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Western Press Review: German Immigration, EU, Putin, Iraq Sanctions

Prague, 5 July 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary in the Western press today addresses a variety of topics. Some analysts look at German immigration in light of a recent report that suggests giving thousands of foreign workers work and residence permits to offset Germany's declining birthrate. Others consider the failure of the European Union's takeover directive and what this will mean for the EU's economy. Additional commentary discusses Russian President Vladimir Putin's policies in regard to both Chechnya and a free press, and re-examines the UN's sanctions on Iraq.


An editorial in the Financial Times assesses the recommendations of Germany's independent commission on immigration and integration. The paper writes: "Even such a conservative report on immigration inevitably seems to generate unfounded fears about the detrimental effects of foreign workers on the host country's wages, incomes and employment. Facts and reasoned argument take a back seat."

The editorial continues: "Academic studies and evidence [show] that foreign workers do not increase unemployment or cause the income of nationals to fall. Instead, as immigrants are also consumers, their demand tends to improve employment prospects and incomes in the host country. And their skills tend to complement rather than substitute those of nationals." The paper concludes: "The truth is that host countries benefit from immigration, as do the immigrants. Developing countries have the most to fear, as they stand to lose some of their most talented individuals."


In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Georg Paul Hefty also considers the German commission's report on immigration. He writes: "Commissions keep themselves and public opinion busy, but they make no progress on the issue at stake. That is the lesson to be learned from the glut of commissions of inquiry into immigration. [After] months of work, no one has proved that Germany needs immigrant quotas or that immigrants will help it to achieve lasting social stability." Hefty goes on: "Immigration policy thus continues to be a matter of party-political preferences and parliamentary majorities." He asks: "How are 20,000 immigrants a year [going] to, [in the words of the report,] 'bridge bottlenecks in the labor market' when Germany has 3.7 million unemployed, and half-a-million people illegally employed are unable to bridge these 'bottlenecks?'"


In Britain's Times daily, Anatole Kaletsk looks forward to a time when "the growing paranoia about immigrants in British and European politics [would] gradually give way to a more welcoming attitude to immigrants. Not only would immigrants prove economically indispensable to pay for Europeans' pensions as the baby-boom generation reached retirement," he says. "They would also be welcomed because of their skills and entrepreneurial qualities."

The commentary continues: "The growing tolerance and liberalism on immigration [also] opens up a panoply of economic opportunities for Europe. At the same time, however, Europe's welcome for immigrants is a function of falling unemployment and rapid economic growth. If economic conditions were allowed to deteriorate, the newfound tolerance of immigrants might quickly dissipate. Europe would not only lose out on the economic benefits of immigration, it would also lose a great opportunity to create some solid foundations for the ideal of a united Europe."


Deborah Hargreaves and Peter Norman write in the Financial Times that the "European parliament's tight vote on [4 July] to defeat legislation that would provide common EU rules on takeovers sends a signal to the outside world that Europe is not serious about opening up its capital markets. Worse still," the analysts say, "it comes in the same week that the EU angered U.S. executives and politicians by blocking General Electric's takeover of Honeywell."

The two writers note that the legislation was defeated "after lobbying by German members of the European Parliament as well as Italian and Spanish MEPs, who feared their national champions were vulnerable to takeover." They quote Frits Bolkestein, the EU's internal market commissioner, as saying: "It is tragic to see how Europe's broader interests can be frustrated by certain narrow [national] interests."


In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Joachim Jahn writes that "the failure of the long-contested EU takeover directive is spectacular evidence of how self-assured and strong the European Parliament has become. It also shows how hard it is to reconcile the interests of member states." He notes that opinion on the directive is divided even within the business community -- the financial sector has reason to be disappointed, but some industries are relieved. Jahn writes: "Yet, if anything should be regulated Europe-wide, then the company takeover process [should] -- not least in the interests of shareholders."


A Washington Post editorial says that "on [2 July], [Russian President] Vladimir Putin's prosecutors brought criminal charges against the director of a small television station that has been a last-ditch refuge for independent journalists driven out of the NTV network this year. On [3 July], his police raided the offices of Echo of Moscow [radio station]."

The paper comments: "Mr. Putin's public acts [continue] to be those of a budding autocrat who is systematically liquidating his country's free press, responding to restless minorities with lies and dirty war and seeking to restore Russian influence in the world by supporting and encouraging such [nations] as Iraq."

The editorial continues: "Since [Putin's] meeting with [U.S. President George W.] Bush and the president's effusive endorsement, Western objections to his regime and its tactics have all but died away." The paper notes that French President Jacques Chirac's "relatively strong" criticism in the past of Putin's war in Chechnya created tensions in Franco-Russian relations for much of last year. It writes: "The Russian president [dispatched] his police to the Echo of Moscow studios before the station was due to interview the French leader. [Yet] Mr. Chirac -- evidently eager not to be bested by Washington in the romancing of Mr. Putin -- [rather] than criticize the raid on Echo of Moscow or Mr. Putin's actions in Chechnya, [instead] stressed the 'considerable convergence' the French and Russian governments were achieving."


The Washington Post also carries a commentary on Chechnya signed by former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. secretary of state Alexander Haig, and former U.S. chief delegate to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe Max Kampelman. They write that President Putin shed some light on the conflict at a press conference last month when he said that Chechnya's independence was of "no fundamental importance." What was important, Putin added, was that the territory not be used "as a bridgehead for an attack on Russia."

The three writers note that "there have been some recent indications that Russian public opinion is beginning to re-evaluate [the Chechen] war. [On] the Chechen side too, [there] is war weariness and a prevailing desire to end the fighting. President Aslan Maskhadov [has] recently again indicated willingness to discuss peace without any preconditions."

The authors say that, "given [this] political context, it should prove possible to undertake a careful, and probably indirect, exploration of what a reasonable, and perhaps initially only transitional, arrangement might involve. One can envisage various formulas that would satisfy the fundamental standard of expectations as defined by Mr. Putin while not trampling on the aspirations for which so many Chechens have sacrificed their lives."


A New York Times editorial says that Russia's recent veto of the Anglo-American proposal for "smart sanctions" on Iraq may ultimately prove to be a good thing for London and Washington. The paper writes: "It may at last force Britain and the U.S. to stop exploring variations of an obviously failed approach and instead take swift and serious measures to remove Saddam Hussein from power. [The] smart sanctions [can] hardly be described as an improvement [on past policies]."

The editorial calls Hussein's current and future weapons capacities "a clear and present danger not just to Middle East stability but to Western security generally. [Now] the West seems to be waiting on Saddam to hand them another alibi so it can get UN approval to take action."

The paper also says that a "credible strategy has already been tabled" for removing Hussein from power. It notes that in 1998, former Congressman Stephen Solarz and former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle laid out a nine-point strategy for "bringing down Saddam and his regime." The paper writes: "Given the inadequacy of any other option, and the sheer unthinkability of doing nothing, the course outlined [by their approach] deserves favorable, and urgent, consideration."