June 17, 2003
TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS: STILL 'IN CRISIS'?
** The "wounds have
not healed" completely from the U.S.-Euro rift over Iraq.
** Belgium's law of
universal competence is "horrible" but U.S. "blackmail" is
** Europeans are uncertain
about the implications of NATO's "transformation."
'Foundations of the Alliance fragile'-- Polish and Czech editorialists were
optimistic after President Bush's trip to Europe that the transatlantic allies
had found their way "out of the crisis" precipitated by the war in
Iraq. "Bush reached out to all
Europeans," said Poland's center-left Polityka. A Czech writer agreed that "Bush
sincerely tried to rectify" impaired relations with the allies. Papers elsewhere, however, judged that the
Alliance "has by no means overcome its crisis yet." Toronto's liberal Star said Bush and
other G-8 leaders "struggled to smooth things over" at Evian but
wrote the summit off as "more smoochfest than anything else." A Dutch daily held that transatlantic
relations are "almost as desolate" as before Evian. German and Turkish outlets complained that
the U.S. still had their countries under "punitive quarantine" for "insubordination"
on Iraq. French papers meanwhile
detected a shift in U.S. thinking--while "Europe used to be part of the
solution, in Washington's mind it is now part of the problem."
Rumsfeld's 'threatening words' on controversial Belgian
human-rights law are 'part of his game'--
Commenting on the "blunt pressure" displayed in Defense
Secretary Rumsfeld's "excessive and unpleasant" admonition that the
U.S. would not help fund a new NATO headquarters in Belgium until the "law
of universal competence" allowing anyone to sue any party (including U.S.
officials) for human-rights violations was expunged, Belgian dailies concluded
"America's anger" stemmed not from "the law alone" but
"is inspired by Belgium's attitude in the Iraq war." Still, many Belgian writers felt the U.S. was
"100 percent right" about the "absurd and arrogant"
law. Germany's left-of-center Berliner
Zeitung took the view that Rumsfeld's "crude animosities" were
part of his "game to split Europe" into old and new.
The 'transformation' of NATO raises uncertainties-- Disagreements on Iraq and issues like the ICC
led one French commentator to conclude that there is a "widening moral,
legal and political gap" between the U.S. and Europe. German, Dutch and Czech observers, however,
detected "a glimmer of hope" emanating from the NATO ministerial
meeting in Madrid. They concluded that
"NATO is managing to fulfill its new role," changing from "a
transatlantic defensive alliance into an intervention and stabilization
community" for the world's trouble spots.
Other outlets feared this transformation "has nothing to do with
the things NATO stands for" and risked turning the Alliance into "a
U.S. foreign legion financed by Europe."
France's right-of-center Les Echos approvingly pointed to joint
Anglo-French action in the Congo as demonstrating that France and the UK could
"stand together after their rift" over Iraq and that "for once,
Europe is capable of operating without the U.S."
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: This
analysis is based on 55 reports from 20 countries, June 3-June 16, 2003. Editorial excerpts from each country are
listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "America Has
Descended Into Madness"
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote in the center-left Independent
(6/16): "I wrote recently that
Blair has sold our country to America without our consent. I now think it is worse; he didn't charge for
this delivery of our future into the hands of George Bush. He gave us away. Now if Blair is really a major influence on
the Bush administration, why has he not used this blessed position to temper
this descent of The Big Country into madness?
The actions of the U.S. government today make it essential to put a
greater distance between us. It is in
our national interest not to be seen as uncritical groupies of the
hyperpower. A recent survey among 21
nations concluded that the war in Iraq has widened the rift between the U.S.
and Western Europe, 'inflamed' the Muslim world, and damaged global public
opinion and support for the Atlantic alliance.
For U.S., now read UK too. Prime
Minister Blair has never had a mandate from us, the people, to take us into the
armpit of the U.S. It is time we
declared our right to be an independent nation just as Americans did centuries
"A Cross-Channel Rapprochement"
Guillaume Parmentier, director of the French Center at the French
Institute of International Relations, commented in the independent Financial
Times (6/12): "Britain decided
after Suez that the only way to be important in the world was to exert
influence over U.S. policy. The price
would be alignment with U.S. positions.
France decided that it was imprudent to rely on an alliance with the
U.S., since the Americans would always impose their views whenever those
clashed directly with their allies' interests.
A campaign of opposition to U.S. policy is bound to divide the European
Union. Many European governments are
comfortable with a close partnership with the U.S. They will not support closer political
integration if this puts them on a collision course with America. It needs a more integrated Europe in order to
strengthen the transatlantic relationship."
FRANCE: "Africa: A Small Step For Europe’s Defense"
Right-of-center Les Echos editorialized (6/16): “Divided over Iraq, unable to commit in the Balkans
for quite some time, Europe is taking a major step forward as it sets up its
central command for Congo’s operation Artemis in Paris.... This initiative aims to demonstrate the
goodwill of France and Great Britain, Europe’s main military powers, to stand
together after their rift over Iraq and their ‘friendly disagreement’ about
Europe’s defense.... With this joint
operation in Africa the British Prime Minister wants to give a strong signal in
support of his determination to move forward in building Europe’s defense
initiative.… In spite of this, Artemis remains a limited operation, both in
time and space.... But it does prove
that for once, Europe is capable of operating without the U.S.”
"Transatlantic Values: Not So Common"
Sylvie Kauffmann in left-of-center Le Monde (6/6): “It is proper these days to say that
Americans and Europeans share common values.… But in reality this apparent
convergence of views hides differences not necessarily underscored by either Ms
Rice or President Chirac.… Beyond democracy and the market economy, American
society and European societies have evolved differently, revealing a widening
moral, legal and political gap over important issues such as war, peace, social
justice, immigration and religion.… This does not mean that Americans and
Europeans have nothing to say to each other, on the contrary. While this convergence of values is not as
concrete as leaders on both sides keep repeating, the fact remains that there
is a community of interests...and multiple reasons to work together. But openly and without playing games.”
"A Marginalized France"
Nicolas Bavarez in right-of-center weekly Le Point
(6/6): “Everything indicates that France
has been marginalized in Europe and in the world. Its relationship with the U.S. has been
durably damaged and will have an impact in public opinion and in the elite that
will survive the Bush administration.... France’s diplomacy comes out wounded
to death from its duel with the U.S. although its position on a number of
issues was well founded.... A famous
motto says that ‘a diplomat who is having fun is less dangerous than a diplomat
who works.’ It is not clear whether
France’s diplomats are having fun or working.
What is certain is that they are dangerous.”
"America’s Lesson To The Old Europe"
Jean-Jacques Mevel observed in right-of-center Le Figaro
(6/2): “It is from Poland that President
Bush decided to settle the score with ‘the Old Europe.'... President Bush chose to announce his European
priorities before the Evian summit.… In Krakow, Chirac was not mentioned once,
although he was clearly the target when President Bush denounced those who
establish Euro-American antagonism as a principle.… Listening to the U.S.
president one would think that it is Paris which is trying to divide Europe and
Washington which is trying to keep it together.... In a 28 minute speech meant to give
Washington’s transatlantic vision, the EU was mentioned only once. We are left with the impression that Europe
was deliberately ignored.... The Krakow
speech seems to confirm a shift at the highest U.S. level.... While Europe used to be part of the solution,
in Washington’s mind it is now part of the problem.”
GERMANY: "Digging At
Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich noted (6/16): "Belgium had just been overrun by a
bulldozer by the name of Rumsfeld. The
Pentagon head said that the NATO headquarters should be moved away from
Brussels if Belgium did not change its genocide law.... Rumsfeld's tone was so tough that the
Belgians must feel publicly humiliated.
But the Belgian government knows that it has gone too far. That is why it has defanged the law.... Of course, the theoretical possibility still
exits that a U.S. general can still be arrested on his way to NATO, but only if
the Belgian government were of the opinion that the United States was not a
democratic state and that the law should be administered in Belgium. But in reality such a case is hardly
imaginable. Nevertheless, Rumsfeld
rebuked the Belgians. He likes it to
pick an argument with the Europeans. He
confirmed the attitude very clearly that also lead to the most recent decision
on U.S. immunity before the ICC: The
United States does not tolerate any other law, either in Belgium or
"Congo Mission, Rapid Reaction Force"
Jochen Clement commented on national radio station Deutschlandfunk
of Cologne (6/12): "NATO is running
the risk of turning from an alliance into a security agency where everybody can
get the soldiers he needs. But such an
extension of tasks has nothing to do with the things NATO stands for. It is a defensive alliance that shares the
same values and where its members organize their security.... But now an increasing number of 'coalitions
of the willing' are set up on the basis of a leadership by NATO, and these
coalitions take over totally different tasks.
This will blow up NATO's mission and also impede its capability to act
in view of an increase in members.... As
a matter of fact, an EU mission in the Congo should have been organized in
coordination with the Alliance...while the EU would have taken over only
political control. But the United States
would have had to approve it in the NATO Council. But France wanted to do everything without
the United States in the Congo and did not apply these rules. And the other EU members allowed France to do
what it wanted.... It is politically a
small-minded thinking that France is now in a defiant way suggesting the other
approach.... There will always be a
tough wrestling between France and the United States, a very old conflict is
coming to the fore again.... These are
not very rosy prospects for the Atlantic alliance."
F. Flocken noted in a commentary on regional radio radiokultur
of Berlin (6/13): "The alliance has
by no means overcome its crisis yet...since the controversies during the Iraq
crisis have left deep wounds in the Alliance.
These are wounds that have not yet healed and which will result in
horrible scars later on.... It is now
becoming clear that the leading power in NATO pulled the wool over its
partners' eyes in the Iraq crisis. The
war was waged by referring to the relevant danger of WMD, but a smoking gun has
not been found until today. For the U.S.
power, this may be insignificant, but the effects on transatlantic relations
are devastating. The Bush
administration's credibility is gone....
The foundations of the Alliance have become fragile, because, for the
United States, NATO is no longer the prime security alliance, but only a
coalition among many. The mission
determines the coalition, not the coalition the mission."
Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger had this to say in an editorial in
center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (6/13): "At the end of the year, NATO's rapid
reaction force is supposed to be halfway operational. It is to fight terrorism, among other things,
and this all over the world. This is an
idea from Washington...which other NATO members also support. At the same time, however, other members are
driven by the childish urge to show themselves and others what they are capable
of doing. The mission of European
soldiers in the Congo is being celebrated already now as a new European
foundation mythos, being born in Central Africa. This is, please allow me to say this,
nonsense. 1,400 European soldiers will
hopefully save the lives of some people in northeastern Congo. But they will not open the gates to eternal
peace. Maybe the time has now come to
think about whether the establishment of military double structures is not a
luxury that we should stop ourselves from setting up."
"New Thinking Needed"
Centrist Darmstaedter Echo noted (6/13): "A few appeasing words and gestures will
not be enough to heal transatlantic relations.
They can at best pretend that relations have normalized. Indeed, a new thinking is necessary, for
there will be no future for the Alliance without common rules that are binding
and obliging to all sides. The right to
determine these rules, whether in transatlantic relations or in a reformed UN
system, cannot be put in the discretion of one single government or a few
politicians. All sides must come
together and work them out--on the same eye level, and the earlier the
Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger noted in an editorial
in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (6/12): "There will be an ongoing discussion if
the attitude of the federal government on the Iraq crisis served or damaged
Germany's interests and respect. There
is no doubt that there was--and is--a price to pay: Germany is ignored in a
provocative way. In the meantime, the
German government considers this price to be unbearably high--although it has
contributed to it considerably. Now, it
praises its friendship with America to the skies and doesn't want to look
back. But 'forget it' is not U.S.
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's style, who will not forget that Berlin got in
Washington's way. This means continued
punitive quarantine. This is how one has
to understand Rumsfeld's repeated differentiation between old and new
Europe. He had better recall the words
of his superior in Krakow: a European
way of thinking and Atlantic friendship are no alternatives. Exactly."
"A Matter Of Attitude"
Holger Schmale concluded in left-of-center Berliner
Zeitung (6/12): "The German
government's clear position on Iraq inspired a lot of respect for Germany in
many parts of the world. The government,
however, is about to lose it again. The
current almost subservient tone of the chancellor and his ministers toward
American partners is embarrassing. The
most recent example was given by Defense Minister Peter Struck, who had nothing
but servile phrases in response of the crude animosities of his U.S. colleague
Rumsfeld. Wouldn't Rumsfeld be the right
man for some clear words...regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? Instead, Rumsfeld continued his game to split
Europe in an old and new part. First,
this is a question of attitude toward the United States, Rumsfeld noted. And in this respect, the unconditional
following of the former Eastern bloc countries is much more convenient for the
Washington strategists than German and French insubordination in the Iraq war
question. We will not forget this, was
Rumsfeld's message in Garmisch, ignoring the many appeals of Schroeder,
Fischer, or Struck that one has to look forward now. As the current administration in Washington
has lost its confidence in the current government in Berlin anyway, a
self-confident continuation of the own course in foreign politics together with
like-minded partners might be more appropriate here. But this is a question of attitude, Rumsfeld
would say. He would take this more
serious than Berlin's humble bows."
Center-right Nordsee-Zeitung of
Bremerhaven noted (6/12): "Rumsfeld
wants to drive a wedge between the European nations by dividing Europe into an
old and a new one. Only if Europe
disagrees, will it remain as weak and will it be unable to counter U.S.
ambitions. A Europe that consists of a
choir with many different voices is in Washington's interests. The U.S. government is dreading no more but a
Europe speaking with one voice."
"In The Name Of
Rolf Paasch opined in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter
Rundschau (6/12): "The European
members of the UNSC are faced with a dilemma in New York today. If they allow an extension of Resolution
1422, the will fall behind the orientation points of European policy toward the
ICC whose principle respect they demand from future EU applicants in their
future relationship with the United States.
But if they steadfastly back this joint policy, they will be risking a
fiasco that can only be detrimental to all sides involved and to transatlantic
relations. It is likely that, following
the Iraq war, Brussels and the government in Berlin will take refuge in more
diplomacy and in abstaining from Resolution 1422. But the ICC and international
law will now be damaged. But also the EU
if such one-sided concessions to transatlantic reconciliation do not soon
develop into a more self-confident and more conclusive representation of
"Vote Against America"
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg
editorialized (6/12): "German diplomats
must show their true colors today before the UNSC.... Of course, it would be more comfortable for
the government in Berlin to abstain from voting...but based on political
conviction a new carte blanche for the GIs should be out of the
question.... A substantial narrowing of
differences between Europe and the United States can no longer be expected,
since the fundamental positions are clear and there is no need for further
talks. That is why the moment for a clear
statement has come. Those who believe
that the new judges are capable of administering independent jurisdiction
should not allow any special rights. A
German abstention from voting in the UN Security Council would be an
inappropriate gesture of submissiveness."
"NATO Land Is Everywhere"
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland
of Hamburg judged (6/5): "It is not
yet an official doctrine, but all indications are that NATO is turning from a
transatlantic defensive alliance into an intervention and stabilization
community for trouble spots all over the world.
In Afghanistan and Iraq the Alliance plays this role already. The safeguarding of peace between Israelis
and Palestinians could soon turn out to a future-oriented task for the
Alliance. The German government has good
reasons to support this development. The
old NATO has lost its right to exist after the collapse of the East
Bloc.... And the attempt to turn the
Alliance into a political organization by accepting new members and by
concluding association agreements has made NATO insignificant. But NATO is an instrument in which Germany
has a vital interest. The Alliance is
the most important link between the United States and Europe. In addition, the integrated military
structures allow multinational missions....
The great security policy challenges in the coming years are the same
for both the Europeans and Americans: military missions as protective power in
civil war regions and for the safeguarding of the reconstruction of imploded
nations. Only NATO is able to take over
these tasks. An Alliance that has been
restructured in such a way can link Europeans and Americans to each other in
the future, too."
"Problems Of NATO"
D. Kapern commented on national radio station Deutschlandfunk of
Cologne (6/3): "NATO is hardly
recognizable any longer. Within a very
brief period of time NATO changed its fundamental principles.... It is still too early to say that NATO has
been saved. There are still two enormous
problems that need to be resolved:
first, the Europeans must define their role within the new NATO. They must make up their mind on how
independent this power potential is from the United States and NATO.... Second, the United States must decide what it
wants a future NATO to do. Many
indications are that Washington will again forge a coalition of the willing if
necessary in order to avoid making concessions within NATO. Then NATO would really run the risk of
becoming...a U.S. foreign legion financed by Europe.... In the fight against terrorism, Europe could
offer many instruments the United States does not have, for instance the
strategy of integrating unsafe countries into the world community.... But in order to use these NATO instruments,
Washington must really want them. If it
turns down this offer and if the Europeans give up their plan to talk to the
Americans eye to eye in the Alliance, the same conflict lines like in the Iraq
war will break up again. Then the 'new'
NATO will look very old again."
"This Is The End Of A Relationship Of Solidarity"
Prominent strategic/defense analyst Stefano
Silvestri wrote in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (6/13): “An era that lasted half a century is now
closing, and a completely new one is beginning.
But the change will not be devoid of consequences, and not just
economic. The massive American military
presence in Europe, in fact, raised opposition and protests, but it also
established a very deep relationship of mutual knowledge and potential
solidarity among the allies. More than
one generation of U.S. officials and soldiers learned German, French or Italian
and knew and loved Europe also because they had spent many years there. That helped make America and its armed forces
less provincial, just like it helped educate and train the European military,
making them overcome old and useless national divisions and some of their
mutual prejudice.... All of that is
about to end, at a time when pushes towards the re-nationalization of foreign
and security policies are strong and local and no-global movements are growing. This is not a positive development.... The transatlantic dimension will be
"If Europe Already Existed"
Barbara Spinelli commented in centrist La
Stampa (6/8): "These last few
months have seen the rise of a general sense of disorientation with regard to
the reunification between the Europe which already exists within an EU
architecture, in the West, and those Europeans...in the East. The war against Iraq burst onto the scene,
and the U.S. question divided European governments to the extent of becoming
the only yardstick by which to measure the progress of the Union, and to decide
on the very opportuneness of a working supranational government. Does it make any sense to usher in a
political Union, and thus to turn Europe into a diplomatic and strategic
entity, given that the crucial test of Iraq was badly managed in the beginning,
was subsequently squandered, and that it finally failed? In talking disdainfully about the old Europe,
and extolling the new Europe which had reacted to the danger of Iraq by falling
into line with it, the U.S. administration is at the origin of this
disorientation, and has fueled the misunderstanding which all of us...are
living through.... Do we want a Europe
which abides by the decisions of the United States, or a Europe which, by
rejecting them, goes it alone? Do we
want an Atlantic Europe, or an anti-Atlantic Europe? These are the questions which are cropping up
"Paris Concerned About U.S. Presence In Africa"
Aleksey Andreyev wrote in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta
(6/11): "Europe has decided to flex
military and political muscle in Third World countries after it lost ground in
the Middle East as a result of the U.S. blitzkrieg in Iraq. The United States has virtually shut out
Europe from the Iraq reconstruction effort and the Palestinian-Israeli
settlement process. Besides, Paris is
worried over the growing U.S. military presence in East Africa where Washington
has launched a local antiterrorist operation, with its special troops sent to
Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan."
"Split In Family Makes The U.S. Move Troops About"
Mikhail Rostovskiy held in reformist youth-oriented Moskovskiy
"Paradoxically, the chief reason for the U.S. eastward march is not
a desire to put pressure on Moscow but a split in the once well-knit NATO
family.... Chirac's and Schroeder's
anti-Americanism is not due to their personal distaste for Bush's policies. Dislike of the Yankees is common among all
sections of the population in Western Europe these days. That does not mean, of course, that Paris and
Berlin are about to break off with NATO or America completely. But Washington surely has to lean over
backward to get anything from Old Europe now.... Russia's geopolitical position is not going
to be affected by U.S. military re-deployment, according to President Putin's
foreign-policy advisor. In fact, Moscow
would not be able to do anything about it even if it wanted to.... Of the things that count most in the modern
world, crude force takes precedence over international law. We are even worse off in that
department. The West is well aware of
the condition of our army and country as a whole. Russia is no longer considered a serious
player in Europe, let alone America. So
all Russia can do now is put a brave face on a sorry business, forget its
imperial ambitions and get under the U.S. umbrella."
"Russia No Longer Foreign Policy Priority"
Dmitriy Trenin of Moscow's Carnegie Center contended in centrist Nezavisimaya
Gazeta (6/9): "Russia is not
among the United States' foreign policy priorities. Problem countries are. Russia is no longer in that group. That being so, the U.S. leadership does not
have much time for Russia--the talks in St. Petersburg lasted about an hour,
which is symbolic. That calls for a lot
of concentration, promptness, and a clear understanding of this country's
interests and possibilities, particularly a deliberate long-term strategy to
develop 'special relations' with the global superpower, based on shared
interests in the security and energy areas."
AUSTRIA: "The Emperor
And The Auxiliaries"
Senior editor Hans Rauscher commented in liberal daily Der
Standard (6/6) : “The U.S. is not
only the most powerful nation on earth, the Americans now also have a
leadership that intends to realize fully their country’s position on a
political level. One might even argue
that it’s not conservatives who rule in Washington, but radicals; people who
want to push the social state into bankruptcy via insane tax reductions, who
make politics based on fundamentalist beliefs, and who have radically turned
around the rules of the game of international politics. This is also beginning to dawn on the
auxiliary peoples of Europe.... Today,
the auxiliaries are trying to form a supranational structure, which is very
successful on an economic level, but carries almost no military weight and has
great difficulties in projecting a common foreign policy.... It is not a secret that, after years with the
Bush administration, many in Europe--not only Chirac and Schröder--are thinking
about how to emancipate themselves from the U.S. This does not mean that old allies should
become enemies--but some of the auxiliaries would like to act
independently.... The debate on this has
only just started in Europe. It is
necessary, even if this U.S. President is replaced by a less imperial one.”
Foreign affairs writer Koen Vidal judged in independent
Christian-Democrat De Standaard (6/16): “The Bush administration is angry at
Belgium. The source of the irritation is
not the law of universal competence alone.
In practice, the U.S. government does not have many good reasons to be
angry at our country because of the genocide law. The chance that an American citizen will ever
be convicted on the basis of the genocide law is virtually nil.... So, why are Bush and Rumsfeld so
furious? They don’t really say it, but
there are many reasons to believe that America’s anger is inspired by Belgium’s
attitude in the Iraq war. Just like
France and Germany, our country is in the basket of the countries that cannot
be trusted. 'Those who are not for us
are against us,’ Bush said after September 11--and he will stick to that
argument as long as he is President....
The question is whether countries like France, Germany and Belgium
should give in to the American pressure.
The only answer is: no way. The
standpoints of those counties regarding Iraq were not inspired by a fundamental
reflex of anti-Americanism but by the logic of international law. Those who yield to the blunt pressure from
Rumsfeld and his colleagues--like (VLD President) De Gucht--do not only give up
their own sovereignty but they also admit that the struggle for international
law is nothing more than an illusion.”
Left-of-center Le Soir ran an op-ed piece signed by 17
prominent current or former European officials (6/16): “We also consider that, even after the Cold
War, the Atlantic Alliance remains the main pillar of the U.S.-European
partnership.... We also agree...that
neither the United States nor Europe is omnipotent: both will need help to
guarantee their own physical and economic security.... We are also convinced that the development of
an efficient European defense will not undermine NATO. On the contrary, it will reinforce NATO if
both sides of the Atlantic firmly want it.
Our values and our fundamental political objectives are the same as
those of the United States.... There is
no problem that cannot be solved if we address it together. Being aware of this can reinforce
transatlantic cooperation.... With the
Iraqi crisis and because of disagreements that surfaced after September 11, the
Western world’s unity is now being openly questioned. The debate has become bitter. Some observers
and some sectors of public opinion have outrageously simplified it, suggesting
that the Americans were coming from Mars and the Europeans from Venus. We have been committed to transatlantic
cooperation for years and we refuse to believe that the Atlantic is becoming
wider.... We claim with conviction that
American and European democracies are united by their values. They cannot succeed if they are isolated from
one another, and even less if they are opposing each other.... United, we are considered by the rest of the
world as representing a great vision and a great wisdom. Divided, we will be losers. It is up to us to take advantage of this
"A Horrible Law"
Chief commentator Luc Van der Kelen commented in conservative Het
Laatste Nieuws (6/14): “It is a
true that something is being done behind
the curtains about the law of universal competence. Apparently, Michel and Verhofstadt begin to
understand that something serious is going on and that the genocide law is a
perfect alibi to make Belgium pay cash for its attitude during the Gulf
war. It would be extremely stupid to
jeopardize our international reputation for that law and to risk the prosperity
of the Brussels region and the whole country.
Indeed, the Belgian law of universal competence is a horrible
thing. The Americans are right 100
percent.... Just like America’s
membership, our participation in NATO is based on mutual assistance. The basic principle is respect for democracy
and human rights. When one accepts a
country on the basis of these rights, one must start from the idea that that
country--America in this case--is a democratic state. That means that we must have confidence that
the American legal system itself can deal with complaints against citizens and
military people. That is a matter of
elementary respect and confidence....
That means that the question is elementary and fundamental: do we
consider the United States a constitutional state or not? If we maintain this genocide law--also
against our democratic allies--the answer will clearly be ‘No.’ In that case, we put America on a par with
banana republics and dictatorships. That
is unacceptable and the Americans are right not to tolerate it.”
Deputy chief editor Bart Sturtewagen opined in independent
Christian-Democrat De Standaard (6/14): “It is easy for our Ministers to argue that
they have cut the sharp edges of the law of universal competence that the
Americans fear so much--but the latter don’t believe it.... As long as the law keeps its current form, we
can expect an endless series of government decisions that remit complaints
against foreign heads of state and government leaders to other countries. In Belgium, this is viewed an elegant
solution to a sensitive problem, but there are places where people view it as a
mockery of the institutions.... It is
quite ridiculous to cry blue murder over America’s perplexing severity
vis-à-vis our country.... We simply have
to decide whether we want to be the host country of international institutions
like NATO. The answer clearly is
'Yes'.... Does that mean
that we should allow the unleashed superpower to hassle us as it pleases? Of course not.... However, if we let our critical attitude
degenerate into stupid forms of pestering, we first provoke laughter and,
afterwards, irritation--not only in the United States, but also on this side of
"America's Unilateral Policy"
Foreign editor Gerald Papy held in independent La Libre
Belgique (6/14): "The American
threats at NATO are in line with the White House's unilateral policy since George
W. Bush took office and which we have already criticized, for instance during
the Iraqi crisis. In the case of the
Belgian law, Donald Rumsfeld has added blackmail to his usual aggressiveness
vis-à-vis anyone who somehow opposes the American will. The threat of moving NATO headquarters should
not been taken lightly, but it should not be exaggerated either. Although it was excessive and unpleasant, the
American admonition nevertheless raises the question of the pertinence and
viability of the Belgian law of universal competence. Should it simply and
purely be abolished? We do not think
so.... It is thanks to its pioneer
attitude in the field of the right of victims and of human rights that Belgium,
via its Government and its Foreign Minister, has restored the Belgium's
international image, that was quite tarnished.
Of course, since then the notoriousness of the Belgian law has led to
abuses that were not helpful and that complicated our diplomacy. To be coherent, the future Government should
specify the application criteria of this law and let the judicial power
implement them. If it manages to do so,
the law will survive, and it will perhaps have reached the necessary balance
between the defense of victims and the protection of the country's interests."
"The Despicable Arrogance Of The Strongest"
Baudouin Loos contended in left-of-center Le Soir
(6/13): “Donald Rumsfeld’s statement at
NATO...illustrates the Bush administration’s manners: one must follow the path
indicated by Washington or run the risk of getting in serious trouble. ‘You are with us or you are against us,’
George W. Bush said after September 11.
The Belgian government is not being paid back for the efforts that it
recently consented to in order to make the law of universal competence almost
inapplicable as soon as the complaint was against a citizen from a democratic
country.... The United States likes to
lecture others on human rights--its State Department’s annual Human Rights
Report is a perfect example--but the few hundred Afghan and Arab prisoners
being detained in Guantanamo since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 do
not have any rights, they almost no longer exist. Is one being systematically anti-American
when one blames the Bush administration for its arrogance and for the methods
it uses? Should multilateralism,
dialogue, discussions, and the search for peaceful solutions to conflicts
disappear in favor of the law of the strongest?
Of course not.”
Philippe Martin judged in Catholic Vers L’Avenir (6/13): “There is not the slightest doubt that the
Americans have not forgotten what our defense and foreign ministers said before
the war in Iraq, nor have they forgotten the veto at NATO and, also, the
stopping of trains transiting through Antwerp.
All this because of the electoral campaign that was going on, but it was
very naive to believe that the United States would turn a blind eye to the
Belgian politicians’ ingratitude. But
now, while a move of NATO would have disastrous consequences on employment and
on Brussels’ reputation, what one can see is first and foremost the surprising
capacity of Belgian politicians of being amnesiac when faced with American
"Rumsfeld The Saber Rattler"
Chief commentator Eric Donckier wrote in conservative Christian-Democrat
Het Belang van Limburg (6/13):
“When Donald Rumsfeld says something one is tempted to reject it before
he’s said it. His physical appearance,
his attitude, the way he looks over his glasses, the way he talks: it all
reveals us that the man is a saber rattler who prefers to solve conflicts with
weapons, rather than with words. We
could also say: whose business is that man interfering in? In this case, however, we must not say that
because our own law of universal competence...gives the Belgians the right to
meddle with other people’s business significantly.... Now that we have weakened the law of
universal competence under American pressure to an extent that it does not make
much sense anymore, we’d better abolish it.
Then, all the problems will be gone.
Belgium must not play the conscience of the world. By the way, who are we that we should play
that role? What we must do is try to
make the United States recognize the ICC....
It is very alarming that the United States has not recognized (the ICC
in) the Hague yet. It is also alarming
that the United States accomplished yesterday that American soldiers who act
under the command of the UN will enjoy immunity before the ICC. When Foreign Minister Michel meets with his
American colleague Powell again he must talk about this--instead of explaining
the eroded and meaningless genocide law to Powell.”
"Rogue States And Belgium"
Chief commentator Luc Van der Kelen observed in conservative Het
Laatste Nieuws (6/13):
"Belgium is really becoming an important country. Indeed, which country gets the attention of
the U.S. government two days in a row?...
Only rogue states can count on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s
attention--and Belgium.... Naturally,
Rumsfeld is exaggerating, but the message has come through: the law of universal competence must go, the
complaints against Bush Sr. and Colin Powell must go too--or NATO will
leave. There is no doubt anymore about
that. That is clear from the
undiplomatic way in which Rumsfeld lashed out at Belgium. The Americans have never used such strong
language against an ally. This is so
unique that the magnitude of the problem must be clear to everyone. This U.S. administration not only barks--it
bites, too. The whole Belgian attitude
vis-à-vis the United States--including the possible ban on arms
shipments--caused part of the American dissatisfaction. The genocide law, however, is the perfect
alibi to teach Belgium a lesson and a to set an example for the allies. This law--which gives Belgium worldwide
jurisdiction--is absurd and arrogant, also in its modified version. Is the Belgian government willing to
jeopardize our reputation as a loyal ally and an investment country with legal
protection for that law?”
"American Undermining Work At The UN"
Hague correspondent Alain Franco commented in left-of-center Le
Soir (6/12): “The renewal of UN
Resolution 1422 [granting Americans who participate in UN peacekeeping missions
impunity for another year] is only one aspect of the undermining work that has
been undertaken by Washington against the ICC.
For months, U.S. envoys have been traveling the entire world to try to
broker--often under pressure--bilateral impunity agreements.... That is, for instance, the case with
Croatia. Since yesterday, American
diplomats have been explaining the Racan Government that it will have to either
sign an agreement or forget about a $19 million military assistance package. For the time being, Zagreb is resisting. As a EU candidate member country, Croatia
points out that it has to follow the EU’s ‘leading principles’--a kind of red
line defined by the Fifteen to counter the United States’ attempts to obtain
impunity. Zagreb also highlights the
following paradox: ‘The United States is asking us to extradite our nationals
to the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia while at the same time
refusing to extradite its own nationals to the ICC,’ a Croatian official is
quoted as saying. The Fifteen reminded
the Balkan countries and the upcoming ten new EU members that they had to abide
'leading principles.’ This
demarche aroused the Bush administration’s anger, warning that ‘this unfriendly
gesture’ would have a ‘very damaging impact’ on transatlantic relations.”
"U.S. Foreign Policy"
Foreign editor jean Vanempten wrote in financial daily De
Financieel-Economische Tijd (6/7):
"During his world trip, Bush clearly expressed his
preferences. Poland and Russia were on
top of the list. Evian was an inevitable
intermezzo on his way to the Arab world.
Actually, the hard core of this security advisers are still particularly
rancorous about the U.S. defeat in the UNSC.
The stubborn resistance of France, Germany and Russia has not really
been forgiven. Nevertheless, it is
remarkable how warm the ties with President Putin are again. That has probably more to do with political
opportunism than with principles. The
fact that Putin continues to support the Iranian nuclear programs without any
scruples is barely triggering comment on the other side of the ocean.”
Francoise Delstanche commented in financial L’Echo
(6/4): “Will the transatlantic
reconciliation that was initiated this weekend go beyond appearances? Of course, everyone watered down his wine
and, from George W. Bush to Jacques Chirac, the climate is one of
appeasement.... Yet, in spite of this
lull, the divisions remain difficult to iron out, as illustrated by the very
stiff handshake between the two heads of state.
About the past, ‘we have not changed our mind, neither did the United
States,’ the Elysee’s spokeswoman admitted.
In spite of George W. Bush’s more or less conciliatory statements, the
United States still wants to dictate the international agenda as it suits it.”
"America Of Course!"
Bakir Hadziomerovic held in Croat-language Dnevni list
(6/5): “To whom we are closer, Europe or
the U.S.?… To be honest BiH is not the only country that is dealing with the
U.S. ultimatum [regarding the ICC]. All
neighboring countries including some of the EU members are in the same
position… We don’t need to repeat twice
that the Americans brought peace to this country (although they did it in the
moment that suited them). The second
important fact for understanding the American ultimatums is the number of their
soldiers, SFOR members, here in BiH. The
third and the most important detail is that this country (BiH) must not remain
without U.S. support especially if we plan to come closer to what Lithuania or
Poland are today.... The Executive Order
signed by the President of the U.S. George W. Bush on blockage of property and
visas for more than 150 persons...and the announcement from the White House
that U.S. soldiers would extend their mandate in BiH, were the best signals to
local authorities that Parliamentary fulfillment of the American request should
not be postponed.... Before dealing with
local criminals and war criminals...'moralists' are wasting our time and our
nerves with discussions on whether we are closer to the Europe or the U.S. As if they do not understand that the future
of this country is not in our hands and that, fortunately the Americans are
entering through a large door in this small BiH.”
CROATIA: "The Problem
of Croatian-U.S. Relations"
Liberal party chairman Ivo Banac wrote in Jutarnji List
(6/7): "In 2002 the United States
vetoed a one-year extension of the SFOR [Stabilization Force] mission in
Bosnia, while the UN Security Council voted down Resolution 1422, which would
have exempted U.S. troops serving in SFOR from investigation or criminal
proceedings by the newly created International Criminal Court (ICC). It was only after the Security Council agreed
to the U.S. demands that the Bush administration withdrew its veto and approved
the extension of the SFOR mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This precedent is important in terms of
understanding the Bush administration's current campaign for a general
exemption of U.S. military and other official personnel from the jurisdiction
of the ICC, which is especially relevant in the case of Croatia."
CZECH REPUBLIC: "NATO
On The Way Out Of Crisis"
Pavel Tomasek wrote in leading business daily Hospodarske
noviny (6/13): "A few months
ago it might have seemed that the Alliance was an organization designed for a
write-off.... When it offered help to
the U.S. after 9/11, it was discreetly declined because practically it did not
have anything to contribute....
Yesterday’s agreement of the NATO ministers, however...indicates that
the alliance...is once again able to find its way out of a crisis.... Massive reduction of the number of staff
headquarters worldwide, as well as the sound emphasis on creating units of
rapid deployment, precisely respond to the situation after 9/11.... Adjustment of [international] military
capacity must follow, so that this important step will not turn out to be a
mere declaration [and] the most successful military organization in history
will not turn into yet another discussion platform, like the UN."
"New Man In An Old World"
Zbynek Petracek judged in the political weekly Respekt
(6/9): "It must be admitted that
George W. Bush, during his trip to Europe and the Middle East, was forthcoming,
empathetic and at the same time he managed to push through his ideas.… Bush sincerely tried to rectify the impaired
relations [with the "old Europe"]...and the only criticism was