Prague, 16 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Discussion in the Western press both today and over the weekend centers on the outcome of the EU enlargement summit in Copenhagen; the continuing debate over weapons inspections in Iraq and the possibility of a U.S.-led military campaign; progress for entrepreneurs in the former Soviet bloc; debating U.S. foreign policy objectives; and the unraveling of the commission charged with investigating the intelligence failures that lead to the 11 September attacks on the United States.
An editorial in the British "Financial Times" looks at last week's (12-13 December) European Union summit in Copenhagen and says after "years of negotiation, the EU at last summoned up the courage to open its doors to the east and welcome 10 new states, including eight former communist countries. It also confirmed its willingness to accept Bulgaria and Romania in a few years' time and embraced Turkey as a potential future member."
In doing this, the paper says the EU is not only "erasing Europe's Cold War barriers; it is also addressing even older divisions between Catholic and Orthodox and between Christian and Muslim." The paper calls these developments "most welcome." Europe must remember that joining the EU "depends on candidate states accepting the core values of the current union, including democracy, respect for human rights and the free market. By spreading these values from a community of 370 million to one that, including Turkey, could number 550 million reinforces the stability and peace of the whole of Europe."
THE NEW YORK TIMES:
In "The New York Times," Bill Keller says the purported repression and brutal tactics used by the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein are not "officially" or "formally" relevant "to the question of whether America will lead a military effort to oust him." Keller says instead, "The question of invasion -- officially, formally -- is all about ridding Iraq of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and the means to deliver them."
"But the barbarity of the regime is subtext to everything," he says. "It animates the moralist faction within the [U.S.] administration," and helps sway American liberals who are otherwise skeptical of the need for war. But the Bush administration's supposed "enthusiasm" for Iraqi human rights "would be more believable if it were less selectively applied." This "does not mean [the U.S.] should ostracize countries whose cooperation we need in the war on terror -- [such as] Pakistan, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, and others -- for their flagrant violations of basic human liberty." Engagement "is sometimes a more effective weapon than sanctions" or isolation. But Keller says the main issue "is that fostering civilized behavior should be a priority" in the design of U.S. foreign policy -- "not an afterthought," an appeal to soft hearts, "or a pretext for something else."
A "Chicago Tribune" editorial says ultimately, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is complying with UN Resolution 1441 and allowing renewed weapons inspections "because of the imminent threat of U.S. military action." And the international community is now demanding that Iraq disarm because U.S. President George W. Bush spoke at the United Nations and challenged the Security Council "to enforce its own resolutions."
As weapons inspections continue in Iraq, the paper says the Bush administration "will have a decision to make in the next few weeks, whether to allow inspectors to continue their mission for several more months, or move quickly to invade Iraq while weather conditions are favorable." For now, says the editorial, it is in U.S. interests "to take its time and allow the inspectors to work." The U.S. will be in the best position "if it has broad international support for that action, and that is more likely to come if inspectors have time to conduct their mission."
The paper says the last round of inspection four years ago was obstructed repeatedly, "to the point that inspectors gave up and went home." But that won't happen again," the paper says, as U.S. forces are already amassing forces in the Persian Gulf.
The editorial says the U.S. should "keep the military pressure on Iraq with the threat that any deviation from compliance will spur action." For that, it writes, is "the only language Hussein respects."
FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG:
An editorial in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" today questions how to achieve lasting restraint over the use of atomic weapons, used for the first -- and so far only -- time during World War II, with the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some observers consider the danger to be minimized since the end of the Cold War, but the paper says, "the truth is that the possibility of an atomic war has come nearer" due to weapons proliferation.
"Nuclear controls can only be effective if they are all-encompassing," it says. So-called "rogue" states such as Iraq and North Korea do not constitute the only dangers. Iran is also sending out alarming messages. It is little comfort to know that the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency is keeping an eye on these developments. Moreover, the Islamic states respond to related criticisms by asking why Israel's atomic potential is causing far less concern.
The paper is inclined to agree. While Israel defends itself by saying it needs the nuclear deterrent because it is geographically surrounded by enemies, from the point of view of establishing all-encompassing nuclear controls, the statements from the Arab world are making a good point, the paper concludes.
In a contribution to the "Financial Times," Dominique Moisi of the Paris-based Institute Francais des Relations Internationales (French Institute of International Relations) says Europe has been called the fusion "of a geographic space and a democratic project." He says geographic considerations have sometimes hurt Turkey's candidacy, as "the country lies to the east of what many would consider the EU's natural borders." But at the same time, Ankara has also "made considerable efforts to adopt more 'European' values."
Moisi says Russia "may be more European than Turkey, geographically and culturally; but it is less 'European' in political and economic terms." He says when it comes to issues concerning "democratic accountability and imperialist behavior, the Russians have yet to work out where they stand, even today."
Even while Europe moves toward reunification, it is also "reverting to the prejudices and stereotypes of its past." Balance-of-power politics from the past are reasserting themselves. The resurgence of the Franco-German alliance is one example, Moisi says. Paris is "disenchanted" with a London that is too unreservedly pro-U.S., he says. Moreover, France views Germany's recent international "weakness and isolation" as an "opportunity to become the dominant partner in a rejuvenated relationship." Yet Moisi says this satisfaction with Germany's new weakness [betrays] a profoundly un-European streak. A debilitated Germany should be seen as a worry for Europe, not a benefit for France."
LOS ANGELES TIMES:
In a contribution to the "Los Angeles Times," Susan Lynne Tillou, a participant in the U.S. electoral observation mission in Serbia, discusses some of the reasons behind the failure of a third round of Serbian elections to elect a president. The 8 December round was declared invalid due to under-50 percent voter turnout, which is required by law. Tillou says this dealt "a major blow to democratic reforms begun after the Slobodan Milosevic regime was toppled in 2000."
She says a main factor in the inability to achieve a 50 percent participation level "was the inaccurate and out-of-date national voters' list, which served to inflate the eligible electorate and make the 50 percent level virtually unattainable. All political parties and observer groups agree that the list was filled with names of the deceased and citizens now living abroad."
Another factor limiting turnout, she says, "was that none of the candidates wooed the youth vote" -- something she calls "a stunning political mistake." Serbia's young generation "was probably the most influential in the movement that ousted Milosevic in the 2000 elections and brought about the opportunity for democratic reform," says Tillou. But today, "many are disenchanted because most of the promises of reform in 2000 have not been kept."
Jochen Hoenig in the financial paper "Handelsblatt" looks at the economic implications and far-reaching consequences of the European enlargement confirmed at the EU summit in Copenhagen last week. "With the acceptance of 75 million people and the extension of its borders to Eastern Europe, the EU has taken on an enormous task. Vast efforts will be involved for decades to come in building the economic and structural deficits in the new member states."
Nevertheless, the population of Eastern Europe can hope for a long-term improvement in living standards. The progress of both Spain and Portugal are proof of such development, since they joined the EU in 1986.
The tasks this time are still more challenging, as closer cooperation is envisaged, particularly as the new countries have much lower economic standards, which will take decades to improve.
Hoenig says close cooperation is imperative and predicts: "The much vaunted incompatibility of expansion and more profound collaboration will dissolve. Both these processes will dovetail." If the EU fails to forge cooperation with all its members, its aspirations of playing a leading role in world politics will never materialize, he says.
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE:
A joint analysis published in the "International Herald Tribune" by Steven Fries of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Joel Hellman of the World Bank says 1999 and 2000 rounds of a survey of companies from the former Soviet bloc indicate that some aspects of the regional business climate have greatly improved. Corruption is diminishing, as are the obstacles for small entrepreneurial companies. But investor skepticism continues, they say, as these improvements could merely be an inevitable improvement from the "deep, prolonged recession that many countries faced in the early years of transition." Investors continue to wonder, Is the post-transition era of entrenched vested interests and asset-grabbing over?
Progress continues to be slow in business regulation and the judicial system. What the authors call "onerous regulation" and "arbitrary bureaucratic interference" continue. Moreover, the courts must improve their enforcement of property rights and contracts. "Part of the problem comes from states still too weak to reign in their own officials or to enforce their own rules and laws," they write. And many of the relationships "between politicians and powerful companies [are] still too cozy and too opaque."
THE WASHINGTON POST:
An editorial in "The Washington Post" today discusses the resignations last week of the two men appointed to lead the committee to investigate intelligence failures leading up the 11 September attacks. Committee Vice Chairman and former U.S. Senator George Mitchell resigned on 11 December, followed on 13 December by Chairman and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Both cited professional concerns as reasons for not being able to serve.
The paper suggests the "decentralized patchwork of agencies and authorities" that now make up the U.S. security and intelligence apparatus may be contributing to the problem. It says the committee "must examine specific failures," but "it should also look at structural flaws that could, if unaddressed, impede any efforts to improve performance."
"What's needed are leaders of stature with independent spirits and investigative zeal," the paper says. "Some 3,000 people died on 9/11, and administration officials say many more could be casualties of the next attack. The nation deserves a serious panel to look at how it got to this spot and whether it is defending itself in the right way now."
THE NEW YORK TIMES:
An editorial in "The New York Times" says simply, "Henry Kissinger did not fit the bill." The former U.S. secretary of state and now private consultant was encumbered "by a worldwide network of consulting clients whom he was unwilling to identify publicly." As a result, "he faced potential conflicts of interest at every turn of the investigation."
If the 11 September commission "is to accomplish more than to gloss over the government's inept response to terrorist threats in the last decade, it will have to hold present and former officials to account." But unfortunately, the U.S. Congress and the White House have "fashioned the review panel with more than enough built-in flaws to cripple it, including a balance of Democratic and Republican members that could easily encourage accommodation rather than resolve. The best way to overcome those weaknesses is to name a tenacious and courageous leader free of conflicts of interest. The families of the 11 September victims have rightly demanded no less."
(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)