Prague, 11 November 1998 (RFE/RL) -- In Brussels yesterday, the European Union began substantive membership talks with Cyprus and five Central and East European candidates (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia). Some Western press commentators today assess the EU's planned expansion to the East and its current trade dispute with the U.S. Others continue to discuss the possibility of a new U.S. military strike against Iraq.
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The scene is set for a long and bitter struggle
The International Herald Tribune carries a commentary by Roy Denman, a former EU representative in Washington. He warns against too optimistic expectations of early EU expansion, saying that "anyone who believes (in the first wave's admission by 2003) would believe in the Wizard of Oz."
Denman asks: "Who in the EU really wants enlargement?" He says that "everyone in Brussels suspects that the British want enlargement to make the EU so unwieldy as to be unmanageable..." He continues: "The new German Chancellor (Gerhard Schroeder) is uneasy about a flow of low-paid labor from the East, and he will be concerned even more than his predecessor about how much Germany will have to pay."
"Finance," Denman adds, "remains a major problem for a number of EU members....The total (gross national product) of all (10) potential entrants from the East at present amounts to little more than half that of the Netherlands."
Denman concludes: "The scene is set for a long and bitter struggle (within the EU)....The first wave may not be full members for another 10 years; the second wave substantially longer. It is always well, before embarking on a journey, to have a realistic idea of how long it will take."
DIE WELT: The fears, East and West, are much starker than most believe
In the German daily Die Welt, Nikolaus Blome also says that expansion "will take longer than anybody currently imagines; it will be more expensive than anyone is saying; and the fears, East and West, are much starker than most believe."
In a commentary, Blome writes: "Eastern expansion must become a reality because it makes (political and economic) sense. But this does not change the many accompanying problems --from the German fear of uncontrolled immigration to the East European fear of being exploited."
He goes on: "As cliched as it might sound, the enlargement of the EU is not an end in itself. Europe has borders, and there are therefore countries that will lie outside its boundaries --forever. In the case of Russia and Ukraine, this is because of their sheer size. For Turkey there are other reasons."
"Turkey,": he explains, "...is a country whose everyday life is characterized by Islam, even if its politics strives to resemble Western models.... Entry to the EU will not solve this at one stroke."
FINANCIAL TIMES: The U.S. methods are reprehensible
Two other newspapers run editorials on the current renewal of an old trade dispute between the EU and the U.S. over, of all things, bananas. Under the heading "The U.S. and EU Go Bananas", Britain's Financial Times writes: "The immediate crisis stems from the U.S. threat to retaliate against the EU's banana import scheme by unilaterally imposing sanctions on European exports." The paper adds: "Washington claims the EU has failed to bring the regime into line with a (recent) World Trade Organization (WTO)...ruling that it violated world trade rules."
The FT goes on to say: "The U.S. may have a case. But its methods are reprehensible....Washington's intemperate behavior has handed the EU a political gift it scarcely deserves." But the editorial also faults the EU, saying "the changes the EU is making to its banana regime in response to the WTO are...minimalist."
The paper concludes by calling for greater respect for WTO authority: "(That) will not be achieved," it says, "by reckless threats of unilateral sanctions that could bring the WTO to its knees."
WALL STREET JOURNAL: Europe is wrong about bananas....
In its editorial the Wall Street Journal Europe calls on Washington to "retaliate --with freer trade." The paper writes of what it describes as "the dispute...over the EU's ongoing attempt to protect the (Latin American) banana producers of former European colonies from the competition of American-based giants....The policy," the WSJ says, "is uniformly conceded to be a disaster, costing European consumers lots of money..."
The editorial continues: "Europe is wrong about bananas....This is a perfect moment (for the U.S.) to...pursue a strategy of unilateral opening....We see no reason why the U.S. shouldn't unilaterally offer open-ended work visas to any EU citizen who wants one."
The paper concludes: "No doubt the idea would send shivers down the spines of European leaders who hypocritically proclaim the virtues of a free trading system. For the only thing that keeps Europe's over-regulated economies afloat is the fact that much of its highly skilled labor force is essentially captive."
GUARDIAN: The doves have the better case...
"Crisis in Iraq -- Again" is the title of an editorial in Britain's Guardian daily today. The paper writes that the "magnitude of what is looming" between the U.S. and Iraq is becoming clearer each day. President Saddam Hussein, it explains, "announced a week ago that he had lost patience with the United Nations special commission...monitoring the dismantling of his weapons programs and would refuse to cooperate any longer."
Some recent press reports, the Guardian notes, "claim this is the most serious Iraqi-inspired confrontation since the Gulf war. They imply the U.S. is closer to using force against Saddam than at any time since 1991."
The paper adds: "A debate is (apparently) going on between (U.S.) hawks and doves." The Guardian says: "The doves have the better case....To go over the top and use force unilaterally would split the UN Security Council, give Saddam unnecessary kudos and exact an unpredictable cost in civilian casualties. Most of all, it would have no guarantee of success, whether that means the destruction of Iraq's weapons potential or the overthrow of Saddam."
NEW YORK TIMES: The options for the use of force revolve around timing
But a news analysis in the New York Times says that President Bill Clinton is now "debating whether to strike Iraq now or wait 10 days or so, to allow him to go first to an (Asian) summit meeting in Malaysia, as well as to add more forces to the U.S. and British arsenal now aimed at Iraq."
The analysis continues: "More time would also allow (Saddam) to retreat from confrontation again, although (U.S. officials say they doubt he will) ever cooperate sufficiently with the UN weapons inspectors to allow the true disarmament of Iraq through peaceful means."
The NYT adds: "No ultimatums will be issued before force is used, and no new negotiating missions to Baghdad are planned....The options for the use of force revolve around timing --strike now, while Mr. Saddam continues his defiance, or wait until more American and allied forces can be moved to the Gulf to make a strike more forceful."