German and European papers viewed the allegations regarding secret CIA flights and prisons as a test for US-EU relations and wrote that Condoleezza Rice has her work cut out for her as she visits Europe this week.
Things aren't quite that cozy at the moment
The Südwest Presse in Ulm wrote that despite all the criticism surrounding alleged CIA secret flights, Rice is sticking to diplomatic rules. She's not informing German Chancellor Merkel directly and instead made remarks before her departure to Berlin when the European Union and the European Council asked for information. "The statement turned out as expected," the paper continued, saying that Rice merely confirmed the existence of such flights. "Rice of course denies that terror suspects are moved to places where they can be tortured. Believe it if you want to. At the very least, there's Guantanamo, where suspects have been kept without seeing lawyers or a judge for years."
Berlin's Der Tagesspiegel said that Germans and Europeans should look at the basis of the conflict: "How are terrorists meant to be treated? Like common criminals, prisoners of war or something else?" it asked. The paper continued that Europe should weigh the options carefully and reconsider its stance of moral superiority. "Morals are one thing, fighting terrorism another. Is the Geneva Convention our only guideline when attacks are to be prevented? The US government has deserved to be criticized, but to climb the high horse and benefit from these methods is hypocritical."
Several members of Germany's former Red-Green government should start blushing if reports about their knowledge of the illegal abduction of a German national prove to be true, commented the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung in Essen. "Signs are mounting that European governments had some knowledge of human rights abuses, but didn't want to look to carefully," the paper wrote. "US President Bush consciously ignores international law. It's possible that several EU states became compliant accomplices, including Berlin."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
London's The Independent meanwhile said that Rice has been "a rare star in a Bush administration that has otherwise stumbled from one mess to another. The reason is not merely her style and dazzling fashion sense. European governments have been impressed by her efforts to restore the role of diplomacy in American policy-making, and to re-establish the primacy of the State Department (as opposed to the Pentagon and the Vice-President's office) in that process." While putting her predecessor, Colin Powell, to shame over making progress in the Middle East, her current trip to Europe proves to be a special challenge, the paper wrote. Her European partners are deeply worried about CIA flights through German airspace, among other things. The test will be not only what Rice has to say about the allegations, but how she will do it, commented the daily. Relations between Europe and the US are in a sensible phase, it continued: A lack of tact would be disastrous for both sides.
In Moscow, Kommersant daily reminded readers that Bush had come to Europe just a few months ago to emphasize that Europe and the US could not afford to have differences of opinion in the fight against terror. "The latest scandal has clarified that a basis for rapprochement between the US and Europe has not been found yet," it wrote. "Europe is not ready for the sacrifices Bush demands in the fight against terror. That's why Rice sounds like a lonely caller in the desert during her European visit."
And Le Monde in Paris wrote that the affair puts German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a difficult position. "She wants to improve trans-Atlantic ties, but reports about CIA planes that have entered German air space or used bases in Germany, make this more difficult," said the daily.