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Europe

European Press Review: Bush’s Self-Made Burdens

Hostilities over the United States’ role in managing post-war Iraq continued to stew on the editorial pages of Europe’s top newspapers on Monday, just days after passage of the latest UN resolution.

In its leading editorial, the Dutch Algemeen Dagblad predicted problems piling up for United States President George W. Bush as a consequence of the Iraq war. "At the beginning of the year, Washington dismissed the United Nations as irrelevant, and the invasion was launched without the consent of the U.N. Security Council," the paper noted. "Now, Bush has to admit that he needs the help of other countries in order to deal with the continuing chaos and overcome Iraqi resistance. His re-election next year is therefore becoming ever more questionable," the paper concluded.

The conservative Austrian daily, Die Presse, also tied Bush’s political future to the results he can achieve in Iraq. "To have a say and to delegate the tasks -- that’s what U.S. strategists had in mind," the paper opined. "They have pursued their aims single-handedly, together with their British allies, and now they have to face the consequences. No one is now going to relieve them of their burden." That is a bitter lesson for Bush, but he has only himself to blame. The paper claimed that Bush’s own political career has been linked to what it called the "Iraq adventure." Die Presse predicts that elections may take place in Iraq soon after the presidential elections in the U.S. and, by then, "Bush may have been voted out of office."

Copenhagen’s Berlingske Tidende warns against losing sight of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. As long as the Stalinist state refuses to yield to international pressure, the Danish paper argues, the free world will have to perform a delicate balancing act: rejecting the country’s attempts at blackmailing the international community, while at the same time pushing for disarmament. "It is clear that Bush doesn’t want to escalate the situation in the region," the daily comments, "but there are limits to the extent to which the international community can afford to ignore North Korea’s threats with nuclear weapons."

Meanwhile, the editorial in the French daily Le Figaro takes issue with the presidential elections in Bolivia. "Ever since the time of the Spanish ‘conquistadors,’ Bolivia had to stand by and watch as foreign powers plundered their resources," the paper wrote. "Now, the poorest country in South America is in the process of casting off the yoke of fatality, despite the North American hyperpower." The Bolivian crisis, the French paper concludes, confirms that Latin America is looking for alternatives to the model proposed by the United States.

The London-based Financial Times weighs in on the draft European constitution currently being negotiated by EU leaders and is due to be signed by the end of this year as the basis for an enlarged European Union. The paper quirps, there are only a few things that guarantee antagonism between states in quite the same way as the question of the distribution of power. "It is little surprise, then, that the toughest issue emerging in the European Union’s constitutional negotiations is precisely the one that caused bad blood in Nice three years ago: the allocation of votes in the Council of Ministers," the paper's editor writes. The British paper suggests the EU’s Italian Presidency should make concessions to countries such as Spain and Poland so that they will adopt the constitution.

Another British paper, The Guardian, also gives its thoughts on the EU constitution, but from a more British perspective. The paper criticizes British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his unwillingness to bow to calls for a national referendum on the issue. While agreeing that there might be a case to be made for parliament to decide on the EU constitution, the paper argues that case might be easier to make if Blair’s New Labor government had had a "compelling record of respect for parliament in the last six years."

The Italian papers Corriere Della Sera and La Republica both comment on Germany’s planned pension reforms. The Milan-based Corriere Della Sera calls the reforms "bitter medicine" for Germany. "Work longer and face lower pensions in the end," the paper’s editors write, "that’s the bitter conclusion of this week’s discussions in Germany. And it’s not made any sweeter by the fact that Germany has not raised the age for qualifying for a state pension." La Republica in Rome predicts that the planned reform is likely to create discontent among pensioners and the electorate because it demands sacrifices without providing any guarantee for the system’s long-term survival.