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European Press Review: Small-Minded Shopkeepers?

European newspaper editorials on Wednesday discussed growing tensions between EU member states over proposed caps on the bloc’s budget.

Commenting on the failure of the European Union summit, De Volkskrant in The Netherlands saw the deeper cause of the conflict in a changed attitude of Germany. The paper said Berlin wants its weight in the new Europe to find expression, and Chancellor Schröder doesn’t shrink from pursuing interests even at the cost of European integration. That’s aroused distrust in neighbors.

Le Monde in Paris spoke of the EU as a Europe of small-minded shopkeepers. To become the world’s biggest growth zone, which is its declared aim, the paper said,

Europe has to spend more, not less. Europe wants to be the equal of the USA, but this example shows how different the political styles are. Europe squabbles over a few percent, while President Bush is not the least worried about the record American deficit and is trying to turn the arrest of Saddam Hussein into a political triumph.

Hussein’s arrest has eclipsed the failure in Brussels, wrote Le Figaro, and that’s going to have much graver consequences for France. The Paris paper wrote that a little less arrogance would do French diplomacy good. While the finger was pointed at Spain and Poland, Spain at least kept fully to the stability pact. We’ve got enough to sweep outside our own door, said Le Figaro.

Revenge is sweet, is probably what the six heads of governments writing the EU budget letter were feeling, observed the Salzburger Nachrichten in Austria.

It’s a threatening letter, it wrote. Although the motto of the punitive action remains unsaid, it’s tangible through the thickest woollen gloves: let the stubborn heads in Poland and Spain see how they’d get on without the generous

support of the rich EU countries.