European Press Review: A Weak Compromise? | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 30.06.2004
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European Press Review: A Weak Compromise?

European editorials Wednesday commented on the new EU Commission president and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Guantanamo Bay prisoners should have access to U.S. civilian courts to appeal their detention.

What is true for soccer is also true for politics, said Austria’s Kurier: It is not always the best who wins. Jose Barroso is not a top league player, the paper noted, and, staying with soccer imagery, added that the stars of the Champions League – Juncker, Ahern, Patten and Solana – either didn’t want to or were not allowed to win. So the weak compromise after a back and forth of high-level blocking tactics is a Portuguese without a strong profile, and without much EU experience, the paper concluded.

The Berner Zeitung from Switzerland also wondered whether the nondescript Portuguese diplomat is the right choice for the most important job in Brussels, especially in one of the most difficult phases of European integration with 10 new member states.

Another Austrian paper, the Salzburger Nachrichten, criticized the method of choosing Barroso in the first place. The paper commented that 25 heads of state sitting behind closed doors, acting like an EU supervisory board and electing a new chief for the commission just cannot work. In politics, the paper pointed out, top positions must be directly or indirectly appointed by the voters.

Britain’s Financial Times said Barroso will need widely based support in the assembly over the next five years to handle a difficult agenda. He cannot afford to be seen as the stooge of powerful member states and must therefore start by telling his fellow leaders straight away that he will be master in his own house, the paper noted.

And La Stampa from Italy said Barroso’s first job should be getting rid of the label “smallest common denominator.”

Other European editorials commented on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay should have access to U.S. civilian courts to appeal their detention.

Jyllands-Posten from Denmark called the ruling satisfactory as it shows that the U.S. is a country based on the rule of law after all. But the Supreme Court doesn’t point out how the Guantanamo Bay prisoners’ cases are to be dealt with, the paper said, adding that it is unfortunate that so much time has gone by before their rights were made clear.

France’s Le Monde also believed there is reason to be pleased about the ruling. The paper said it is not only a defeat for President Bush, but marks a victory for the basic legal norms of a democracy.

According to Dutch paper De Volkskrant, an important barrier has been broken down. Civil rights can no longer be subordinated to national security interests without further authorization, the paper said. The daily observed that the Supreme Court ruling is an embarrassing defeat for the Bush administration. Germany’s Financial Times Deutschland agreed: It could hardly have been worse for the U.S. administration. Now, the paper continued, Washington will have to uncover in court what it has in hand against the prisoners, some of whom have been held for two-and-a-half years. The U.S. has made the painful experience in Iraq that military power alone is not enough in the fight against terrorism, the paper said. Now, the Americans have to learn another lesson. Trying to put themselves above the law has robbed them of their most valuable asset in the fight against terrorism: credibility.