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Europe

German Press Review: The EU is More Than Farm Subsidies

German editorialists on Monday focused their attention on the agreement on a European constitution by the 25-nation European Union.

The word “historic” was on everyone’s lips, wrote the Rheinische Post, because the European Union now has something it never had before -- a constitution -- at least on paper. But, the paper noted, it is a long way from being a legal document until the 25 parliaments and various plebiscites decide its fate. And whether that all works out in the end is more than questionable. Only when the last hurdle is surmounted is the label “historic” appropriate, the

paper said.

The Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung commented that the deep crisis that would have occurred had Europe’s leaders not agreed to the constitution has been avoided. This Herculean act of diplomacy deserves our respect, but hardly euphoric editorials, the paper said. A sober observation of the accord confirms an old diagnosis: a large abyss remains between all the pathos-laden promises of a unified Europe made by European leaders and their real national interests. Little noticed, the paper wrote, is the fact that the stability pact that underpins the euro has been buried. That represents a real danger to European economic stability, despite all the grand words.

The Thüringer Allgemeine was concerned that while Europe’s leaders agreed on a text for the constitution, Europe’s voters barely went to the polls to elect a European parliament. Less than half the Germans and only 16 percent of the Slovaks showed interest in voting, the paper pointed out. Even so, Europe has taken a giant step forward into a new era, the paper said.

The mass circulation daily Bild Zeitung was disgusted that Europe’s leaders failed to mention Europe’s Christian heritage in the new constitution. Worldwide, it said, religion is on the rise -- especially Islam and, unfortunately, its more aggressive component. Only the Europeans seem to think they can ignore their Christian roots, the paper wrote, adding that without its Christian origins, democracy would never have happened.

The Mannheimer Morgen commented that it is now up to the national parliaments and voters to decide if they want to be part of the European Union. Every citizen should be free to decide what they want. But those who vote “no,” the paper warned, should be prepared to take the logical next step and leave the community. The new constitution expressly contains an opt-out clause and that is perhaps one of its most important articles, the paper said.

The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung was optimistic and called the EU constitution a milestone. At the end of the day, it said, Europe’s leaders did not try to bite off more than it could chew. Whether Europeans accept this document now depends on the governments and their leaders. Europe is not milk quotas, farms subsidies and pork barrels. The crux is whether Europe can make itself heard in our globalized world, the paper concluded.

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