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European Press Review: Mending the Transatlantic Rift

European editorials on Thursday focused on German-U.S. relations, the hearings on Israel's security fence and the turmoil in Haiti.

Britain's Financial Times said the United States and Germany can’t escape the fact that their dispute over Iraq marked a turning-point in their relationship. And at the Bush and Schröder meeting on Friday, both leaders will have a lot of fence-mending to do because the two nations have a historically strong relationship due to the cold war. Bush needs to be aware that Germans remain profoundly allergic to anything that smacks of unilateral military invasions, the paper warned. It also pointed out that Germany is shouldering its fair share of military involvement, mostly in Afghanistan but also by training Iraqi police outside the country. According to the paper, there’s no going back to the old days but Schroeder’s visit is an opportunity to rebalance a foreign policy.

The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger in Germany was adamant that the United States and Germany are much more different than they are the same. One of the general differences is that Germans believe in the effectiveness of international organizations, the paper wrote. Americans on the other hand look to the nation. Germans seek a balance between capitalism and socialism, while Americans only trust the hand of the market, the daily claimed, adding that while most German are moderate pacifists, most Americans believe in war as a negotiating tool. After offering these generalizations, the paper stated that the time is right to have a sober and emotionless discussion about U.S.-German relations -- how the countries differ and what they have in common.

The other major transatlantic conflict, trade, was the focus of the Paris-Normandie in France. In the name of prevention, the east side of the Atlantic banned the import of hormone treated meat and genetically modified foods from the other side of the ocean. The United States grants considerable tax benefits to its overseas companies and walks over rulings by the World Trade Organization against the tax break, the paper noted. These examples are not directly connected, but they help fuel rumours of an upcoming massive economic war between the EU and the U.S., according to the daily.

De Volkskrant in the Hague still commented on the hearings at the International Court of Justice on the legality of Israel’s West Bank security barrier and the fact that Israel boycotted the whole thing. The barrier is a result, not the cause of the conflict and can only be solved by political talks between Israelis and Palestinians, the paper noted. A negative verdict, if there is one, would definitely not strengthen Israel’s negotiating power. But the daily pointed out that Israel did its best to put the international court hearing in the worst possible light with total support from the American congress. Israel argued that the handling of the issue was anti-Semitic, but that in turn leads Muslims to believe that Israel acts above the law, the paper noted.

The turmoil in Haiti had the Neue Züricher Zeitung in Zurich saying that President Jean Bertrand Aristide’s attempt to cling to power will do little to prevent the impending anarchy in the country. The only way to do so would be with foreign security forces, according to the paper. It would be an illusion to think the ‘liberation front’ in the north that now has a taste for violence would be quick to put their weapons down, the paper concluded.