June 22, 2005
EU SUMMIT: THE 'DEBACLE' IN BRUSSELS EPITOMIZES UNION'S 'DEEPEST CRISIS'
** Reflecting EU's "serious crisis," Brussels summit collapsed in "another Waterloo."
** Europe's choice: "become a dynamic market or a political union" with international clout.
** UK's Blair was summit's "victor," but critics say his demands "have damaged Europe."
** The Union's "freshmen" members castigate "old Europe" for defending "old privileges."
A 'pathetic display'-- Dailies labeled the EU's Brussels summit a "failure" and the "nervous breakdown of an overstretched political system." Differences over Britain's rebate and agricultural subsidies "only played a superficial role" in leaders' inability to reach agreement. "This was not a traditional dispute about distributing resources," judged Germany's center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine. Instead, stated the center-left Irish Times, the summit "exposed a deep rift among EU leaders" involving "questions about the very nature and purpose" of the EU. "Now the question must be raised: which Europe do we really want?" asked a German writer.
'From ambition to resignation'-- Analysts portrayed Europe's choice as one between the "British model" of a "free-trade zone" with a "more flexible" and less regulated labor market or the "social model" exemplified by France and Germany. France's left-of-center Liberation, noting that neither ideal "has the support of a majority of Europeans," called on the EU to devise a model combining "economic flexibility and social protection...and opening up to the world." On the heels of plebiscites rejecting a new EU constitution, many outlets concluded that Europe will "freeze" further expansion. Others contended this latest crisis of the "immensely successful" EU would pass like others before it.
Blair's 'double victory'-- Many papers judged that the UK's Tony Blair was the summit's "victor"; he was able to "impose" his views, including the need for a "pause for reflection" on the Union's future. France's President Chirac, in contrast, suffered through "one of the most painful" summits of his career. Critics, though, lambasted Blair for "pursuing self-interest to the extreme," causing the budget talks to collapse in "another Waterloo." Seeing Europe's "political plates" shifting, outlets like Russia's official Rossiyskaya Gazeta predicted that if Christian Democrat Merkel wins Germany's upcoming elections, "a new London-Berlin axis will push Paris to the sidelines of European politics."
Easterners chafe at Western 'stinginess'-- Media in the "new" EU member states expressed unhappiness at the "selfishness and shortsightedness" of the Brussels summit, blaming the impasse on "old member states" defending their "old privileges" at the expense of the common good. Even after the Eastern "freshmen" offered to forgo some subsidies, Hungary's left-of-center Nepszava complained, Western members could not "overcome their national selfishness." A Polish editorial similarly charged that the budget battle was less about rebates or subsidies than about maintaining "the financial status of the [EU's] wealthy," ignoring the fact that the Union now has 25 members.
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 51 reports from 20 countries June 17-21, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Britain's EU Presidency Hobbled By Old Vices And New"
The center-left Independent editorialized (6/21): "The latest crisis offers a long-overdue chance to consider an overhaul. Mr. Blair's difficulty is that, unless he can refute the age-old charge that Britain is half-hearted about Europe and the more recent charge that it is protecting its own interests at the expense of the poorer 'new' Europeans, his prospects of achieving anything during Britain's presidency are negligible."
"There Is No Blairite Third Way For Europe"
The conservative Daily Telegraph judged (6/21): "If he can make his counterparts recognize that globalization necessitates opening up, not closing down, Europe's economies, he will leave a legacy worth boasting about. Mr. Blair's relations with the EU resemble his relations with the Labor Party. Once an enthusiast for socialism, his achievement was in fact to make Labor change its ways. He clearly now wishes to do the same for Europe. We are no unabashed enthusiasts for New Labor, but we prefer it to the Old variety. If Mr. Blair can accomplish a similar transformation of the EU, it would be a start, at least."
"Slow Progress Better Than None"
The independent Financial Times commented (6/21): "The prime minister knows that his best chance of success lies with changes of government in Germany after the general election expected in the autumn and in France after Jacques Chirac's presidential term ends in 2007. Hopes of an early breakthrough are therefore likely to be dashed. Even so, Mr. Blair is right to use the British presidency to continue a long overdue debate on the future of the EU and its budget that cannot be resolved by a traditional Brussels fudge."
The conservative tabloid Sun held (6/21): "Britain can really be at the heart of Europe by driving through reform that will release Europe from the economic straitjacket in which it has imprisoned itself. That is the challenge Blair faces when he takes over the EU presidency next month. But it must be all or nothing. There is no room for his fabled Third Way."
"EU Can Still Be Pulled Back From The Brink"
The center-left Independent contended (6/20): "This crisis has occurred at a time when the political plates beneath the EU are shifting, with elections looming in Germany and Mr. Chirac's power ebbing away. This could help Mr. Blair in his efforts to re-forge Europe on more economically liberal lines. But pulling the EU back from the brink will require intense commitment and hard work right across the Continent. Now is the time for Europe's leaders to step forward."
"Blair's Demands Have Damaged Europe"
Wolfgang Munchau took this view in the independent Financial Times (6/20): "Before this debacle there was a chance that Mr. Blair might have taken on the mantle of political leadership in the EU.... But Mr. Blair has chosen to give up this chance in exchange for a paltry €2.5 billion a year and a few cheers from the UK's tabloid press.... Europe will eventually heal the multiple wounds it has inflicted on itself in the past few weeks.... But no matter how the EU chooses to fix its deepest crisis ever...it is difficult to see how the UK can play a central part in any solution now."
"Pressure On The Euro"
The conservative Times editorialized (6/20): "Currency controversy is just one more volatile ingredient in the European mix (or mess) that Tony Blair will inherit with the British presidency on July 1. Mr. Blair's priority should be to bring order to the chaos left after last week's summit meeting in Brussels. The priority must not be propping up a currency but outlining a more sustainable plan for a broader and shallower Europe."
"The Meaning Of No"
The left-of-center Guardian noted (6/20): "It is unlikely in the extreme that the new direction Mr. Blair is proclaiming has engaged the sympathy of those who voted no in Holland and France, and very probable that it is already exciting their hostility. If that hostility is amplified by the disappointed French and German leaders, the British presidency is going to be a minefield.... The European democratic deficit is not only a matter of secretive or unresponsive leaders but of muddled and unrealistic citizens, and both must change their ways if Europe is to find a way out of its troubles."
FRANCE: "Europe Viewed In The U.S. Mirror"
Nicolas Barre observed in right-of-center Le Figaro (6/21): "The European version of George Washington is not for tomorrow. Worse than that, Europeans are wondering if Europe is still capable of sending messages, albeit weak ones, to the rest of the world.... Europe's weakness is a double disappointment. First because it is happening just when the U.S. is attempting to extend its hand to the Europeans. The challenges the Americans and the Europeans are facing are indeed colossal: international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, UN reforms, the Middle East conflict.... Second, because Europe is being robbed of some of its symbolic and universal history--its role as a bearer of freedom in the fall of the Berlin Wall for example--by a cleverer America in the use of symbols.... This (European) history is well known to the American neo-cons, hungry for 'regime change.' But it is they who are heralding freedom around the world. Europe needs to redefine the two pillars its project: integration and expansion. Only then will its message be clear and heard as it deserves to be. Here and on the banks of the Potomac."
"Turkey, Europe’s China"
Francoise Crouigneau contended in right-of-center Les Echos (6/21): "Turkey’s economy is going through a profound mutation. Although in the midst of a crisis, Europe would be mistaken to turn its back on a country that could become tomorrow Europe’s China.... The European crisis, and the new positions adopted in France by Sarkozy and in Germany by Angela Merkel could mean that Turkey is facing a new equation.... The days ahead will be full of dangers. One of these dangers resides in ignorance about a secular country where Islam is an integral part of the national identity and which must not be assimilated to fundamentalism.... Europe’s serious crisis is acutely narrowing Turkey’s margin for the negotiations starting in October."
"Blair Takes the Upper Hand"
Left-of-center Le Monde editorialized (6/20): “The double failure of Brussels, negotiating the British 'rebate' and the common agricultural policy, has resulted in a double victory for Blair. Helped by his recent re-election and the weakened Franco-German couple, Blair was able to impose his views.... With two weeks to go before he takes over as president of the EU, Blair has taken the upper hand.... The British prime minister rejects the notion that his intention is to erode Europe’s social model, but the fact is that his program is nothing more than a liberal program. Europe is stalled.”
Left-of-center Liberation noted (6/18): "Europe has been left high and dry, with neither a plan nor a strategy. Blair is proposing to set a course for globalization by speeding up the free-market process and the reform of its social model...reducing Brussels to the role of a bursar serving the states. Neither the Plan B(lair), nor the C(hirac) has the support of a majority of Europeans today. A plan needs to be drawn up which combines economic flexibility and social protection, regulation and opening up to the world--and it must be one which can be approved democratically. But while awaiting this Plan D, it is Europe which has suffered a Waterloo this 18 June."
"The Great Haggling Session"
Right-of-center Le Figaro remarked (6/18): "Among the wealthy countries called upon to finance the enlargement, only two member states showed how European they were yesterday: Germany, which is prepared to increase its already large contribution, and little Belgium, which is very Community minded.... Tony Blair sang the praises of his free-market, social, British-style Third Way--the best answer, he said, to Europe's problems. Jacques Chirac, for his part, threw himself into a solitary offensive against enlargement, rapidly countered by Germany, Sweden and Austria. The French president has been through one of the most painful European summits of his career."
GERMANY: "Shadow Of The Iraq War"
Clemens Wergin asserted in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (6/21): "Looking for reasons for the current EU crisis, we should not recall Waterloo. What Europe is going through at the moment is a result of the Iraq war and the subsequent division of Europe. The German-French axis versus Britain and the new Europeans. This constellation has been paralyzing Europe for two years. And it is pretty absurd that Blair now uses the same argument in his fight against agricultural subsidies like Schröder in the past, while the chancellor changed sides. At the Copenhagen summit in October 2002, the chancellor forged a pact with France, which did not harm French farmers. Chirac supported Schröder's anti-Iraq war stance, which rescued Germany from an international isolation and turned both countries into the center of the anti-war movement. Since then, both sides are faithful to each other--which prevents Germany from playing a role of a broker in the EU crisis.... To change that, a new generation of politicians is necessary. The old ones are carrying to much poison from the Iraq war."
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg editorialized (6/21): "Not just Germany but many people in Europe are placing their hope in Angela Merkel. Jacque Chirac, Gerhard Schröder, Silvio Berlusconi, Tony Blair are old models running out of date. There is a great yearning for new politicians. Given the EU crisis, a chancellor Merkel will get less than 100 days to make the first decisions in the EU. It is not yet clear what her European policy will look like.... Seeing herself as a broker, she must not pursue a provocative EU enlargement policy. This rules out an anti-Turkish election campaign. Anyway, the increasing skepticism of the accessions, those already agreed and those considered, will make Turkey's entry increasingly unlikely."
"Deeper Integration Or Free Trade"
Left-of-center Nürnberger Nachrichten judged (6/21): "After the Iraq crisis, which would have almost blown Europe apart, Blair seemed to have learned his lesson, but he is now offended the other Europeans again. He is not building, he destroys. If he hoped there would soon be new allies in France and Germany, he should know that they would not agree on his radical changes either. Luxembourg's leader Juncker said after the debacle that there are two models opposing each other: a Europe of solidarity and deeper ties or a free trade area. It is up to the citizens to decide this. Isn't it worth debating this?"
"Dream And Trauma"
Michael Stabenow commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (6/20): "Europe is in a bad state not just because of the French and Dutch rejection of the EU constitution treaty. It does not help that European Council President Juncker, French President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder blame the 'disgraceful' behavior of British Prime Minister Blair and Dutch leader Balkenende. It speaks volumes that both rejected discussing the offer by 10 poorer members to do without subsidies. At this point, it became obvious that this was not a traditional dispute about distributing resources. The heads of state and government leaders tied the British rebate, agricultural and structural subsidies to a programmatic discussion about Europe. They talked a lot about dividing lines and incompatible visions. The alternatives of Europe as a free trade area or an ambitious political project were repeated like clichés.... The European dream can, but does not have to end in a trauma.... In this time for reflection, it will be important to pursue a comprehensive debate in Brussels and the member states.... But playing for time and hoping that the constitution will be approved unaltered after the French and Dutch elections in 2007 would be arrogant. However, much can be achieved without comprehensive changes of the treaty. The fear of an overstretched EU by an admission of Turkey is not just a European chimera, but it reflects the sentiment of the people. We also need a time-out in this respect."
"Congratulations To The Failure"
Cornelia Bolesch observed in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (6/20): "What we have seen at this summit was a nervous breakdown of an overstretched political system. Tired men talked about shame, sadness and discouragement after hours of unsuccessful discussions. Instead of leading Europe out of its crisis, they fueled the crises. The budget only played a superficial role. In reality, a political debate about the future poisoned the atmosphere. Beyond the rows over checks and rebates was the principle question of whether the European Union should become a dynamic market or a political union in order to succeed in the globalization process.... Europe's crisis goes very deep. Not just old economic structures are under pressure from globalization. It is also about Europe's most important export item: democracy, its ability to master changes socially. Democracy is the only form of society that balances conflicts and helps people remain the masters of their lives and not to be haunted by anonymous powers. In practice, Europe's democracy is in a bad state. The political elite is burnt out. Neither is it brave nor powerful enough to lead. We must fear that we will see more exhibition fights in the future."
Roger Köppel noted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (6/20): "Let's not exaggerate this, but the situation has rarely been more confusing. The EU is fighting over its inner self. Its foreign borders have become elusive, and uninformed people are increasingly skeptical of Brussels' bureaucracy. The state leaders could not even agree on a clear interpretation of the failed referenda. It looks as if they have not yet understood the signs of the times. The EU is not just in turmoil but we see cracks in its construction. The difficulties have to do with the nature of the European Union. A pragmatic economic community has turned into an opaque and complex construction.... The solution will not be to pursue more and more integration policies. On contrary, Europe consists of functioning states, which are interested in the rule of law, peace, trade and growth. Why should they be dissolved into an overstretched structure? Those who call for a deeper integration are wrong. Europe's goal must be a free trade area of sovereign states, not a completely harmonized giant region."
"New Battle Order"
Andreas Rinke editorialized in business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (6/20): "Let's begin with a morale booster: the European Union will not fall apart after this disappointing summit. However, the meeting in Brussels marks a watershed in the history of European integration. The battle order within the EU has completely changed. For a long time, it looked like the enlargement by 10 more states would benefit those like Britain who desired a less integrated Europe. But since this summit it is clear that this is no longer the case. Eastern Europeans have made this obvious with their remarkable but failed initiative to rescue the summit. Within less than a year, they realized that the EU of 25 only works if all sides want to reach a compromise. They do not just care about their own interests, but also about Europe's interests. Politically, it is also important that the 'alliance of the poorest' put an end to the division of a new and old Europe, which existed since the Iraq war.... The summit showed that not the East but the West poses the greatest danger for the European project. France, the Netherlands and Britain plunged Europe into its current crisis.... The failure of the summit is not a catastrophe because the dissatisfaction might lead to an honest debate about the goals of a free trade area and a political union."
ITALY: "We Do Not Live Of Euros Alone"
Franco Venturini argued in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (6/19): "Yesterday Europe went through an unprecedented crisis, that no precedent could alleviate: voters were called upon to explain why the process of deciding on European re-nationalization is on a collision course with the strategy of the expansion of Europe, and above all because, as Juncker has effectively summarized, 'A free-trade model of Europe contrasts with the other political one.'... Doubts abound. Is this not a recipe for a sure disintegration rather than for a revival? Where will the political ambitions of Europe finish? To us, it appears that the world slowly but surely is again ready to become multipolar. If this is so, whether it’s a matter of winning the respect of the U.S., China or others, the Europeans will rediscover their interest in integration. And Europe will become what it isn’t today--possible."
"The Merchants Of The Temple"
Bernardo Valli wrote in left-leaning, influential daily La Repubblica (6/19): "Europe did not die in Brussels. It is plunged in a mediocrity that could potentially become chronic, stagnant. It has gone from ambition to resignation. It has lowered its mask. Europe has demonstrated that it can be, at most, for a long time still, a simple zone of free trade, not a political entity capable of establishing itself in the international stage next to the other great centers of power of today and tomorrow. Up against the American superpower, the uncontainable China, and a growing India, Europe appears to be a club of quarreling traders and frustrated consumers."
"European Regime Change For Blair’s Coalition Of The Willing"
Pro-government, center-right Il Foglio took this view (6/17): "Even before it began last night, the European Council already had its victor. Not so much because the prime minister in question will return home with what he asked from the other heads of state. Tony Blair walked in as the victor because he’s proposing a strategy, not only for coming out of the crisis, but also to change Europe and to 'reconnect it to its citizens.' He’s the moral winner because he wants to seize the 'opportunity' of the constitutional stalemate to 'offer a clear prospect to Europeans' on what interests them the most: 'employment, economy, globalization, organized crime and immigration,' like he did with New Labor and as Margaret Thatcher did before him with the United Kingdom. Blair is also the political victor, given that the summit late last night was getting ready to prove him right by calling for a pause on the Treaty’s ratification in order to face the 'much more fundamental debate about Europe’s future' that he was asking for. Blair defeated Brussels’ eurocrats, who wanted to pretend that nothing happened the day after the French and Dutch referendums."
RUSSIA: "The U.S. Counts On New Europe"
Yuriy Kovalenko filed from Paris for reformist Izvestiya (6/21): "The EU’s claims to be on a par with the United States and independent in foreign and defense policies are utterly unfounded.... Bush ignores the neoconservatives urging him to take advantage of the EU crisis to establish U.S. hegemony. He doesn’t want to rub salt into Europe’s wounds, mindful of a need for 'global partnership' to secure his own strategic goals. Early in July Bush will go to Scotland for a G-8 summit during his fourth visit to Europe in six months. The Americans will profit from the Franco-German duet growing weaker and a likely change in the leadership of those countries. Washington sees allies in 'new Europe,' former communist bloc countries, as they pursue pro-American policies and buy U.S.-made military technology. Paris has long toned down its criticism of the United States, with Jacques Chirac looking to make up with George Bush. But the latter, still hurting from old insults, doesn’t miss a chance to wound the French colleague."
Official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta noted (6/20): "Exactly 190 years ago after its defeat at Waterloo, France suffered another Waterloo disaster. Wellington and allies routed Napoleon on June 15, 1815. Tony Blair did the same to Jacques Chirac on June 18, 2005. The EU summit in Brussels ended with the British prime minister’s triumph and another defeat for European integration. Blair outplayed Chirac completely. His ‘Europe can no longer be run the old way’ has become a real manifesto of the EU’s renovation. Unless France alters its approach to European problems soon, its dominance in the EU will end. London, speaking through Blair, clearly claims leadership in the Union. The British prime minister’s initiative has won acclaim from Germany’s Angela Merkel, the leader of the opposition. If the Christian Democrats should win the upcoming elections, which is quite likely, a new London-Berlin axis will push Paris to the sidelines of European politics, away from the EU pork barrel."
"The EU’s Worst Crisis"
Veniamin Ginodman observed in reformist Gazeta (6/20): "The EU summit outcome shows that the EU is too much of a motley crew, divided and unwieldy, and hardly lends itself to centralization and management. With France and Britain increasingly at loggerheads with one another, it is doubtful that the impasse will be broken. According to the latest public opinion polls, 70% of British voters approve of their prime minister’s intractable position, meaning that Blair will do his utmost to keep up his popularity ratings. Meanwhile Chirac’s popularity has dropped to 28%, his only hope to gain points being to heed his country’s no to the European constitution and to continue fighting against British privileges, the British prime minister, and his country, something the French have always enjoyed doing."
AUSTRIA: "The Challenger"
Foreign affairs writer Konrad Kramar opined in mass-circulation daily Kurier (6/21): "If there are any character traits that can be attributed with certainty to the British prime minister it is an instinct for power and a determination bordering on obstinacy. Against the will of his people he went into the Iraq war. His political enemies he succeeded in pushing off to the respective right or left margins, thus gaining a third term in office--a rarity in Europe today. There is no doubt that Blair will approach the EU Presidency with similar determination.... This week, he will present his ideas on Europe. His chief ideologist Peter Mandelson has already made clear in which direction the journey will go. In a commentary, he wrote about painful economic reforms. According to his assessment, the social models of continental Europe are defensive, protectionist and stuck in the past. This is a challenge that Europe can only meet head-on. EU bosses are already considering simply sitting out the British Presidency. However, that would be a fatal mistake. The states of continental Europe must set their own models against that of the British. Nobody doubts that the European welfare state has to be reassessed, but it would be wrong to leave this wholly to Blair’s liberalist ideologists. Of course, it would be possible just to block the British within the EU. However, such a policy would simply play into London’s hands: there, a weak Europe is welcome indeed."
"Blair’s Vision Of Europe"
Senior editor Hans Rauscher commented in independent Der Standard (6/21): "In reality, Blair is concerned with geostrategic goals. For him, as for practically every British government in past decades, relations with the U.S. are at the center of their policy. Blair shares George W. Bush’s vision that the spreading of democracy worldwide has to be effected if necessary by force.... Blair does not want a politically united Europe that could openly resist the U.S. in cases like the Iraq war. He wants an EU with Turkey as a member state which will weigh in to support and make geostrategic decisions that the EU in its present state does not want to make, such as armed interventions in the Caucasus or Central Asia. The British prime minister will not be able to push through this vision, certainly not within the six months of his presidency and also not in view of the fact that the majority of his own people reject the Iraqi adventure--leave aside the rest of the Europeans. In the final analysis, however, Blair will isolate himself more that way. He will also have wasted precious time that is needed for a true reassessment of the European model. And he will have succeeded in leading Britain further away from the heart of Europe."
"Shame On You, Old Europe"
Wolfgang Boehm opined in centrist Die Presse (6/20): "This crisis is not to be explained in a few words. It ‘goes deeper,’ as Luxembourg's head of government Jean-Claude Juncker has said. The background of the present crisis lies in the fact that the large parts of the societies and political elites in the old member states have turned away from Europe.... If this EU crisis is a shame, this is because it has made it clear how the old EU treats its new member states: not just did the borders remain closed for many years, but agricultural subsidies were already cut in advance in the East while Western Europe continued with generous allotments of funds. The old member states would like to profit from growth in the new partner countries while avoiding competition from them--see the service industry guideline. The old EU countries should look at themselves in the mirror. Never did the fact that their faces are distorted by egotism become so apparent than it did last Friday when the new states offered to renounce their subsidies to save the European Union. True, their motives might not have been entirely selfless. However, their incentive showed something that does not exist in the 15 old EU states any more: a readiness to stand by this EU, a readiness to sacrifice self-interest for a common goal."
Michael Fleischhacker judged in centrist Die Presse (6/20): "The EU institutions are not responsible for the fact that the domestic economies in continental Europe are stagnating or, like Italy’s, have slid into a recession. The failure lies with the big political elites. Silvio Berlusconi, Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder, Hans Eichel--they are Europe’s gravediggers...not anonymous Brussels bureaucrats who merely do as they are told. The governments in Paris, Rome, and Berlin are responsible for the plight: They produced the crisis with their failed policies of undermining the stability pact, delaying liberalization, and postponing necessary reforms until the next elections.... Jacques Chirac’s problem is not explaining Europe to the French citizens. It is explaining his policies to them. That’s what he is not able to do. And that’s why he does what the political elites claim the allegedly stupid and naive European citizens do: he blames everything on Brussels and the European Union."
BELGIUM: "Another Waterloo"
EU affairs writer Johan Corthouts concluded in independent De Morgen (6/20): “The British continued to defend their rebate with every means they had. That is really deplorable. By accepting the agreement they could have created sufficient goodwill for their European presidency that will start on July 1. The British might even have received support for the liberal agenda with which--as Blair thinks--he can save Europe. Nothing of all that. Exactly 190 years after the battle of Waterloo the British preferred to attack the French for their enormous European agricultural subsidies. Instead of taking a constructive attitude in favor of Europe Blair pushed the self-interest to an extreme. There is only one word for that: disgusting.”
BULGARIA: "Overcoming Fears"
Center-right Dnevnik commented (6/20): "Fifty years ago, Europe began to unite because the fear of another war was stronger than international disagreement. From there on, the story of the European community could be described as overcoming a series of fears--the fear of the UK’s accession, the fear of the Soviet Union which resulted in the accession of Greece, Portugal and Spain and in more recent times, the fear of a new Balkan war, which made the EU a compelling prospect for all non-member European countries. In this sense, nothing new happened in Brussels over the weekend--Europe is just fighting yet another fear, which was clearly illustrated by the referendums in France and the Netherlands, which rejected the EU Constitution. Now the politicians' job, including the Bulgarian politicians, is to explain to themselves and to the voters that the way ahead passes through overcoming this fear."
CZECH REPUBLIC: "Strong EU"
Ivo Hoffman commented on the morning show of the most popular Czech Radio Channel One (6/21): "The American president wants a strong European Union.... He wants a strong Europe as a partner in spreading freedom, democracy, security and prosperity throughout the world. The difficulty lies in the fact that instead of one partner he has 25 of them, many of whom have very little interest in spreading around anything, and are more likely to follow their own interests rather than European or transatlantic goals. In short, at this time, Bush can only wish for a strong Europe. In some matters, however, a weak Europe is advantageous for the Americans. It is not possible to come to an agreement with it, but at the same time an agreement is not necessary. Europe as a counterweight to American influence is fiction. It is not possible to say what is the European interest or European priority, thus there is no clear European policy. Under such circumstances the course of world events is influenced by American interests, American priorities and American policy. In some cases this might bother us, it might upset us, but we certainly can not be surprised. It is us, if we can even say 'us,' who are heading for trouble."
DENMARK: "Break No Eggs"
Tabloid Ekstra Bladet maintained (6/18): "The fact is that many EU citizens do not want closer cooperation than the 25 countries have today. This is where the EU's top politicians distance themselves from large parts of their populations, who feel they have had enough EU. They don't want to break 25 eggs to make the great European omelette. It would be sensible to use the pause for a fundamental debate about what economic and political fields the fantastic European project should actually cover. And what the EU should stay out of."
FINLAND: "Off The Track"
Vasabladet concluded (6/18): "The EU has run off the rails.... Europe's problem is the weak economy and depressing prospects.... People will obviously react when they are worse off.... Many politicians have now seen which way the wind is blowing and quickly changed their EU euphoria to a strongly EU-critical line."
HUNGARY: "How To Go On, Europe?"
Brussels correspondent Laszlo Szocs wrote in top-circulation, center left Nepszabadsag (6/21): "The failed EU summit raises two fundamental questions. First: for how long--also in light of the storms surrounding the Bolkenstein directive, and the gap in the labor stop and the direct agricultural subsidies--can the difference between the first-class and second-class Europe be sustained?... What kind of Europe do the 25 want to build? That’s the other crucial question.... Obviously, a more interesting one than the battle of the politicians is the battle of the political models that emerged last Friday on account of the 'British check' and the sums of the joint agricultural policy. With its more flexible labor market and looser labor rules, the British model is considered to be more competitive. A number of new EU member countries also follow that model. The 'French' (and German, Belgian, etc.) model is more cumbersome, more fixed, but also more social. Blair is obviously preparing --seeing Schroeder’s weakening and reckoning with his departure in September--to shape Europe to his own image. He could not have a better opportunity for that than the British presidency [of EU] starting next week."
"Selfishness And Shortsightedness"
Staff writer Ferenc Kepecs opined in left-of-center Nepszava (6/20): "One of the lessons of the Brussels summit that ended with a failure was that the Eastern freshmen of the Union were much more European than the old Western members. The former had been ready to give up certain budget subsidies because they had understood EU’s basic principle: no one can win at the other's cost, but everyone wins if ready for a reasonable compromise. The Westerners, who are much wealthier--of whom one had every reason to expect generosity--were not able to overcome their national selfishness."
Staff writer Nora Rockenbauer pointed out in liberal leaning Magyar Hirlap (6/20): "All that [the failure of the EU summit] is, of course, bad news for those who still believe in the large European countries and in the integration. But it is even worse news for the residents of the new member countries who have been waiting for a decade and half to find out what it feels like to be a Union citizen of equal rights. And [they] have also been waiting, after the grave sacrifices of changing their economic structures with the Union subsidies, for a real impetus to catch up to the old members. Instead, they received stinginess and politics that plays for domestic audiences.... It is not by accident that the most prosperous citizens of the EU are the Brits, the Swedes, the Dutch, and the Finns. A liberal, that is, free market economy creates better conditions for everyone. The state cannot maintain its generous social system if the whole of the economy fails to grow. If only lip service is paid to competitiveness, Europe will lag behind even more after America and Asia."
IRELAND: "Failure Of EU Summit Reveals Rift Bigger Than The Budget"
Denis Staunton had this to say in the center-left Irish Times (6/20): "The collapse of talks on the EU's next seven-year budget following the referendum defeats for the constitution in France and the Netherlands has left the EU facing its deepest political crisis for a generation.... The summit exposed a deep rift among EU leaders that goes far beyond the details of the budget negotiations and involves questions about the very nature and purpose of the EU.... Even Britain's closest friends in Europe, which include Ireland, will be reluctant to follow Mr. Blair's lead after last week's summit. EU leaders were almost unanimous on Saturday in blaming Mr. Blair's refusal to cut Britain's multibillion euro budget rebate for the collapse in negotiations.... The new member states showed in Brussels, however, that they are committed to a different idea of Europe, and that they understand that London does not represent their interests."
LUXEMBOURG: " Failure Summit"
International policy editor Paul Katow wrote in conservative La Voix (6/20): "No actor involved came out with increased stature from the pathetic display offered by the failure of this summit, which will reinforce the euroskeptic lines in all 25 member states. This summit showed that behind the European façade national self-interests hide and fight each other. Behind the façade, the king is naked. The only one that might be able to profit from this summit is Tony Blair, because of the chance he gets to impose his view of a 'liberal' Europe during the next six months. He will soon have an important ally in the person of Angela Merkel, the German Christian-Democrat who is supposed to follow in Gerard Schroeder’s steps. The Paris-Berlin axis will then give place to the London-Berlin one, waiting for a Washington-London-Berlin axis. Because Ms. Merkel is a staunch 'Atlanticist,' just like the British prime minister. Jaques Chirac will then be as isolated as ever.”
"Tony Blair, Third-Rate Leader"
Editor in chief Denis Berche had this to say in socialist Le Quotidien (6/20): "Sensing his opponents somewhat weakened by the turbulent and endless debates over the EU constitution, Tony Blair chose the moment he found most appropriate to drive his point home.... The only trouble with Blair is that...he acts before thinking, he expects to break down his old house before he has a blueprint for the new one.... But if one believes the British, his circle and the press, he is the only one to have it all clear nowadays. Strong from his last re-election, Blair claims to impose his vision of Europe. An ultraliberal Europe that serves the market and its economic laws, a Europe that belongs to the economically strongest to the detriment of the weakest, a Europe vassal of the great American master.... By provoking a crisis without proposing a solution and by disowning his previous commitments, Tony Blair has opened a bigger crisis. Having plunged into a long period of troubled waters and incertitude, situation that amuses both the United States and China, the European Union is nowadays extremely weakened and very divided. And it is this division, that resonated so loudly in the night between Friday and Saturday, that worries us the most."
POLAND: "Solidarity Without The British"
Anna Slojewska wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (6/18): "In fact, the budget dispute between Great Britain and France does not concern the British rebate or agricultural expenditures. The aim is to maintain the financial status of the wealthy in the Union, without taking into consideration the fact that there are 25 countries in the Commonwealth now.... Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac are saying that the budget should help the poorest. But when it comes to providing for billions of euros for Polish highways, they are defending their old privileges.... The French president argues that subsidies for farmers are the foundation of the Union. He apparently forgot that the main pillar of the Commonwealth’s work is solidarity between the rich and the poor."
ROMANIA: "Blair Strong, But With Enemies"
Daniel Munteanu observed in the independent Adevarul (6/21): "Blair is now in a strong position, but he also has a lot of enemies. Great Britain’s economy makes the Continentals envious, and Blair is sitting comfortably in his chair in Downing Street only weeks after his re-election. But the political cost of Blair’s ambition can only be assessed after things calm down. His intransigence left him with no allies, and made new members discontented. The British PM will have to work wonders to calm down the French, first of all, so that he can promote his economic and budgetary policies."
"Debate Over Europe Needed"
Cristian Campeanu opined in the independent Romania Libera (6/20): "A debate which has been postponed for a long time now needs to take place over the united, social, protectionist and anti-American Europe against a less integrated, more liberal, flexible and dynamic Europe, oriented towards creating wealth and not towards utopian political projects, such as 'the United States of Europe'.... The accession of the Balkan countries is moving farther and farther away, while the accession of Turkey, and possibly Ukraine, seems to be compromised."
SPAIN: "The Emptiness Left By Dis-Union"
Left-of-center El País editorialized (6/20): "Some people in Brussels think that if the crisis of the EU leaves this vacuum, it will be Russia that will fill it and set itself up as alternative pole for a geopolitical rebuilding. We are living through the end of the EU's expansion, at least for now, with no Plan B for this process.... The EU might have gone too far in using expansion as a tool for exporting democracy and prosperity, and by opening itself too much to the outside, divided itself internally. If it is so, one should look for other formulas, other tools, other models, so as not to leave these countries exposed. And beyond that is the role that the EU could play in the Middle East, especially with the Palestinians, or to moderate Iran. Although some neocons and others are glad in the U.S., the Bush administration does not like this European crisis, because it counted on the EU for repairing the European environment.... Germany, France and Italy are in crisis. The Union was a multiplier of power for its members. Its paralysis may result in its being a multiplier of impotence."
"A Minimal Europe"
Centrist La Vanguardia had this to say (6/18): "The old Europe, using Rumsfeld's jargon, will not be able to have another opportunity before the electoral cycle of the coming two years ends.... The result may be a change in the Franco-German axis.... The pair of Merkel and Sarkozy, both in economy and in foreign policy, would be closer to British theories and, in extension, to Atlanticism. In addition, the fracture with the Bush administration over the Iraq war would close. Spain's role could be relegated to the background if Zapatero doesn't take advantage of the current impasse to modulate his policy of alliances in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. European idealism should be complemented with a greater dose of reality."
TURKEY: "The Future Of The EU"
Kamuran Ozbir wrote in the nationalist Ortadogu (6/20): "The rejection of the European Constitution by France and the Netherlands does not only bring question marks about the future of the EU, but also about Turkey’s possible membership. It is interesting that shortly after Turkey changed its penal code as part of the democratization process, the two founding members of the EU rejected the European Constitution and also created a link between Turkey’s membership and the referendum.... The general atmosphere in Brussels is not giving any indication about a new formula for Turkey, and official rhetoric is telling Ankara that previous decisions by the EU will apply. On the other hand, Germany, the largest country in the EU, is going through a government change. The current government is most likely to change and it will bring us a serious crisis about membership. Such development will be more critical for Turkey than Europe’s constitutional crisis.”
"The Transatlantic View Regarding The EU Crisis"
Yasemin Congar wrote from Washington in the mainstream Milliyet (6/20): “Washington is determined to support Turkey’s EU membership. The EU membership target of Turkey, unlike some in Turkey pursues otherwise, is not considered as an alternate to the Turkish-American ties. It is obvious that both anti-Americanism and anti-Europeanism of Turkey have common goals and both of them continuously feed each other’s arguments. Therefore, Washington’s advice to Ankara is as follows: the EU will overcome the current crisis one way or the other. Turkey should move forward to achieve its membership goal without giving any argument to the anti-EU circles.... Washington wants to see Turkey as a strong and influential partner within the EU as well as in its region and in its relations with the US. ... In fact the developments suggest that Ankara should pursue a transatlantic vision in its relationship with Washington and the EU capitals.”
ISRAEL: "The European Disunion"
The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (6/21): "More than anything else, the EU's failure lies in the gap that yawns between its political pretensions and diplomatic cowardice. A Europe that wants to have one foreign minister--as the proposed constitution sought--to rival America can hardly be the kind of Europe that needed Ronald Reagan to challenge Soviet tyranny, George Bush to confront Saddam Hussein and Bill Clinton to undo an ethnic-cleansing project that was under way in Europe itself. The emergence of such European leadership would not be the result of any procedural dynamic or political machination. Rather, it would follow a radical change of heart, one that would produce a Europe that thinks less of pride and power, and more of justice and morality. We don't know that such a Europe will ever emerge, but we are confident that should it arise, its attitude toward our own conflict will be different from that displayed over the years by the EU that this month, after years of moral overspending, has effectively entered political receivership."
CANADA: "EU's Obits Premature"
The left-of-center Regina Leader-Post commented (6/21): “For the second time in a month, the European Union (EU) is immersed in a crisis. On Saturday, a European Union budget summit collapsed in backbiting and sniping.... The rancor ended hopes that the summit would pull the EU out of the mess caused by the rejection of a proposed EU constitution earlier this month by French and Dutch voters. And the summit all but signaled the constitution's death by postponing the deadline for ratification indefinitely beyond the original November, 2006.... Those predicting the constitutional failure and the budget turmoil signal an end to the EU are off the mark. Indeed, they completely miss the target. Has the march towards a single united Europe been stopped? Absolutely, and perhaps forever. But that was always more a dream of academics and Eurocrats than of ordinary Europeans. The EU is still an immensely successful free-trade bloc that means too much financially to Europe for the politicians to allow it to fall apart.”
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