German editorialists on Thursday turned their attention to EU expansion -- with one paper saying the euphoria will be short lived. They also devoted column inches to Washington's war of words against Syria.
The Berliner Zeitung writes that, despite all the grand rhetoric, the accession countries are in fact joining the European Union not out of enthusiasm for any community of common values, but for economic reasons. They don't want integration, the paper writes, but rather cooperation. With the new members joining the EU as committed Eurosceptics, the paper suggests reviving the Union won’t be made any easier.
Despite the euphoria created by the Athens meeting, the daily Die Welt suggests, the architects of the EU are becoming anxious about what will hold the continent together. EU membership is basically open to anyone who fulfils the political and economic criteria, the paper writes. And while the EU continues to spread, it's losing depth. Ultimately, the sheer size and the diversity of national interests will lead to what the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has called a Europe of concentric circles.
Der Tagesspiegel describes the EU’s eastward expansion as bold and courageous: 10 states, 75 million new citizens. The largest common market in the world has just been created, making the EU bigger in terms of population and more economically powerful than the United States. But no prizes are due for speed and efficiency, the paper suggests. Almost 15 years will have passed since the collapse of communism, when on the first of May 2004 the accession takes effect.
On the relationship between Syria and the United States, the Rhein-Zeitung doubts that there is much prospect of the US declaring war on Damascus. But fears of another war are not completely unfounded, the paper suggests. After all, who would have believed that the US would attack Iraq without having proven a link between Baghdad and al Qaeda, and without evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction? The basis for the Iraq war was so tenuous, the paper writes, that it would certainly be extended to include Syria, Iran or even North Korea.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung comments that the regime in Damascus has only one option -- to declare that it doesn't support terrorism, is not helping Saddam's henchmen and does not possess weapons of mass destruction. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad seems to be sufficiently pragmatic, the paper writes. If he comes clean now, he’ll have the right to take a stand on issues like the push to rid the whole of the Middle East, including Israel, of weapons of mass destruction.