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European Press Review: Progress in Brussels and Libya

European newspaper editorials on Friday focused on the European Union summit in Brussels and British Prime Minister Tony Blair‘s meeting with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Looking at discussions regarding Iraq during the EU summit in Brussels, Italy’s La Republica detected a change of attitude in the United States which appears ready to recognize an independent role for the United Nations in Iraq. The Rome based paper said a new EU resolution on that issue would not only prevent the withdrawal of Spanish troops but also open the way for greater European and NATO participation.

The French regional paper Dernieres Novelles d’Alsace criticized the EU for sluggish cooperation on anti-terrorism. After the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the EU promised a lot, the paper said. Europol and Eurojust were reorganized to become the chief information gathers without becoming active and member states changed laws regarding European warrants of arrest. But, noted the paper, only 10 EU countries accepted those changes while four are still undecided and Italy is opposed to it. The French paper charged this lack of unity is partly caused by individual countries trying to guard the independence of national institutions responsible for justice, security and law.

Belgium’s De Standaard observed that Europe’s biggest problem is its lack of interior borders which criminals and terrorists use to their advantage. The Brussels daily wrote one can drive from Berlin to Lisbon without having to show a passport. The paper said the appointment of Gijs de Vries as the EU’s first counter-terrorism coordinator is merely a symbolic gesture. The paper said that some of the more influential member states are still unwilling to share information on terrorists groups and activities: for example Germany is unwilling to put its secret services at the disposal of Europe.

Touching upon Tony Blair’s offer of cooperation to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, the Danish paper Berlingske Tidning said the diplomatic move was tasteless but nevertheless an expression of practical politics. The Copenhagen daily explains that a Libya without weapons of mass destruction and terrorists is a potential important trading partner for Europe.

In the United Kingdom, the Guardian ironically points out that there was no doubting the strength and passion with which the prime minister welcomed the return of Gadhafi to the international family. Blair, it said, spoke of partnership, of dialogue and more practically of oil contracts and a new military relationship with the UK.