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Europe

European Press Review: Breaching the Walls of Mistrust

While a glimmer of hope flickered in Iran this week, the European on Thursday press still lamented the continued instability in the Middle East, especially in Israel and Iraq.

The current state of global insecurity prompted The Independent in London to take a rather broad look at the issue of international crises. “Civilize or die,” cried the headline in the British daily, as the paper argued that we can no longer afford to ignore weak or aggressive states. For the first time since the Middle Ages, individuals and groups today possess destructive power which put them on equal terms with a state. That puts the state’s monopoly on force under threat, the paper said. The answer to this global challenge, wrote The Independent, can only be regime change, costly as that approach may be.

A number of the European papers on Thursday focused on a more specific crisis region: the Middle East. Copenhagen’s Jylland’s Posten commented that it thought that, after Tuesday’s UN-General Assembly vote which condemned Israel’s security fence in the West Bank, the Jewish state is now isolated as never before, standing with its back to its own wall. However, it is justified, the conservative Danish paper asserted, that Israel remains persistent in its claim that it needs the barrier for self defense. But the idea of a wall arouses bad memories especially in Europe, the paper added.

Germany’s Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung took the opposite view and argued that the United Nation’s demand that Israel remove its fence is justified. But, the paper said, the resolution is unlikely to have much impact. Israeli Prime Minister Sharon’s cabinet ceased to heed the existence of international law a long time ago, the paper declared, and he dismisses even well-intentioned advice from European countries by pointing to the need for self-protection. But when, asked the German daily, will Sharon understand that by doing so, he achieves the exact opposite?

The Israeli leader’s policy also raises more questions than answers for Switzerland’s Neue Züricher Zeitung. “What exactly is Ariel Sharon’s concept for peace?” asked the editorial. If he had been truly interested in producing tangible results from the sketchy road map, the paper mused, he would have had to pursue a different path over the last months. Instead, Sharon and the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat have done everything possible to torpedo the peace plan in the eyes of the Swiss daily.

Other European dailies widened their scope to include events in Iraq and Iran. Le Monde commented that this week’s visit of the German, French and British Foreign Ministers to Teheran showed there is at least a starting point for a joint European foreign policy. There is no doubt, wrote the French paper, that the visit from the ‘Big Three’ has eased international tensions. But in order for a political European Union to move ahead, co-operation at this level has to become the rule rather than the exception, the Paris daily commented.

Tensions have eased, yes, but still no “all-clear” in Iran, lamented the Austrian Salzburger Nachrichten. According to the paper, it has yet to be proved that Iran – as it claims – has in fact not yet started producing nuclear weapons. The agreement reached by the three ministers and the Iranian government is still a fragile one. Should it fail, it might trigger a dangerous nuclear arms race in the Middle East, cautioned the paper.

Turning to the continuing difficulties being experienced in Iraq, the Italian daily La Repubblica looked ahead to the international donor’s conference in Madrid and noted that the real problems in Iraq are just about to surface. Donations, credits and investments are now needed to overcome post-war instability in the country. Those who now expect Iraq to be able to pay back even more debts are under an illusion, the Rome paper said.