for the eastern neighbors.... Sedivy and Geremek will try to make sure that "attorney Paris, " along with Bonn, will strengthen their hand when they present their national concerns in the European concert. And Austria? Vienna used to be such an "attorney. (But now) We are just among the listeners..."


The liberal-left Parisian daily Liberation comments today on France's nomination of its central bank governor, Jean-Claude Trichet to be president of the European central bank. "Jacques Chirac is consequential. While virtually all European states support the nomination of the Dutchman Wim Duisenberg to the post of president of the future European central bank, France has decided to present its own candidate... Trichet is not necessarily to Chirac's taste, but he is the most trustworthy French personality, at least in German eyes, (for France) to be able to raise a claim on this post. The Jospin government is following the Elysee's crusade.... Lionel Jospin, who makes policy, once let it be understood that the nomination of a Frenchman as president, albeit the ultra-orthodox Jean-Claude Trichet, is the best way to show that monetary Europe will not be, as the Germans say, commanded."


The French truck drivers strike provokes comment from France's largest regional daily, Ouest-France, based in the western city Rennes. "Obviously there are plenty of people who fail to realize that regardless of the difficulties facing the citizens, democracy is threatened. It is important to recall the dramatic political consequences that truck driver's strikes had in some countries."

Oeust-France warns "If we understand the truck drivers' demands and the strike they have begun, then we cannot accept this as a means of striking. They risk de-stabilizing democracy and the European superstructure."


Denmark's liberal daily Politiken, published in Copenhagen, says "the French truck drivers' strike affects not only the imports and exports from European countries, but also free movement across borders and thereby in reality it goes to the core of the entire EU. Cooperation in the EU, whether we like it or not, depends on France's ability to control its own highway system, just as much as on the ability of the Italian government to respect budgetary discipline in introducing the Euro. The common battle cry since the signing of Maastricht has been that the entire EU area with its 380 million inhabitants is functioning. France has stopped this..."

Politiken conludes " But there is a way out, everyone fears that railway traffic is environmentally far less damaging. But it is also clear that the current capacities of an aging rail network and rolling stock are insufficient to resolve the problem of trucks. Here is a task for the EU to deal with before we either asphyxiate ourselves from exhaust gases or die while waiting for undelivered goods."