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Western Press Review: The Limitations Of Common Policy, EU Enlargement, Economic Slowdown

Prague, 3 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary in the Western press over the weekend and today looks at the limitations of unified, supranational policies such as those of NATO and the EU; "the face" of Europe; and EU enlargement. Other topics include the global economic slowdown and the ongoing NATO-led disarmament of ethnic Albanian insurgents in Macedonia.


Columnist Frank-Dieter Frankenberger examines the limitations of unified European policies in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung." In light of Germany's apparent hesitation to take part in NATO's "Operation Essential Harvest" mission in Macedonia, he writes:

"[The] theoretical question arises of whether [Germany], having regained its sovereign status under international law, must necessarily participate in a military action just because others have decided to do so and because its participation is expected. What would have happened if the Bundestag, exercising its right as the German parliament, had voted against sending the nation's military to Macedonia -- had voted that way after having assessed the situation differently than other NATO countries, after having identified divergent interests from, say, Britain, which pushed for the Macedonia mission?"

Frankenberger says that considering the annoyance in the alliance caused by the German government's delay in approving the mission, "one can well imagine the pique that would have resulted from a negative vote. Germany would certainly have been accused of lacking solidarity, of being unreliable and unworthy of partner status."

But he concludes by pointing out the positive aspects of being part of a union. While he notes that "clearly, there is little room for dissent when it comes to EU and NATO policy," he adds that it has always been in the interest of both the union and member nations to remain in collaboration. He writes: "[In] the areas where community institutions 'govern' -- monetary union, for example -- the common good remains the political guiding light. Those are limits that allow a satisfying range of freedom."


In the "International Herald Tribune," commentator Flora Lewis says that Javier Solana, the EU's security chief, is becoming the face and the voice of a common European policy. Lewis describes this as "an important development of the EU's long, gradual transformation from an economic accommodation to a political existence, still ambiguous but taking on substance. Mr. Solana [is] giving it a face," she writes.

It is Solana's job to make Europe's influence in the world visible and tangible, to show that Europe is involved in international crisis areas and in the attempt to find solutions; that it "feels and accepts responsibilities," Lewis writes.

In addition, he encourages the EU member states "to coordinate their foreign policy establishments, plan trips of their leaders abroad for cumulative impact, make more effort to discover what they can usefully do together in foreign affairs."

"There isn't really a word for what Europe is turning into.... [Perhaps] the current name of 'Union' will endure. It is elastic enough to stretch over a quantity and quality of integration far from determined. Meanwhile," Lewis writes, "Mr. Solana works to give it consistency."


Gerhard Gnauck in Germany's "Die Welt" discusses the special contribution to Poland and Europe made by Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, who is the honorary guest at the conference of ambassadors to Germany opening today.

Gnauck writes: "Bartoszewski survived Auschwitz and imprisonment at the hands of the communists. This historian has dedicated his work to Polish-Jewish and Polish-German understanding. Poland and Germany have much in common in a history of conquerors and the conquered. They have honestly come to terms with their past and it is to Bartoszewski's credit that a 'good neighborliness' has developed between Germany and Poland. The 79-year-old Bartoszewski has earned respect as a diplomat but even more," Gnauck writes, "as one of the intellectuals who was among the first after 1989 to serve his country and to begin to pave the way to Europe."


In a contribution to the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," Goldman Sachs economist Thomas Mayer considers the effects that EU enlargement will have on the labor markets of EU members Germany and Austria. Mayer says that labor migration to these countries from accession nations could raise the working-age population by 1 percent in Germany and about 2 percent in Austria.

He writes: "[Labor] movements are likely to be dominated by young, single males willing to take up low-skilled, low-paid and flexible jobs, even if they are overqualified for these occupations. The immigrant workers will have a considerable competitive advantage over the less-qualified, less-flexible and hence less-productive present holders of these jobs, especially close to the border regions."

Mayer says that because immigration is likely to be characterized by lower-skilled groups, "the preparation of the national labor markets for the inflow of workers from the accession countries would require, first and foremost, measures to increase wage flexibility."

He adds that current solutions being considered to protect workers in EU member nations -- such as a freeze on worker migration following the accession of new members -- are unlikely to work. He writes: "Any politically acceptable transition period is likely to be too short for migration incentives, in the form of wage differentials, to have disappeared at the time of its expiration."

Mayer concludes: "Enlargement should be a positive-sum game. However, inappropriate labor market policies could turn it into a zero-sum game, with low-skilled workers in the German and Austrian border regions the most obvious losers."


A "Financial Times" editorial considers the global economic downturn, and says that the interdependence of the world's economies calls for a concerted and unified effort to stem the decline. Specifically, the paper calls for cooperation on lowering the value of the dollar, which it says continues to be a drag on the U.S. economy and whose over-inflated value threatens to cause what it calls "a catastrophic global collapse exacerbated by a plunging dollar and serious disarray in financial markets."

The "Financial Times" writes: "[Industrial] countries must recognize that the convergence of economic cycles means that they will sink or swim together. That means they must all encourage an orderly decline in the dollar -- if only by their rhetoric. They must also look to the longer term, refusing to be diverted from structural reforms and resisting the threats to free trade that proliferate in a cold economic climate."


Commentator Katja Ridderbusch says in "Die Welt" that what she calls "the peace that never was" in Macedonia is about to fail completely. This development is not surprising: "This was bound to happen," she writes. The plan was forced upon both sides in a situation in which civil war seemed imminent. As in Bosnia and Kosovo, NATO felt obliged to act.

She writes: "But the result was a wobbly construction, built on the impossible challenge of combining the role of a mediator, as a 'guest' of the Macedonian government, with the mission of collecting weapons voluntarily handed over by the rebels." Ridderbusch remarks that there is no doubt NATO had the best of intentions, but that the alliance regarded its mission with little realism. "The third intervention in the Balkans by the West is set on the best road to a fiasco," she says.


In an analysis in the French daily "Le Monde," correspondent Remy Ourdan writes from Skopje that even while the Macedonian parliament debates constitutional reforms that would give ethnic Albanians greater rights in the country, the 13 August agreement reached at Ohrid being debated remains "very unpopular" in the country.

This was borne out by demonstrations outside the parliament building at the start of the negotiations on 31 August, as 300 demonstrators surrounded the entrances to the building. Ourdan says that while the demonstrators "could easily have been scattered by police, [the authorities] chose to allow them this display."

He notes that the demonstrators struck an ethnic Albanian representative before letting him run off. In spite of the assaulted man's status as a member of parliament, Ourdan says, the riot police did not react.

However, Ourdan notes that NATO and Western diplomats remain confident in the outcome of the session. He quotes a European diplomat as saying that they think Macedonian members of parliament have received "orders" to accept the peace plan. But the diplomat added that they are more worried about October -- when the UCK will have been disarmed and NATO will leave the country -- as the possibility remains that Macedonian forces will attempt to recapture territory before the Ohrid agreement is implemented.

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)