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Europe

European Press Review: Washington's Search for Legitimacy

Many European editorials on Monday weighed in on NATO’s role ahead of the Istanbul summit, others commented on the compromise candidate for the European Commission presidency.

"NATO visibility and legitimacy in Iraq," wrote Britain's Guardian, "is what the United States is seeking at the Istanbul summit." But NATO has other pressing matters to discuss in Istanbul, the paper pointed out -- notably Afghanistan, where the European members pledged to send substantially larger forces but have so far failed to provide them. The British paper's editors wrote that Afghanistan needs and should get more troops if its security is to improve before its scheduled elections later this year. "Iraq," the paper wrote, "will not get troops, but a symbolic NATO connection." And whether that will be a help or not in Iraq over the coming months remains to be seen, it concluded.

As seen from Washington, commented France’s Liberation, NATO only makes sense if it gives political backing to U.S. military decisions, and puts the brakes on European ambitions to political independence concerning defense matters. "For the Europeans, especially those in the east," the paper explained, "the alliance is merely a life insurance policy and a means of ensuring their defense by trusting it to the U.S." All of that, wrote Liberation, brings NATO out of balance, and makes it meaningless. Now, efforts are being made to find a future in peace missions. But, the paper cautions, "the alliance should by no means let itself be drawn into preventive wars like that in Iraq."

Moscow's Nesawissimaja Gaseta offered an altogether different take, predicting NATO will change completely. "Either," the paper wrote, "the alliance will expand its areas of responsibility to include Asia, or the U.S. will lose all interest in NATO."

Other European papers comment on the EU leaders’ apparent choice of Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso as their candidate to head the European Commission in Brussels.

"Choosing Barroso is a slap in the face for EU voters," wrote the Netherlands' Algemeen Dagblad, and Denmark's Politiken noted that most European voters outside of Portugal don't have a clue whether to be pleased or disappointed by the choice of Barroso as the new European Commission president. "It amounts to a mockery of the 342 million EU voters," the paper wrote, "that they were called to vote for the European parliament, but only a few weeks later, the heads of state chose the most important EU politician behind closed doors and without any participation by the EU electorate."

"Weeks and months of wrangling and blocking each other in back rooms: the method of choosing the EU commission president," wrote Austria’s Die Presse, "doesn’t let EU leaders appear in a favorable light." Not the most qualified and competent candidate had the best chance of winning, the paper "but rather the candidate the majority could agree on. The smallest common denominator, then, is Barroso, a Portuguese who has never really been noticed so far."

And finally, Germany’s Südkurier remarked that it remained to be seen whether Barroso would turn out to be a weak president. The paper said he is known as a "skilful negotiator," but added he has not yet won any merits on the European stage. "Barroso," the paper concludes, "is a compromise, and thus second choice."

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