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Western Press Review: Comments Range From EU Expansion To U.S. In China

Prague, 1 July 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today ranges broadly.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The real debate is between the little Europeans and the big Europeans

The International Herald Tribune carries a commentary by David Howell, former British secretary of state for energy and a former chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. He says the EU needs to give greater attention to integrating with Central and Eastern European states. He writes: "The British have poured generations of lifeblood and resources into keeping Europe free and stable. They are champions of an enlarged and open Europe, and of completing the single market. And the "Anglo-Saxon" themes of deregulation and resistance to excessive centralization are coming to the fore in the EU agenda."

Howell contends: "The real debate is not between pro- and anti-Europeans at the extremes. It is between the little Europeans and the big Europeans. It is between those who put the interests of a tighter political union of West Europeans first, and those who believe that the priority is creation of a wider and more open European community, embracing the new democracies of Eastern and Central Europe as fast as possible."

He says: "Meanwhile, the East and Central Europeans, who feel, rightly, that they are now just as much a part of a modern, free and stable Europe as their Western neighbors, are beginning to question whether the unwelcoming political union they see emerging is quite the same as the community they originally yearned to join. If there is a criticism of the British position in all this, it is that Britain has been too timid by half in championing the cause of the East and Central Europeans, with whom in past history it had the closest ties."

He concludes: "There is nothing exclusively pro-European about the dated and narrow French-German view of European development. And nothing anti-European about seeking to steer the whole European continent in a more open, liberal and accommodative direction, better suited to today's and tomorrow's circumstances."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Child soldiers are terrible killing machines

Commentator Tomas Avenarius takes up the topic in today's Sueddeutsche Zeitung of children, some as young as eight years of age, in armed combat. He says that modern weapons equalize the differences between a frail child and a adult warrior. Avenarius writes: "Between 250,000 and 350,000 children are in armies worldwide, in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, in Burma, Sierra Leone and the Sudan. They receive a rifle, a handful of bullets, three meals a day and -- perhaps for the first time in their lives -- a pair of shoes. Child soldiers are terrible killing machines without the least idea of mercy or morals."

"Child soldiers, according to experts, are ready to carry out even the most suicidal of missions," he writes. He says: "Several international organizations have joined in a campaign to try and halt children being used by armies." And says: "They are demanding an additional protocol to the International Convention on Children's Rights stating that the minimum age for army recruits be raised from 15 to 18 years --in all countries. Many western governments are currently opposed to the plan, above all the United States. The reason being that in America, Britain, Israel and elsewhere, 17-year-olds can serve in the armed forces."

Avenarius writes: "Only with the advent of rapid-fire weapons did eight-year-olds become fighters. The American M-16 assault rifle, which was almost recoilless, and the Soviet-made AK-47 made soldiers of these weak and undernourished kids."

DIE WELT: A new era of freedom and prosperity is to begin in Hungary

In the German newspaper Die Welt, Boris Kolnoky applauds Hungary's new government's early moves. He comments: "When Hungary's conservative opposition defeated the ruling Socialists at the polls six weeks ago, there was much talk of difficulties lying ahead in the formation of a new government and of conflicts of political interest in the new coalition. But there has been no sign of either yet. Youthful premier-designate Viktor Orban, 35, named his cabinet in record time, agreement having been reached swiftly with Jozsef Torgyan's Small Farmers' Party, which is to have four cabinet seats. They have now issued a detailed government policy statement."

Kalnoky writes: "What is new is a rejection of cooperation with countries whose policies run counter to the 'Euro-Atlantic system of values.' The new government also aims to defend the interests of ethnic Hungarian minorities in neighboring countries and to help them to uphold their national identity and to survive in their home areas.

He concludes: "All in all, the new government wants to ensure that Hungary is up to Western European standards in domestic, economic and foreign policy. The state is to serve the people, the process of transformation is to be brought to a conclusion and a new era of freedom and prosperity is to begin."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Talks have gone nowhere

A news analysis of the Kosovo crisis by Neil King Jr. in the Wall Street Journal Europe finds that the West once more is baffled by the Balkans. King writes: "Despite their recent threats to use force against Belgrade if necessary, Western allies remain deeply unsure about how to stem the mounting violence in the Serb province of Kosovo." He says: "In the two weeks since NATO jets staged a show-of-force exercise near Kosovo's borders, Serb security forces have intensified their campaign against ethnic Albanian guerrillas in several parts of the province."

King says: "Amid the fighting, intense U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to broker talks between the Serb and ethnic Albanian leaders have gone nowhere." And continues: "The United States has tried in recent days to open an informal dialogue with the KLA, acknowledging that a cease-fire can happen only with the group's consent. In a move that surprised many Europeans, U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke met briefly last week with members of the Albanian insurgency during a four-day diplomatic trip to the Balkans."

The writer says: "Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has ruled out ever sitting down with the KLA, a policy that Russia says it fully supports." He says: "Diplomats also complain that the West has yet to come up with a proposal attractive enough to get both Serbs and ethnic Albanians to the negotiating table."

NEW YORK TIMES: Signs of unexpected openness may be the most encouraging development

Finally, The New York Times says editorially that U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit to China has shined new light into dark corners. The newspaper says: "President Clinton's trip to China has given Americans an extended look at political life in that complex and changing country. Some of what they have witnessed was predictable, including the Chinese government's effort to clear outspoken dissidents from Clinton's path. But a good deal was not, like the uncensored broadcast in China of Clinton's news conference with President Jiang Zemin. The signs of unexpected openness may be the most encouraging development of the Clinton visit."

The editorial concludes: "As China continues to modernize its economy, it will face new pressures from within and without to open up its political system as well. Clinton has repeatedly used his public appearances on this trip to point out the connection between economic and political freedom. Millions of Chinese have been listening attentively."