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Europe

European Press Review: Slowing the Gravy Train

Europe’s dailies analyzed the outcome of the World Trade Organization talks and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s historic attendance at the ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw uprising.

After the original deadline for talks passed Friday night, negotiators stayed in Geneva late Saturday night to hammer out the agreement Britain's Financial Times hailed as no less than a "minor miracle." The compromise calls for rich countries to end their export subsidies. The paper pointed out that after the collapse of the WTO's meetings in Seattle and Cancun, if talks had failed again, it would have brought into question the very existence of the WTO's relevance as a forum for managing international relations.

The Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant regarded the optimistic description of the agreement as historic and disproportionate to expectations, a point also taken up by the British Guardian newspaper which said, "The trouble is that they have not agreed on a starting date and when it does happen, and that is anybody's guess, the initial cut in farming subsidies will only be 20 percent." But guarded optimism was the overall essence of the editorial: "The agricultural gravy train is beginning to run out of steam, even if the brakes have not yet been applied."

The French newspaper Le Figaro took a more positive spin and praised the World Trade Organization talks for getting into gear again at the right time. However, it too commented on the enormity of the task ahead to simplify what it described as the hidden chains of international business.

The most pessimistic opinion came from the Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung. It said that the largest economic powers, the US and the EU, will most probably turn their backs on the WTO when push comes to shove.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was the first German leader ever to be invited to attend ceremonies in Poland marking the failed Warsaw uprising of 1944. The Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita observed that his speech had been keenly awaited because the relations between the two countries was at a 15-year low after some Germans had begun legal action to regain Polish properties they were driven out of at the end of World War II.

Britain’s Independent noted that Schröder apologized for shameful atrocities committed against Poles by Nazi Germany and that Berlin would never support the controversial property claims.

Britain’s Guardian however described "warmer relations" between the two countries and recorded the Chancellor’s words about the immeasurable suffering Germany had brought to Poland.