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Western Press Review: EU Corporate Policy, NATO-Macedonia, Chirac, Mideast, IMF

Prague, 4 July 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary focuses on a wide range of issues today. Among them are corporate policy in the European Union, the possibility of NATO intervention in Macedonia, and reforming the International Monetary Fund. Commentators also look at the accusations facing French President Jacques Chirac and the continuing tense situation in the Middle East.


An editorial in the "Financial Times" looks at the European Union's recent directive on corporate takeovers. The paper writes: "The aim of the legislation is to create a level playing field for corporate takeovers and to protect the rights of minority shareholders. [But the] takeover directive is in danger of falling at the last hurdle. [The] German government has corralled its deputies to vote down the legislation when it goes before the full European Parliament. If they do so, it will damage Europe's economic prospects and undermine the parliament's credibility."

The paper continues: "It is no great surprise when members of the European Parliament rally to a national cause. [Few] nationalities are free of blame. [National] lobbying is a fact of life in the EU, but it makes a mockery of the parliament's claim to stand up for the people of Europe, while ministers speak for the states."

The editorial concludes: "Deputies [must] explain why voting against the directive is either in Germany's national economic interest or to the benefit of the rest of Europe. [The] EU needs common rules on takeovers if it is to revive its flagging economies and the euro."


In the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," Guenter Bannas examines the prospects for NATO's -- and Germany's -- intervention in Macedonia. While NATO has said it would commit a force to disarm ethnic Albanian insurgents after a peace accord is reached between them and Macedonian authorities, he writes, "nobody expects that NATO's conditions for this operation will be met any time soon." Bannas says that the German government "is refusing to take part in an operation whose initially peaceful character could then draw the German military into a civil war."

He continues: "Only when the purpose of a NATO mission has been defined and only when agreement has been reached among the most important NATO partners and leaders in Skopje, as well as within the United Nations, will [Chancellor Gerhard] Schroeder try to obtain a parliamentary majority [to commit troops]."

Unlike as in the Kosovo conflict, Bannas adds, "the question of guilt cannot be clearly answered. In Macedonia, there are no human rights violations on the scale of those that [created advocates] of the Kosovo mission. [But] as long as the political goals have not been defined, no such mission will be considered."


In "The Wall Street Journal Europe," commentator George Melloan says that complaints about the International Monetary Fund have been piling up. Reform of the fund, he adds, is unlikely to be successfully initiated by its managing director, Horst Koehler. Instead, he writes, reform "will come from a political process, mainly in the U.S., when Congress finally concludes that American money isn't achieving politically desired results. [Like] it or not, [the IMF] is primarily a political creation, engaged in trying to alter political decisions in the countries that borrow the money rich countries [provide]." Bad financial decisions in borrowing nations that have exploded into crises "are laid at the door of an agency that undertook, as its main task, the delivery of global financial stability," Melloan writes.

The IMF has two main problems, he continues. One is that "it has an institutional impetus to lend money. Otherwise, it would have no reason to exist. [The] other problem is that everybody knows this, including finance ministers [and] Wall Street. So there is insufficient incentive to do the difficult work of cleaning up unsound banking." Melloan concludes that "moral hazard" -- the idea that financial guarantees such as IMF aid packages encourage borrowing countries to pursue risky financial policies that otherwise would be unworkable -- "stems from the mere presence of the IMF and its bailout funds."


In the French daily "Le Monde," Raphaelle Bacque and Herve Gattegno look at the recent allegations that French President Jacques Chirac paid cash from unauthorized sources for personal trips for himself and his family between 1992 and 1995. On Tuesday, the public prosecutor of Paris announced that Chirac could be called as an "assisted witness" in the affair. The daily writes that the three judges entrusted with the inquiry should also prepare for the interrogations of "several direct coworkers of the head of state, before sending a summons to the wife of the president of the republic, Bernadette Chirac, and to their daughter, [both] named as beneficiaries of the journeys."

The paper notes that Maurice Foulatiere, who organized the trips that are under scrutiny, cited in his testimony to police that he often spoke with two of Chirac's private secretaries in arranging the journeys, as well as the secretary of Senator Maurice Ulrich. The paper writes: "All three should be interrogated soon."


In "The New York Times," columnist Thomas Friedman considers the conflict in the Middle East and writes: "The only time the Palestinians have made real progress toward statehood is when they rented power from Israel -- when they got the Israeli left and center to support the Palestinian negotiating position and thereby press the Israeli government to deliver what the Palestinians wanted. The United Nations, the United States, the Russians, the Arabs have got the Palestinians nothing. [And] it is also the only power that can deliver them a state."

He continues: "[But] rather than enlisting the Israeli left and center on his side, [Arafat] has alienated them. [He] has done something that [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon was never able to [do]: convert the Israeli left and center to Mr. Sharon's view of the conflict -- that it is a struggle to the death between Israelis and Palestinians." Friedman concludes: "The Palestinian people can still win over [the moderate sectors of Israeli society], but only if they put a credible peace plan on the table."


In a contribution to "The Washington Post," Wendy Pearlman looks at Israel's policy of setting up checkpoints along Palestinian-populated areas and writes: "The checkpoint [in the Palestinian village of Bir Zeit] is not a security measure designed to prevent terrorists from transporting bombs. It is a political tactic to make Palestinians suffer in order to break their wills. As one soldier told me, Israel knows that at least 99 percent of all the people crossing this checkpoint want nothing more than to get to work or school. Nevertheless, the orders are to fill their path with obstacles." Pearlman calls this tactic "morally abhorrent" as well as "illogical." "Does Israel really think that if it tortures Palestinians then Palestinians will oppose Mr. Arafat?" she asks. "Israel's logic of power is doomed to boomerang. In its fear of terrorism, Israel employs warlike violence that drives people to terrorism. In its effort to crush radicalism, it imposes a siege that makes people more radical."

Pearlman concludes: "The more Israel makes the Palestinian people suffer, the more Israel will suffer in the long run. If the Israeli public feels no sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinian people, it could at least do better at attending to its own interests."