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Western Press Review: Jospin's EU Vision, UN, EU-U.S. Relations

Prague, 29 May 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Much Western press commentary focuses on French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's speech in Paris yesterday, in which he outlined his vision of the European Union's future as a "federation of nation-states." Other subjects addressed are U.S.-EU and UN-U.S. relations, and Germany's attitude toward Poland joining the EU.


An editorial in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" characterizes the French prime minister's speech yesterday as a left-wing vision of Europe, and calls Jospin "a voice from the past." The paper says that Jospin's ideology "has been going out of style not only in Europe but throughout the world." It also says that "few, if any, other EU leaders are prepared to touch this vision with a barge pole, let alone embrace it."

The paper goes on to suggest that the speech need not worry the EU too much, since Western Europe's leadership is mainly concentrated in the hands of "an entirely different cast of characters" -- "free marketeers" like Silvio Berlusconi of Italy and Spain's Jose Maria Aznar. It concludes that Jospin's speech "addressed the soul of the EU, not the furniture, and [it is] as such his speech should be studied. It offers important clues for those who still need persuading that the political left has run out of ideas."


A commentary by Guenther Nonnenmacher in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" suggests that Jospin's words should be taken literally when it comes to "the practical proposals [he] made." The writer says that Jospin's idea of a EU police force and public prosecutor's office, as well as his acceptance of the Charter of Fundamental Rights as the foundation for a EU constitution, are significant for the future EU. The commentator adds that Jospin's speech suggests he believes "that fortress Europe must be reinforced against the unpleasant consequences of globalization."

In conclusion, Nonnenmacher writes: "Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about his speech on the 'future of an enlarged Europe,' however, is that he did not expend a single word on the countries that have spent so many years waiting to join the European Union."


In the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," Rudolph Chimelli also analyzes Jospin's speech. He says that Jospin is hardly motivated "by a surge of enthusiasm that transcends the frontiers of patriotism. It was therefore to be expected," the writer adds, "that the French prime minister would not let himself be affected by [German] Chancellor [Gerhard] Schroeder's political enthusiasm for a new [EU] system. A desire to establish something new prevails in Berlin, while in Paris the stress is on continuing to build further on existing foundations."

Chimelli says flatly that "an image of a [European] Union comparable to German Laender [States] or U.S. Federal States is unacceptable to France." His signed editorial contrasts the French and German points of view and their impact on the EU, concluding: "Paris sees the EU as a political community, others regard it as a free-market zone. This applies even more in considering enlargement to the East. Although no new Entente cordial is on the horizon between Lionel Jospin and [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair," Chimelli says, "their common opposition to Berlin serves as a useful reminder: It is not difficult for the Germans to mobilize voices against themselves even in the 21st century."


Similarly, Hans-Hagen Bremer, writing in the "Frankfurter Rundschau," recognizes that the French view of Europe's future is irreconcilable with the German view. He says in a commentary: "That Jospin rejects Chancellor Schroeder's concept and favors a loose federation of [sovereign] states is no surprise." This idea, he notes, has already been voiced by former European Commission President Jacques Delors and French President Jacques Chirac. Bremer concludes: "This corresponds to the widely held political attitude of both the [French] left and right -- a fear of a loss of power in a democratically elected government in a future EU."


An editorial in the French daily "Le Monde," which generally supports the Socialist-led government, says that Jospin's long-awaited remarks on the EU's future will "disappoint convinced 'Europeanists' but should satisfy all supporters of a progressive and pragmatic [EU] integration -- that is, one that respects national sovereignty." The paper writes that if Jospin is seeking a European economic and social model able to resist the effects of globalization, this will require "the conclusion of a European social treaty, a focus on the need for strong and effective public services, and an ambitious industrial policy."

The editorial emphasizes that the European federation that Jospin proposed is distinct from the U.S. federal model, and notes that "at several instances during his speech, Jospin criticized, both overtly and subtly, the United States for its unilateralism and hegemonic intentions." The paper goes on to suggest that an official "Constitution For the Federation of Nation-States" should be developed and approved by EU heads of state and government, and then be submitted to the Union's peoples for approval.


In a commentary for the center-left French daily "Liberation," Eric Aeschimann says that the plan unveiled yesterday by Jospin "neither endorsed the euro-skepticism of [French Foreign] Minister Hubert Vedrine and British diplomacy, nor the federalism of Gerhard Schroeder or [German European Parliament member] Daniel Cohn-Bendit." The writer argues that Jospin's proposal is almost an homage to the proposition for a federation of nation-states outlined by Jacques Delors in 1996 and detailed since by the Our Europe foundation, which has ties to the former European Commission president.

The commentary cites Jospin's last line yesterday -- "I have the will to answer the call of Europe" -- which was greeted by applause from the audience of invited students. It notes an admission made by one student attendee, however, who said he and others had been warned in advance to be present for the prime minister's speech. Aeschimann calls that "the only weak point in a PR plan destined to give the maximum effect to the 'European vision' of the prime minister and future presidential candidate."


"The New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman looks at the relationship between the UN and the United States' national interests. Friedman calls the UN "a global forum that spends 95 percent of its energy endorsing the wars and peacekeeping missions that the U.S. would like done but doesn't want to do itself."

He says that the recent removal of the United States from the UN's Human Rights Commission was "a wake-up call, a signal that the world will push back." Friedman concludes that "the world is full of problems that touch America, that the UN handles. [The] dirty little secret of the Human Rights Commission vote is that it is precisely because 95 percent of the time the UN is simply a tool of the U.S. that a few countries, when they got a chance to stick it to us, did so."


A commentary in the "International Herald Tribune" by Roy Denman, former representative of the European Commission in Washington, addresses the relationship between the EU and the new administration of U.S. President George W. Bush. Denman says that the U.S. will "get more from its relations with the rest of the world if, instead of using a loud hailer to announce unilateral decisions, it puts a problem squarely on the table for discussion with its partners."

He also says that the EU should "get over [the] knee-jerk, hostile reaction to a new approach by a Republican administration" and consolidate its interests to present a united front in discussions with America. He concludes: "The sooner [Europe] can organize itself to speak with one voice, the more effectively it will be able to defend its interests in a dialogue with the world's superpower."


The "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" carries an editorial about what it considers Germany's changed attitude toward Poland's joining the EU. The paper writes: "Poland once had an advocate. He was called Germany, and he wanted to stand by Poland on its way into the European Union. He spoke of an historical opportunity and of the unification of Europe."

But the paper then refers to Germany's recent insistence on a transition period of up to seven years after expansion for the movement of Eastern workers into the present-day EU. And it comments: "Today Poland has an accuser. He is also called Germany, and he still wants to accept Poland into the EU -- but on probation."

The editorial says the change is due to domestic politics: "Now politicians are more concerned with ingratiating themselves among their electors. Economic interests [are also] a priority. And, after all, elections too have to be taken into account: EU enlargement is unpopular in Germany."

The paper concludes: "The [Eastern] newcomers may join the EU, but their citizens will be excluded from fundamental EU freedoms. [But] the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic also have voters to whom it will be difficult to explain membership on such terms."