European Press Review: A Split Look at U.S.-EU Relations | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 26.06.2003
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European Press Review: A Split Look at U.S.-EU Relations

Europe's leading newspapers focused on the EU-U.S. summit in Washington on Thursday -- concluding that the participants made major strides toward reconciliation of the recently frayed transatlantic relationship.


Is Europe playing U.S. President Bush's song?

“The United States is cleverly utilizing the dispute between old and new Europe to its advantage,” said the Russian daily Kommersant in Moscow. The paper wrote that the "new Europeans", meaning the eastern European states, were betraying European solidarity ever more frequently by siding with the United States. This peeved the "old Europeans", a reference to Germany and France. However, the paper added, “not only is the European Union metamorphosing into a stronger and more diverse choir, but the voices of that choir already sing the American melody”.

In Germany, the Frankfurter Rundschau wondered whether the summit was the first step towards a strategic rapprochement between the United States and the EU. “Or has nothing at all changed?” the paper asked. Its answer: “The outlook for the transatlantic relationship in the near future is certainly better than relations have been in recent months.” The daily concluded that another dispute as dramatic as the one over Iraq was not on the horizon.

But the Financial Times Deutschland from Hamburg said no one should be deceived by Washington’s friendly approach to the EU at the meeting. “New harmony over security policies is nowhere in sight,” it wrote. “Smiles at the summit won’t change that.”

Madrid’s conservative daily ABC saw the summit as a sign that the United States and the EU had put their disagreement over Iraq behind them. “The Iraqi tempest in the relationship has been overcome,” the paper said. “Germany and France accept the common security model, which is based on the worldwide fight against terrorism and on spreading international rights.” The daily said the two power blocks would always have skirmishes over trade and other issues, but that they would also continue to agree more than disagree.

In Stockholm, the liberal daily Dagens Nyheter said that “a specter is haunting Europe - the specter of immigration”. The paper advocated a pan-European immigration policy, rather than what it called the “asylum lottery” that currently predominated. “Here, we can learn something from the United States and Canada, which are the leading destinations of immigrants in North America,” the paper wrote. It went on to recognize both Europe’s need for domestic security, as well as the need of would-be immigrants for concrete guidelines and entry criteria. It warned against what it called the “policy of cowardice and exaggerated fear” that would lead Europe to close its borders completely.

On the issue of Iraq, the Belgian daily De Standaard leveled an especially harsh criticism on Britain, which recently lost six soldiers in a bloody two-hour firefight with Iraqi civilians. “British troops in South Iraq are hunting for people they’ve labeled the ‘murderers’ of six British soldiers,” the paper said. “But the real blame for the soldiers’ death lies with Prime Minister Tony Blair. Among the people and the media, the conviction is growing that Blair pulled his country into war with half truths or complete lies.”

Nowhere was that easier to see than in Britain itself, where the London daily The Independent ran a front-page story picking through Tony Blair’s pre-war comments and pointing out inconsistencies with post-war reality. The Guardian used its front page to compare the British and Iraqi versions of Tuesday’s two-hour firefight between British soldiers and an Iraqi mob that left six soldiers and several Iraqis dead. The editorial pages of both papers called for diligence in determining whether Tony Blair actively deceived the British public concerning Iraq or whether he was acting in good faith.

“The charge against the government is not one of lying, but that it failed to tell the whole truth,” The Independent concluded. It went on to say that history would judge the events of the past six months by what happened in the next six. “The longer the allied occupation goes on, and the more Iraq descends into chaos, the weaker the human rights case for war looks,” the paper concluded.