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Western Press Review: EU And Clinton Faced With Trouble

Prague, 14 December 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The European press interrupts its preoccupation with the European Union and the EU's weekend summit to look with dismay at the U.S. fixation on President Bill Clinton's threatened impeachment. The U.S. press barely interrupts its concentration on Clinton to express concern over diminishing EU commitment to expansion.

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: The Vienna conference has not clarified a way out of the labyrinth

Peter Hort, in a commentary in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, says this weekend's EU summit stalled. He writes: "The Vienna conference has not clarified a way out of the labyrinth of demands and counter demands, the position of the northern and southern countries, the net payers and the net receivers. Whether the reform package can be dismissed by the end of March while the EU is chaired by Germany is questionable. It seems that only (German Chancellor Gerhard) Schroeder has still not recognized what a Herculean task awaits him."

Hort's commentary concludes: "Eastern expansion and internal reforms are closely connected, and whoever gives the impression that he is only thinking of his own purse, is driving expansion and absorption against a wall."

TIMES: It is time to get some maturity into Britain's relationship with Europe

From London, The Times carries a commentary by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, complaining that he is -- inaccurately -- likened to his predecessors John Major and Margaret Thatcher in truculence toward Europe.

Blair writes: "I don't have Mrs Thatcher's attitude to Europe and I don't, thankfully, lead Mr. Major's party. When I say that I want Britain to be a leading partner in Europe, engaged in shaping its future, I mean it. And I can deliver it." He says Britain originally joined the Common Market because, "in the end, we knew it was in our interests." Blair says: "We can either make it work; or opt out of it and retreat to the margins, where the Tories took us. It is time to get some maturity into our relationship with Europe."

AKTUELT: The consequences can be negative if the enlargement process is delayed indefinitely

The Danish daily newspaper Aktuelt laments editorially that the EU is focusing inward and lowering the priority of expansion. At the Vienna summit this weekend, the paper says: "The EU countries showed that their internal controversies are more important than the enlargement eastwards, and the applicant countries got nothing to bring home except their own patience." Aktuelt warns, "The consequences for both East and West can be negative if the enlargement process is delayed indefinitely."

WASHINGTON POST: A great task of this era is the integration of Europe's newly free nations

The Washington Post made a similar argument from the U.S. perspective in an editorial Sunday. It said: "A great task of this era is the integration of Europe's newly free nations into the transatlantic community of democracies. Nothing could be more important for future peace and stability than to lock in liberty's progress. So it is a worry now that the drive toward integration may be losing momentum -- not because of any diminished enthusiasm by the new democracies, but because of faltering commitment by the old ones." The Post concludes: "From Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south, nations released from captivity are eager to join the democratic alliances from which they were unwillingly excluded (and) inclusion, not isolation, is what will better suit the overall public interest."

LOS ANGELES: How can a democracy work without information?

Generally, though, issues like the European Union, NATO expansion, Kosovo, and the world economy seem to distract the U.S. press only minimally from its fixation on Clinton's travails. Leipzig University media professor Ruediger Steinmetz exclaims in a Los Angeles Times roundup today: "How can a democracy work without information on the rest of the world? All the public in America knows about is what happened between (former White House intern) Monica (Lewinsky) and Bill (Clinton)."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: If Clinton is impeached, there will be a vacuum of leadership

Los Angeles Times writer Carol J. Williams quotes Steinmetz and other scholars and leaders in a roundup of opinion about the U.S. impeachment march. She finds her sources unanimously offended, not so much by Clinton's actions, as by the U.S. response.

She writes, "Germany's new culture minister, Michael Naumann, warned the public excoriation of Clinton is fomenting anti-American sentiment in Europe." Other comments gathered by Williams: "You're absolutely mad! You're raving mad!" -- conservative French lawmaker Pierre Lellouche. "If Clinton is impeached, there will be a vacuum of leadership which could be harmful for global security," -- Nabil Abdil Fattah, foreign policy expert at Cairo's Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. "There is an element of disbelief." -- Tana de Zulueta, a member of the Italian Senate's foreign policy committee. "The reaction of most Poles would be conservative: 'Leave our Clinton in peace!'" --'Andrzej Krzysztof Wroblewski, a commentator for the weekly magazine Polityka, one of Poland's most prestigious publications.

FINANCIAL TIMES: The U.S. cannot afford to be consumed by this affair for much longer

The Financial Times, London, says in an editorial: "The United States and its president cannot afford to be consumed by this affair for much longer."

TIMES: Mr. Clinton might yet avoid impeachment by a more consistent display of regret

The Times of London editorially offers Clinton some old advice for interesting his enemies in Congress in censure rather than impeachment. The editorial says: "Sentiment might shift if it were felt that censure could become a more significant option. This would require not only forceful language in the text itself but a more consistent display of regret from Mr. Clinton." The Times says that Clinton should acknowledge that his "private actions have had profound public consequences." The Times says: "If he does so now, and with compelling conviction, then Mr. Clinton might yet avoid impeachment."

NEW YORK TIMES: Mr. Clinton's defiance looks a lot like the behavior that got him into this mess

The New York Times seems to agree. It says: "By refusing to bargain with the (U.S. House of Representatives, the lower house of Congress), Mr. Clinton seems to be betting that the Senate will not remove him. It could, in fact, impose the kind of censure that Mr. Livingston is refusing to allow the House to consider. But whatever happens in Congress, Mr. Clinton's defiance and his willingness to gamble on a Senate showdown look a lot like the behavior that got him into this mess -- irresponsible, self-destructive and dangerously out of place in the Oval Office."

AFTENPOSTEN: The Republicans have become estranged from a voter majority

The Norwegian daily Aftenposten editorializes: "The harsh words with which U.S. President Bill Clinton is attacked (in Congress) show partly how bitter the Republicans (are about) Clinton, the Democrat, and partly how estranged they have become from a voter majority of two-to-one which thinks that there is not enough proof to impeach the President."