June 29, 2005
BLAIR IN BRUSSELS: AN 'EU ARCHITECT' OR MERELY EUROPEAN 'VISIONARY?'
** Blair delivered an "impressive, saluted" speech to an EU in need of "shock therapy."
** EU "great market" aspirations clash with EU nations' "socially romantic ideologies."
** Is Blair's EU six-month presidency enough time for his ambitious "reformist agenda?"
** Europe's future rests in forging a "future-oriented mixture" of national economic models.
'Blair to EU: wake up' because 'Europe is not working'-- Observers, "one and all," agreed UK PM Blair delivered a brilliant and impressive speech to the "initially sleepy and then applauding European parliament." Pro-Blair media lauded his "deep and daring" vison that suggested only he can "liberate" Europe from "self-inflicted paralysis." Brazil's liberal Folha de S. Paulo joined Canada's leading Globe and Mail to opine that Europe's leaders were mystified over what went wrong since the "shock of spring's twin noes." The Canadian paper supported Blair's assertion that Europe's crisis offered "an extraordinary, historic opportunity" for Europe to seize "the chance to renew and modernize itself" since it is not now "economically competitive."
'If Europe wants to survive, it should change'-- If the EU's "main continental players" opt for "real economic reform," concerns over "budget, treaty reform and enlargement" should fall into place, declared the UK's independent Financial Times. A Polish writer added, "if the EU turns its back on global challenges and does not launch reforms, it risks strategic failure." EU critics averred its economic model "coddles workers" while "handing out checks left and right."
Is there 'just lip service' from Tony using 'argument, but no solution?'-- Poland's centrist Rzeczpospolita said the UK PM "calls a spade a spade." German commentators gave a mixed evaluation. Left-of-center Berliner Zeitung said that how Blair uses the UK's "hefty" rebate check of "five billion Euros" would shed light on the UK as a "European lead nation." Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine held suspicions that Blair "wanted to deal another blow to the turbulent European situation" since many continentals blamed him "for having added a budget crisis to the crisis over Europe's constitution." An Italian writer stated, "Britons have a minimalist conception of Europe." French writers cited "handicaps and doubts" confronting the "passions of Tony," and added that "with only six months, his ambitious mission remains impossible." An Austrian analyst wrote, "what the man from Britain really has in mind with his reforms he will soon have the opportunity to prove."
The EU must decide on the proper model to follow-- Austrian outlets lauded Blair's "brilliant rhetoric and leadership affectations," but mass-circulation Kurier opined that Europe cannot use the British, French or German economic model. The outlet declared it Blair's "job" to find a "future-oriented mixture" of existing models. The center-left Irish Times cautioned, Blair "will have to abandon many English national obsessions to convince Europeans of the bona fides of his vision and leadership of the EU." Belgium's independent financial De Tijd held that "replacing the European model with the British model is no option. What Blair wants to do for Europe must be shown by his acts--not by his nice words."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITORS: Rupert D. Vaughan and 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 34 reports from 12 countries June 23-24, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "A British Case That Needs To Be Argued More Often"
The left-of-center Independent opined (6/24): "For Mr. Blair to take the argument to Brussels so soon after the failed summit was a risk, and a risk that largely paid off. The Parliament, though, is not the forum where the coming battles will be won or lost. Mr. Blair has to win over his fellow national leaders in the European Council. The question is whether the six months of the British presidency will be time enough."
"Europe Needs Hard Decisions, Not Hot Air"
The conservative Daily Telegraph declared (6/24): "He [Blair] presents himself as the solitary agent of progress against the two forces of conservatism: reactionary Thatcherism and old-style socialism. Leaving aside his claims to have applied a successful third way at home, the rhetoric of triangulation will not wash in Europe."
"Blair's Challenge To The EU"
The independent Financial Times editorialized (6/24): "If ever real economic reform starts to take hold among the EU's main continental players, then other pieces in the jigsaw--relating to the budget, treaty reform and enlargement--might fall into place. But that could be well beyond Mr. Blair's EU presidency, and perhaps his term in office."
The conservative Times took this view (6/24): "There is clearly an opportunity to stitch together a new European alliance based on equality and opportunity. A freer Europe would unleash energy on a scale that could transform the prospects of every citizen: a fine legacy indeed."
FRANCE: "Mission Impossible For His Majesty’s PM"
Alexandrine Bouilhet wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (6/24): "Blair's speech was saluted by one and all.... But his mission, to wake up Europe, to modernize it and open its eyes to international competition will be difficult.... His adversaries are Schroeder and Chirac.... And in this remake of James Bond Against Dr. No, with Chirac in the role of No, 007 has more than one ally.... Eastern European countries, plus Italy, Spain and Ireland.... But with only six months, his ambitious mission remains impossible.... The war on the budget has left deep scars and a political agreement seems out of reach by December.... Meanwhile, Angela Merkel, although she does not look anything like a James Bond Girl, could well play the role of a strategic ally."
"The Passions Of Tony Blair"
Guillaume Goubert noted in Catholic La Croix (6/24): "Blair is passionately European.... He is also passionately British.... His position, both as a Euro-phile and a social-liberal is not only a matter of strategy. Blair believes in it. He could enroll others, such as the German Christian Democrats, if they come to power next fall.... If France does not want to be isolated and cut off from its German partner, it will have to be imaginative.... It could propose the implementation of a joint research policy."
Left-of-center Le Monde maintained (6/24): "Blair is right to bemoan the fact that the EU budget is not dealing with 'major issues.' He is right to say that Europe’s economy is not internationally competitive.... But he is not totally right to oppose this 'modern Europe' to yesterday's 'agricultural' Europe.... What Blair doesn't do is propose a joint research policy. In short he is asking the right questions but with the wrong words.... The right terms would be to say that the European budget is insufficient.... But Blair's position on the need to increase research means is solid.... The EU 25 need to get back to the future, in short they need to find once again the meaning of compromise.”
"Handicaps And Doubts"
Pascal Aubertargued in centrist La Tribune (6/24): "Tony the 'European' is sticking to his mission of modernizing Europe.... But Blair's plan suffers from two major handicaps and suspicion. The first handicap touches on the method he has chosen: playing on the EU crisis to reach his objectives.... The second handicap touches on his--voluntarily?--unfinished plan. His proclaimed European flame and his rejection of Europe as an open market are not enough to hide the imbalanced nature of his plans. He clearly favors an economic vision and the political is just a means to an end. The suspicion of the ‘continentals’ resides in doubts about Blair’s sincerity in his European commitment.""
Jean-Michel Thenard observed in left-of-center Liberation (6/23): "Three weeks after one of the worst defeats of his entire career, President Chiarc is trying to rebuild his image at the expense of PM Blair, who is an easy target.... But nothing proves that the French public will applaud the scenario written at the Elysee Palace with Blair’s clumsy collaboration. Because the staging of the cordial 'non-entente' between the two men smells of too much posturing with domestic politics as the ultimate end."
"Two Visions of Europe"
Jules Clauwaert noted in regional Nord Eclaire (6/23): "There is a clash between two different conceptions of the European Union: one that is putting everything in the balance in the interest of a great market, and one that does is not giving up on the ambition for a political Union of states founded on common values and playing its role in the world."
GERMANY: "Blair's European Offensive"
Günther Nonnenmacher observed in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (6/24): "Blair was particularly blamed for having added a budget crisis to the crisis over Europe's constitution. The suspicion that he wanted to deal another blow to the turbulent European situation cannot easily be dismissed: Blair opposed the weakened French President and the lame German chancellor, which have not convinced us as a European duo in recent months, with his British agenda. The timeout Europe wanted should be used to discuss the divergent ideas of Europe--and to take the right measures then."
Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich commented (6/24): "Blair's appearance was simultaneously clever and dangerous. He is clever because he uses Euroskepticism and pretends to be a leader who understands the concerns of the people, but it was dangerous to reject the budget compromise. At Trafalgar, Nelson won with risky maneuvers. However, the signs are not so favorable for Blair. French President Chirac will not miss a single opportunity to damage Blair, and neither will Schroeder support his former friend. Blair must look for new allies, and he will also have to show that he does not only think of British interests, but that he is a great European."
Roger Köppel asserted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (6/24): "With an impressive speech to the initially sleepy and then applauding European parliament, British PM Tony Blair made his claim to liberate Europe from its self-inflicted paralysis. The politician, often said to be dead by his rivals and hit for his rock-solid stance during the Iraq war, delivered a rhetorical masterpiece. A few weeks ago in the British elections, he was seen as an outdated model.... A politician who is believed to be capable of inspiring the EU spoke. The enthusiastic politician Blair has apparently found a new mission. After the modernization of the Labor Party, he will now remodel Europe, which is caught in socially romantic ideologies."
"Time For Decisions"
Albrecht Meier asserted in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (6/24): "It is right that it is difficult to enthuse the people for Europe, but the challenges Europe faces are great. Europe is required in the stabilization of Iraq, the integration of Turkey, and in the war on terror. [Europeans] bear this common responsibility, because every country on its own would not be able to master the tasks. The U.S. is also expecting Europe to be a political union. Although Tony Blair does not want to see it this way, given this crisis, the question of whether Europe wants to be simply a common market or a political union is important. The Europeans should be mature enough to discuss this issue openly in the years to come, even if this ends in a break-up."
"Blair On The Way To Europe"
Alios Berger noted in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (6/24): "Tony Blair is taking over the EU presidency in a week. It will be up to him whether how successful he will be. With the British rebate of five billion euros, he has a great asset in his hands to get concessions by other governments. Giving up the rebate is overdue, and Blair can even do something for Europe. If Britain still has the rebate after the British presidency, we can all finally forget the country as a European lead nation."
"Row Over Europe's Future"
Jürgen Thebrath commented on ARD-TV's (national channel one) late evening newscast "Tagesthemen" (6/23): "The European Union is caught up in the middle of a crisis. It has lost its course and the officers aboard are fighting against each other. At least, Brussels' debacle has straightened things out, thanks to Blair. Now, the row over Europe's future has completely broken out. Do we want Europe to follow the British model of a modern economic area or do we want Europe to continue the social and political success story that made it strong? Let's be plain: Every German pays 90 euros a year for the country's membership in the EU. In return, we get a free market, and are allowed to travel and work everywhere. Neither should we forget the 60 years of peace. This reality of Europe makes us attractive for countries in to East. These poor new members surprisingly offered financial sacrifices to protect Europe. Tony Blair has now repeated tough questions, for instance concerning the agricultural policy, but he was not and still is not ready for a common answer. The great debate about Europe has started--it is worthwhile."
ITALY: "Blair Risks Re-Uniting Europe"
Paolo Bagnoli judged in Rome's center-right daily Il Tempo (6/23): "As we know, the Britons don’t like the old continent; primary attention has always been for the former American colonies; they have a minimalist conception of Europe and they are not very interested in the political integration of new countries. Blair is interested in the Europe of free trade, and not in a Europe that bonds its members closer together...in a Europe of merits, competition, in order to select the best to be rewarded. In other words, a New Labor Europe.... Blair is preparing to export the British model to Europe. The road won’t be easy, but the possible government change in Germany might be of help. In that case, an Anglo-German axis will replace the French German one. For the time being, Chirac seems cornered...but France can’t stay still, and most of all the process of integration must be safeguarded, despite all the difficulties, including Turkey. In fact, its arrest could be fatal for a troubled Europe, which could overcome its problems if it had greater self-cognizance."
AUSTRIA: "The Model European"
Ernst Trost contended in mass circulation tabloid Neue Kronenzeitung (6/24): “Yes, it was a rhetorically brilliant performance. The picture that Blair painted of the current state of the EU and his vision of the future is by no means an abstract painting. Blair has confronted the Europeans with reality and brutally exposed many of the Union’s weaknesses, for instance when he referred to the deficit in productivity or the situation with regard to research and development in relation to the U.S., or when he pointed out that China and India are on the fast track. Also, his commitment to the model of a Europe that is politically united on a solid social basis was worth hearing. Whether this was just lip service will be seen during the coming six difficult months of the British EU presidency.”
"The Tony Blair One-Man Show"
Margaretha Copeinig held in mass-circulation Kurier (6/24): "Blair’s diagnosis for Europe, his brilliant rhetoric and the leadership affectations he displayed in his speech at the European Parliament just serves to obscure what he really wants: a quick ascension of Turkey to EU membership status, and a weakening of EU institutions in favor of national egotisms and power.... What the man from Britain really has in mind with his reforms he will soon have the opportunity to prove. Will he live up to his reputation as unprincipled tactician or will he set new standards? Will he succeed in uniting all 25 members to agree one position or will he leave them behind? At the end of the year one will be able to tell. He who wants to mediate must represent European convictions in a credible way. And he who sees himself as a mediator must not engage in polemics and polarization. The Green EU parliamentarian Daniel Cohn-Bendit is right when he says that Europe cannot orient itself according to the British model, and not the French or German one either. Europe cannot function according to any national model. The political art lies in finding a future-oriented mixture. This will be Blair’s job."
"Light At The End Of The Tunnel"
Manfred Perterer commented in independent daily Salzburger Nachrichten (6/24): "That’s how quickly things can change. Just a while ago, Tony Blair was Europe’s bogeyman: Iraq war, backpedaling on the EU constitution and failed budget negotiations had made him persona non grata, and not just for dyed-in-the-wool Brussels EU bureaucrats. But now, after his speech at the European Parliament he stands out as a hope for a modern, competitive Europe that is accepted by its citizens. The specter of a crypto-liberal destroyer of jobs who wants to scale down the EU to a pure market economy is fading. Blair appears as the light at the end of the tunnel. Who would have thought it?... However, caution is still the order of the day. First, Tony Blair has to prove that he is serious about his reform ideas. One speech alone cannot eliminate the years of suspicion. What the man from Britain has achieved, however, is that there is finally an open debate about the future of Europe, something that many heads of government wanted to prevent. Those closed doors were thrust open by Blair."
"Tough Guy, What Now"
ORF Washington Correspondent Raimund Loew commented in liberal Vienna city weekly Falter (6/23): "After the latest summit debacle, Tony Blair has emerged as the new tough guy of Europe who, in spite of bad cards, succeeded in rallying a respectable coalition behind his vision of an allegedly more flexible and less bureaucratic EU."
BELGIUM: "Must Show Muscles"
Koen Vidal stated in independent De Morgen (6/24): "The British Prime Minister worries about his position at home. On May 5, the people dealt him an enormous electoral blow. Labor kept its majority, but Blair knows that his position is unstable and that he is in danger from the leaders in his own party. Blair is extremely smart and he knows very well that a British politician must respect a number of fundamental principles to stay in power. On of these principles is that he must show his muscles in Brussels. A vulnerable leader who ignores that is in trouble. In the coming six months Blair will not deviate from that rule. We will have to live with the slogan: 'Europe will be more British, or it will not be.' That may be good news for the opponents of Europe, but it will be tragedy for those who want the EU to make progress the next six months."
"The Blair Show"
Kris Van Haver remarked in independent financial De Tijd (6/24): "Blair presented himself as a convinced European and a defender of a political and social Europe. It was almost too nice to be true, but his charm offensive worked. Just like [Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude] Juncker, Blair received applause for his European plans--and no punishment for sabotaging last week’s EU summit. In Blair’s view, Europe urgently needs a modernized economy. It must change or it will disappear: that is the British message. Europe’s citizens want Europe to solve the problems of globalization, unemployment and growing crime. If not, the old continent will capsize, Blair warned with a clear reference to the 'No' against the European Constitution in France and the Netherlands. Blair’s analysis is tough. The last few years Europe has not been able to find an answer to the economic developments in the U.S., India and China.... However, Blair did not come up with concrete recipes to get out of the crisis. He did not say either how that modernization should be carried out. The program of the British EU presidency the next six months barely talks about European ambitions. Climate change, Africa and debt relief are the British priorities.... That means that Blair has an argument, but no solution. He said what the problem is: Europe must change and be appealing again. However, replacing the European model with the British model is no option. What Blair wants to do for Europe must be shown by his acts--not by his nice words."
HUNGARY: "Removing Obstacles In Germany"
Peter Zentai said in liberal-leaning Magyar Hirlap (6/24): "Tony Blair belongs among the few who have recognized that in Germany today the division between the opposing forces is exactly there where it is in the European Union. And the kind of thinking that wins in Germany will also define the all-European thinking.... The question is: A. Should Germany (Europe) remain a...primarily social, and [only] secondarily a market country (in the case of Europe, a union of countries); B. or should it become an economic champion that, although not entirely free of welfare features, focuses dominantly on the global market, and for sustenance depends on that, and not on taxes?... Blair is eminently aware of the conditions in Germany, and for the success of his concept of Europe, does what he needs to do: works to overthrow Schroeder who continues to think in terms of the French-German axis, and to help the victory of the Christian Democrats who seem to be more and more Atlanticist (pro-America, pro-England) and more and more market centered."
"Plan Gone Up In Smoke"
Adam Gere wrote in top-circulation, center left Nepszabadsag (6/24): "The [French-German] Big Plan [for close European integration] had one unacknowledged goal: to bring about a European superpower.... The failure of the constitution is now an opportunity for an open 'economic Europe' to be born, instead of the integrated 'political Europe'. In a Europe based on free competition and a market economy, the new member states have a good chance to eliminate the difference in the living standard that has existed between the two parts of the continent for centuries. Their relatively well-trained labor, also ready for sacrifices, and an economic policy encouraging competition may provide an opportunity for speedy catching up.”
IRELAND: "Tony Blair's EU Presidency"
The center-left Irish Times declared (6/24): "After the shame of last week's bitter recriminations...Blair faced a particular problem when he addressed the European Parliament .... The rhetoric was very good but does it mean anything?.... He is rightly blamed for the debacle of the last summit. Yet, he is the only EU leader who has recognized and articulated the malaise among the citizens of Europe.... On balance he succeeded well yesterday in his task. By concentrating on the need for a substantive policy response to the problems facing Europe's states and citizens.... But it remains to be seen whether this will make it easier for Mr. Blair to advance his reformist agenda with other EU political leaders over the next six months.... Without delivering Britain into the euro-zone, as a real measure of commitment.... He failed to subordinate his transatlantic relationships in favor of European interests. And, in the six months of his presidency, he will have to abandon many English national obsessions to convince Europeans of the bona fides of his vision and leadership of the EU."
POLAND: "Tony Blair’s Crusade"
Jan Skorzynski wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (6/24): "The EU was sidetracked. The reason is not the British veto of the draft budget but the fact that the great aspirations of [EU] leaders were accompanied by their reluctance to changes without which a global power cannot be built.... Tony Blair is one of the very few European leaders--if not the only--who is not going to bury his head in the sand in this situation. One can agree with his vision or not, but certainly it addresses real problems. The British prime minister calls a spade a spade: if the EU turns its back on global challenges and does not launch reforms, it risks strategic failure."
"Budget, Expansion, Constitution"
Robert Soltyk concluded in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (6/24): "Tony Blair not just once proved that he has deep convictions and daring visions. Not only does he voice them, but he also realizes them.... Now Blair has six months to show that he is not only a visionary, but as well an architect of European compromise."
SPAIN: "Europe, According To Blair"
Left-of-center El Pais averred (6/24): "Blair deserves to be listened to when he says he is ready to negotiate the hefty British check if it ties into a reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. The CAP is an acronym for an anachronistic and unjust system that prevents subsidies, among other things, stops the development of fair trade with some of the most impoverished countries on the planet, and will multiply the EU's costs to modernize sections of the economy by seven.... The British strategy is based on the predictable defeats of Schroeder and Chirac...that will bring about a European political realignment that will eliminate the current Paris-Berlin axis."
"Blair On The Horizon"
Conservative ABC argued (6/24): "Europe has sunk into a deep crisis. In this sense, it can be said that the scene made in the last summit in Brussels was not very edifying from a pro-European perspective.... The most regrettable of the affair is that failure was due to excessive national interest and the lack of pro-European involvement. In fact, the absence of sense of responsibility was very grave and gave the political extent of those who are piloting the European ship in this tempest of pessimism.... The EU needs shock therapy to recover the confidence and peace it has lost, although some people have sworn to get even with Blair and are waiting for the right moment to make his life impossible. If Europe wants to survive, it should change. But as Blair said yesterday, if it lets itself go by last inertia, failure will be its most certain fate."
"From Juncker To Blair"
Centrist La Vanguardia concluded (6/24): "In a simple interpretation of facts, it is paradoxical that a Christian-Democrat acts as an advocate of social and political Europe facing a Labor Party member. The answer is to be found in the history of European construction itself. [Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude] Juncker is part of the group of founding partners and a heir to social-Christian tradition.... Blair is the most pro-European face of British politicians, but...'new Laborism' has integrated some of the reforms of the Thatcherist revolution that the continental right...has not made yet. On paper, Blair's speech denies the caricature that presents him as a champion of liberalism. His thesis--economic modernization and structural reforms, planned in the agenda of Lisbon--are exactly the right tools to confront the era of globalization and safeguard social Europe. That is the program of his semestral presidency.... However, it remains to be seen if he will have enough time and allies to win his bet."
CANADA: "Blair To EU: Wake Up"
The leading Globe and Mail opined (6/24): "Since the shock of this spring's twin noes, Europe's leaders have been asking themselves what could possibly have gone wrong. Was the text of the constitution too hard for people to understand? Were they mad at us for something else? In fact, the answer is straightforward. Europe is not working. In an age of global trade and rising competition from Asia, its economic model coddles existing workers and companies instead of encouraging new ones. In an age when smart governments invest in knowledge and skills, its social model relies on handing out checks left and right. In an age when people demand more responsive, more accountable government, the EU's is remote, high-handed and bureaucratic. All is not lost. As Mr. Blair notes, Europe's crisis presents it with 'an extraordinary, historic opportunity.' If it seizes the chance to renew and modernize itself, it could still be an economic and political force in the world. If it pretends nothing has happened and everything is dandy, the dream of a strong and influential European Union is little more than a fantasy"
BRAZIL: "Crisis In The European Union"
University of Sao Paulo Professor Gilberto Dupas commented in center-right O Estado de S. Paulo (6/25): "George W. Bush and Tony Blair were the great beneficiaries of the 'no' victory on the referenda in France and the Netherlands. The resulting political impasse, as well as the economic crisis affecting the region, has left undecided the future of the bloc.... But while Europe is nearing a recession, England resists, keeping itself out of the euro area.... Blair has been a master of survival and made intelligent bets aligned with the U.S. power.... In addition to problems in Germany and France, difficulties have emerged in three other major European nations. The Spanish 'miracle' seems to have been exhausted.... Italy is officially experiencing recession since May, a situation that has occurred in the Netherlands too.... Meanwhile, Washington is taking advantage of the confusion by occupying with its radicals key positions in the World Bank and the UN, and, in a chorus with London, it has mocked the 'old decadent French-German axis' Europe.' The European project of power aimed at balancing the global game with the U.S. has been adjourned. And the world will have to assume the serious consequences of that fact."
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo asserted (6/24): "The truth is that the European leaders are still astonished with the French and Dutch rejection of the proposal for a new constitution for the bloc.... The fact that Blair is involved in an almost personal dispute with Chirac does not make his considerations less truthful. The EU has reached a level of social welfare that must be preserved and imitated, but, in order to ensure the maintenance of such achievements, it is necessary that its economies are competitive. To find formulas to reconcile the welfare state with an efficient economy is the great challenge. The path to do so requires, as Blair points out, more investments in science and less in an agriculturally subsidized Europe."
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