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Europe

German Press Review: Washington Smiles Belie Simmering Differences

Major newspapers here on Thursday focused their attentions on the deals struck between Washington and the EU at Wednesday's summit as well as the differences that still divide them.

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No smiles here.

The meeting was convivial and showed few signs of recent tensions that have plagued ties between Washington and some of its transatlantic partners. On Thursday, German newspapers warned that though relations are improving, serious differences over policy issues like genetically modified foods and trade are still dark clouds in the transatlantic relationship.

The editors of the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper asked, Was this the first step toward a strategic rapprochement between the United States and the European Union? Or had nothing at all changed following the leaders' annual summit? The outlook for the transatlantic relationship in the future, the paper concluded, is certainly better than relations have been in past months – neither does another dispute as dramatic as the one over Iraq appear to be on the horizon.

But the editorialists at the Hamburg-based Financial Times Deutschland warned that no one should be deceived by Washington's friendly approach to the European Union at the meeting since harmony over security policies doesn't appear to be anywhere in sight. It is not the only dispute over genetically modified food that threatens to turn into a fierce conflict – and smiles at the summit won't change that.

Munich's Süddeutsche Zeitung opined that U.S. efforts to open reluctant European markets to genetically modified food have become a serious problem. The paper's editors wrote that Europeans have good reason to defend themselves against the import of genetically modified food. This is not about the economy, this is about a different mentality, the paper wrote, a question of Europe's identity. But the paper questioned how long Europe could withstand pressure from the U.S., an economic powerhouse.

The Dresdner Neue Nachrichten commented that it would be a pity if the trade dispute over genetically modified food were to overshadow this important summit. Be it peace in the Middle East, stability in Iraq or the fight against terror – the paper's editors concluded that these problems could only be tackled by Washington and Europe together.

The Mittelbayerische Zeitung from Regensburg took a look at the situation in Iraq and commented that, of course, a country that has been as badly treated as Iraq can't be rebuilt within a few weeks. Still, at the moment, the paper opined, nothing at all seems to be moving. The United States bulldozed over Saddam Hussein's army with high-tech weapons of dollars, but there appeared to be little money or strategy in the postwar period, the paper concluded.

Other papers looked ahead to a planned weekend cabinet meeting in Berlin on moving forward a package of tax cuts originally planned for 2005 to boost German economic growth.

But cutting taxes alone won't be enough, warned the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper. The citizens and businesses must also believe that the state can deal with the resulting loss in revenue. If tax cuts were based on solid financing, the paper continued, consumers and the economy could rest assured that the state wouldn't raise taxes again any time soon. This is where people have their doubts.