Wednesday’s German papers commented on Tuesday's German-Polish summit as well as the multi-million euro fine the EU plans to impose on the Microsoft Corporation for abusing its monopoly of the software market.
Last December, Poland and Spain blocked agreement on the EU constitution by insisting on retaining the generous voting rights accorded them under the Nice Treaty three years earlier. Now, however, as the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung in Halle pointed out, the conservative Spanish government has lost the election, and with it Poland its only ally. The paper believed this was one of the main reasons for the change of heart in Warsaw. If it had continued to stick to its guns Poland would have been completely isolated in Europe. The way to compromise is now open, the paper said. It added that the EU partners should make speedy use of this, given the increasing likelihood of an early Polish election and the growing popularity of the eurosceptic parties there.
The Märkische Oderzeitung from Frankfurt/Oder on the German-Polish border also saw the imminent change of government in Spain as being behind Poland’s new willingness to compromise. But it remarked that Berlin too has been made to realize that Poland, which it underestimated for so long, is capable of extraordinary stubbornness. Both sides, the paper wrote, are now cursed with the problem of finding a way out of the dead-end.
For the Frankfurter Rundschau, Poland has clearly come off worst. Warsaw finds itself at the end of a learning process, having suffered heavy losses, it wrote. In political terms, Europe has won. For reasons of self-interest, the United States clasped the “New Europeans” to its bosom, the paper said. But now they’re returning to the EU fold – Spain driven by the electorate, and Poland by the fear of isolation. The paper remarked that Poland and its leader
have been forced to realize how little they’ve gained from their display of power at Washington’s side. The glory of being involved in Iraq is less than overwhelming, it remarked: Warsaw wasn’t even rewarded with concessions over U.S. visas, and within the EU it’s gained the reputation of a troublemaker. After reaching such dizzy transatlantic heights, Poland has landed, disappointed, back on European soil, wrote the daily and added that the “Old Europeans” are happy to see it return.
Meanwhile, European competition commissioner Mario Monti is preparing to impose a fine of €497 million ($611 million) on the American software giant Microsoft for breaking the EU’s anti-trust law and misusing its monopoly of the software market. This sounds like a massive sum, wrote the Stuttgarter Zeitung. But the paper pointed out that it won’t make much of a dent in the company’s finances, which run to around €43 billion.
The Stuttgarter Nachrichten saw the Microsoft case as evidence of the uncontrollable power that can be amassed in the absence of competition. But it too warned that the EU fine won’t make much of a difference. Monti, it said, can’t prescribe competition – he can only afford it some degree of protection.
In Düsseldorf, the Handelsblatt agreed that Monti’s regulations won’t have much effect, but for different reasons. New technological developments will simply make them redundant, the paper said. Microsoft’s market domination is based on the PC, which due to the spread of broadband internet will soon be overtaken by hundreds of other appliances such as mobile phones and televisions. Competition in this area has only just begun, the paper wrote, and it’s far from certain that Microsoft will play anything like as important a role in this as it did on
the PC market in the 1980s and 90s.