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Europe

European Press Review: Hopes and Fears for EU Big Three

On Tuesday, many European newspapers commented on the trilateral meeting between Schröder, Chirac and Blair scheduled for Wednesday in Berlin.


When the German Chancellor Schröder, British Prime Minister Blair and French Preisdent Chirac meet in Berlin on Wednesday there will be a fourth guest at their table, wrote the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: the suspicion that the three want to form a sort of European directorate, which -- though informal -- would dictate the pace and direction of the EU’s future development. But this fear must be confronted realistically, wrote the paper, arguing that pragmatism is what drives the three leaders. Rather than an attack on the European Union, this meeting is more of a coalition of those interested in pushing ahead with reforms, the paper said.

"The Big Three need to tread carefully," commented the Financial Times. "Wild hopes and fears ride on the outcome in Berlin," which some see as giving new leadership to Europe. Others fear that the meeting could end the equality of states "as the Big Three take charge." However, the three can realize the hopes rather than the fears by sticking to those policy areas that are either "half-out of the EU’s remit" or only half-formed, the FT noted.

The Belgian paper De Standaard said the main aim of the trilateral summit was to convince Chirac of the benefits of reaching agreement on a new European constitution. The French are largely opposed to the pending enlargement of the EU, the daily wrote, which is why Chirac has been applying the brakes. But Schröder and Blair have promised the acting head of the EU, Irish President Bertie Ahern, that they would win over their French colleague, the paper claimed.

The Independent from Britain commented on the race riots in Australia. Riots such as the ones in the Sydney-suburb of Redfern never come completely unheralded, the paper wrote. While in this case, the immediate trigger was the violent death of a young aboriginal man, it was their broader experience which encouraged the local population to blame the police. The paper said that sensitivity towards ethnic differences was not among Australia’s merits and urged Australian leaders to recognize the state of race relations for the national disgrace it is. The best that could come out of the Redfern riots, wrote the Independent, is that they could give impetus to change.