The 60th anniversary of D-Day was one of the main topics of comment in Monday's European press. Other editorials led with the death of former U.S. president Ronald Reagan at the weekend.
The Financial Times in Britain reflected on how Ronald Reagan’s perennially sunny optimism might seem ill-placed today. He used wit and warmth to charm enemies into something resembling reconciliation. The power of the Reagan revolution lay in a couple of simplicities, according to the paper. One was directed at the Soviet Union: disarm or the US will outspend you into the ground which Reagan of course did.
Britain’s Independent warned that the world should not to let Ronald Reagan’s achievements blind us to the failings of his presidency. In the eyes of many he was the man who defeated the mighty Soviet Union. But the paper wrote that it shouldn’t be forgotten that his flawed Star Wars’ plan still lives on in George Bush’s National Missile Defense plans. And the daily highlighted how Reagan’s self-claimed moral authority over the Soviet Union was diminished by his willingness to support unsavory regimes in the Middle East, including Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
The other big topic in Monday's European editorials was the 60th anniversary celebrations marking D-Day, the landing of allied troops on the north coast of France.
"Sixty years to the day, World War II is finally over" said the Belgian daily Het Laatste Nieuws. For the first time, a German head of state, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, participated in the event, and the paper believed his presence was justified. The symbolism was important to Germans because D-Day wasn’t a defeat but was the beginning of freedom.
Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung observed that some people might have a problem with Schröder making such a claim, that the allied troops’ victory wasn’t over Germany but for Germany, with which the daily agreed. Being the first German leader at this ceremony couldn’t have been easy, the editorial mused.
Der Standard in Vienna wrote that the D-Day celebrations couldn’t have come at a better time. U.S. President George W Bush met anti-Iraq war French President Jacque Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The paper observed that it was obvious that all sides were trying to smooth over their differences. Perhaps the memory of what happened on June 6, 1944 will ultimately help ‘Old Europe,’ the paper concluded, and the U.S. learns to realize that they need each other.
Unlike most European dailies, Russia’s Gazeta was critical of the weekend’s celebrations. It found it remarkable that Chancellor Schröder received more attention that Vladimir Putin. Russia was part of the allied forces but didn’t take part in D-Day, and the paper was acutely aware that Russia’s involvement in the war is hardly recognized in Normandy.