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Western Press Review: Commentary on EU, War Crimes, Ukraine

Prague, 10 April 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary ranges world events today without consensus on any single topic.

FINANCIAL TIMES: There is a growing emotional gap between the EU and its aspiring members

Commentator Dominique Moisi writes in Britain's Financial Times that France's approach to its pending presidency of the European Union is sparking fear among aspiring EU members that enlargement is fading as an EU priority. Moisi is deputy director of the Paris-based Institute des Politique Entrangere.

France says its top priorities are institutional reform and defense. Moisi writes: "The French have paid only lip service to the cause -- much like most other members of the European club. The less than enthusiastic comments on the subject by Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission, have shown a growing emotional gap between the EU and its aspiring members."

Moisi says that the EU needs to adopt a more progressive attitude toward enlargement or risk alienating future members. The commentator writes: "Delaying enlargement would risk creating strong anti-European feelings. That would bring a higher political penalty than the cost of resisting powerful lobbies at home."

AFTENPOSTEN: The EU is in the midst of a reform process whose final result is quite unpredictable

In an editorial, Norway's Aftenposten takes a similar stance. Discussing reports of internal EU disaffection toward Prodi's leadership, Aftenposten states this view: "Hesitancy surrounding the internal EU issues have a direct influence on the enlargement process. The difficulties and related costs increase in direct proportion with increased doubts and increased impatience in countries like Poland and Hungary. The EU is in the midst of a reform process whose final result is quite unpredictable."

WASHINGTON POST: The six non EU European NATO members are offended that they have been shut out of initial planning for the EU force

Writing in The Washington Post on Sunday, analyst Peter Finn said that there is growing disaffection also over the EU's lack of consultation on plans for a European military force. In Finn's words: "The six European NATO members that are not in the EU are worried that plans for a new EU military force could weaken the collective defense provided by the Atlantic alliance. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, as well as Iceland, Norway and Turkey, are offended that they have been shut out of initial planning for the EU force, which the 15-member union agreed on at summit talks in December. The six are demanding to be included in the project as equal partners, not only as a matter of principle but also to ensure that the project does not damage Europe's ties to the United States."

NEW YORK TIMES: The changes have engendered a rare sense of excitement

The New York Times today carries a commentary by Marlise Simons, writing from The Hague. Simons says that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has achieved significant new stature in the month just past. In the writer's words: "It has opened the first United Nations trial ever to focus exclusively on sexual violence against women, including gang rape and the use of women as sexual slaves as part of a war strategy. It has begun the trial of one of the top generals accused of being responsible for the carnage in 1995 at the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, probably Europe's worst massacre of civilians since World War II."

The commentary continues: "And on Friday, prosecutors brought before the court a top Bosnian Serb political leader who is charged with complicity in the genocide that the prosecutors say his people perpetrated against Bosnia's Muslims and Croats, but who not so long ago was accepted as a figure who could meet with Western presidents and prime ministers."

While problems remain, the writer says, "the changes have engendered a rare sense of excitement in the sober high-security building on the outskirts of this Dutch city where judges are quietly testing and defining uncharted international laws."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Yushchenko's economic program has broken a political logjam

Looking across the way at Ukraine, German commentator Thomas Urban writes today in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that Ukraine appears to be taking a turn toward greater political stability. Urban writes: "At last."

He says that when Ukraine's parliament approved new Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko's economic program, it broke a political logjam. Urban says this: "The first governments following Ukrainian independence in 1991 avoided making any drastic changes, while attempts in recent years to introduce reforms have been blocked by the conservative majority in parliament, the Supreme Council. Following [President Leonid] Kuchma's re-election at the end of last year, a number of deputies chose to support the president's line, [thus] enabling him to put in place a radical reformer like Yushchenko to lead the government."

Urban continues: "The prime minister announced plans to speed up the privatization of state-owned businesses and for all companies to be taxed uniformly. This was seen in Kyiv as a move against several financial tycoons, or oligarchs as they are known, whose conglomerates have been profiting from exceptional legal status."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Those to be feared are weapons that might some day be launched by rogue states

The Los Angeles Times, commenting in an editorial today on arms control, says of Russia: "Its empire may be gone and its internal woes may be formidable, but in one respect at least, Russia's claim to superpower status remains strong." Russia remains, says the newspaper, the only country that could destroy the United States with one large nuclear attack. The editorial says that START Two -- what the editorial calls a "long-pending treaty that would dramatically reduce both the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals" -- is endangered by U.S. interest in amending the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. The U.S. administration of President Bill Clinton wants to install a missile defense system.

As the editorial puts it: "It's not Russia's weapons that are now especially feared, but those that might someday be launched by rogue states. [U.S. leaders are] looking toward a national missile defense system capable of protecting against the relatively small number of missiles a hostile country like North Korea might eventually have." The editorial goes on: "It should be obvious, as U.S. officials have repeatedly told [Russia], that the national missile defense couldn't defend against a full-scale Russian attack and so is no threat to the nuclear balance."

The L.A. Times concludes: "The United States doesn't want to lose START Two because of Russian antipathy to a new U.S. missile defense. But the nature of the nuclear threat has changed markedly since 1972. American security can't be put at risk by failing to prepare a defense against a possible limited missile attack from a rogue state."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: The United States ought to be proceeding aggressively on all fronts

The Wall Street Journal Europe also takes up missile defense in an editorial. In the newspaper's words: "Ultimately, any effective national missile defense is going to be a layered defense, which means land, sea and, as the threat gets more sophisticated, space. The United States ought to be proceeding aggressively on all fronts, without having to tiptoe around an archaic treaty signed with a power that no longer exists. That means going ahead with deployment of the ground-based [missile-defense] system that is under consideration, no matter what Moscow has to say. And it means pursuing [missile defense, including a ship-based] option, as fast as we can."

(Anthony Georgieff in Copenhagen assisted with this review.)