European editorials on Wednesday tackled a number of issues, including the Geneva Accords, a planned EU defense initiative and the German conservative opposition.
The majority of European papers expressed regret at the Israeli and Palestinian leadership’s lack of acceptance of an alternative peace plan put forward in Geneva. The Paris-based Le Monde referred to the so-called Geneva Initiative as a step forward by those Israelis and Palestinians who are more lucid and more courageous than their leaders but added that the initiative seems doomed as it has already been rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon out of what the paper regarded as fear. The French daily mused that this was indicative of a widespread feeling that the official Israeli and Palestinian movements are afraid of confronting their camps with the compromises required for peace.
London’s Independent appeared resigned to the fact that the hostile reactions to the Geneva Initiative by Ariel Sharon and the militant Palestinian factions graphically demonstrates how far away a settlement between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government actually is.
Italy’s La Stampa, however, saw a glimmer of hope in the accord. The paper wrote that the true strength of the Geneva Initiative is the fact that it illustrates that a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians is possible. The philosophy of the 40-page plan is not to describe a simple process and the important steps to take, as in the Oslo Accords and the so-called Road Map for peace, the Italian commentary read. According to the paper, the Geneva Initiative addresses serious problems and offers possible solutions where other attempts at settlement have failed.
Moving away from the Middle East peace process, the Kölner Stadt Anzeiger in Germany turned its attention to the debate generated by the recent meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels. The Cologne-based daily wrote that plans for a new European defense initiative implies that the alliance is searching for a new role for its forces but wondered about what enemy it had in mind. Since the United States began its war on terror, NATO has been under pressure to act. According to the paper, however, the war in Iraq and all the decisions that ruled the alliance out of the conflict effectively numbered its days. The Stadt Anzeiger offered its own ultimatum: Come up with a concrete plan of action to handle threatening situations or risk becoming a debate club to which Washington would turn when it was in need of a so-called coalition of the willing.
Washington has had reservations about Europe’s plans for a separate defense force, arguing that such a move could undermine NATO. But in the view of the British edition of The Financial Times, the plan is good news for those who believe that the European Union should focus more on its military capabilities than institutions. Europeans must convince the US, the London daily wrote, by enhancing military capacity. And as for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the FT concluded, his commitment to EU defense will help dispel the image that he is George W. Bush’s lackey.
Germany’s Die Welt focused on domestic politics by addressing the strengthening of the position of Angela Merkel, the leader of the opposition Christian Democrats. Merkel has, according to the paper, consolidated her position as party head by pushing her party towards tackling necessary but unsettling reforms in a clear fashion to the sound of approving applause.
The Financial Times Deutschland concluded that Merkel, with her 100-minute impassioned speech at the CDU’s party conference, has not only strengthened her position within her party and unified its members but also shown the ruling government that they better gear up for a battle when it comes to the next election in three years’ time.
Part of Merkel’s call for patriotism drew mixed reviews from another German daily, Die Tageszeitung. By regaling the conference with the statement "Ich liebe mein Vaterland” or I love my fatherland, Merkel stepped into territory which remains uncomfortable for many Germans. Since Hitler and the Nazis, acting like a proud German or in a national way, has been frowned upon, the newspaper wrote. The mentality behind Kennedy’s famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” has never boded well among the Germans. But perhaps Merkel is on to something, the paper mused. Germans could have a lot to be proud of and she should not be the only one expressing the way she feels about her country.