As Europe looks ahead at the new year, editorialists summed up what they think will be the biggest news events in 2004. From the U.S. presidential election to an opening up of Iran, most focused on foreign policy.
The French paper Libération said the election of the next American president on Nov. 3 will be the most important event of the upcoming year, barring natural disasters or another September 11th. George Bush has put the American nation on a "war path and seeks security with all means, including military force, without letting the dwarves which inhabit the rest of the world influence him." The American president is probably the world’s most "vilified" political leader, the paper maintained, and even the Americans are split over him. Some are worried about the removal of freedoms, the traditional values and democracy in America, as well as the rise in anti-Americanism that is isolating the country.
Belgium’s Le Soir picked up on an admission by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that America has made foreign policy mistakes. "Unfortunately," the paper lamented, "he doesn’t tell us which ones he means." The paper was most interested in Powell’s statement that America’s foreign policy is not defined by pre-emptive war, which it said, is the position taken by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
In Italy, Corriere della Sera listed some of the big things that went wrong in international politics last year: the dispute in the United Nations over Iraq; the break in Cancun over reforming world trade; failure to agree on an EU constitution; the derailment of the Middle East peace plan; ongoing violations of the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war in Afghanistan, Guantanamo, Iraq and Chechnya. "What seems to be pointing to worse things to come," the Milan based paper said, is the quiet satisfaction with which some powers have welcomed these developments.
Austria’s Die Presse turned its attention to Iran, which it said needs to open up. "Years of encapsulating itself have not moved it ahead," it wrote, and pointed to the growing rate of dissatisfaction among the younger population with the Islamic regime. The paper said "normalizing relations with the arch enemy up to now, the United States, would be a good basis" and added that the Americans need to show not just good sense, but also sensitivity not to let this chance for a new start with Tehran go to waste.
Concerned about the rising value of the euro in relation to the dollar, the Dutch Algemeen Dagblad observed that the United States has accumulated a vast budget deficit in recent years and finances a lot of its expenditure with funds from abroad. "There will come a moment," the paper maintained, "when that can’t go on." It suggested that the euro will keep appreciating, and although the authorities concerned with these things are being extremely cautious to avoid any disquiet, "ultimately they’re going to have to admit publicly that this unequal development is going to have destructive consequences."
The Rome based La Repubblica observed that Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is going to be pleased about being invited to the 60th commemoration of the Allied landing in Normandy. Noting that it’s a first for a German leader, the paper added that 10 years ago quite a number of Germans and Chancellor Helmut Kohl were quite miffed that Germany was not on the invitation list.