France Crepes on Britain

France Crepes on Britain

France Crepes on Britain

What the foreign papers are saying.
May 30 2001 3:00 AM

France Crepes on Britain

The French recipe for a unified Europe has British and German newspapers retching. Although Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder have been forthcoming abut the European Union they would like to see, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin first addressed the issue Monday. His European future has a distinctly French flavor, rejecting the Germans' highly centralized federalist formula for EU governance. "I want Europe, but I remain attached to my nation. Making Europe without unmaking France, or any other European nation, that is my political choice," Jospin said.

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What has the British leaving the table is a slew of left-wing proposals that point toward a more socialist EU: harmonized tax rates, stronger trade unions, more government subsidies, and an international police force, for example. Jospin explicitly set the EU apart from the market-driven United States (England's closest partner), urging it to take the lead in worldwide efforts "to stop private interests from smothering the general interest, to prevent short-term profit seeking from disregarding social justice and damaging the environment."

Le Monde notes that while the "speech will give rise to many questions and objections, it has removed" the suspicion that Jospin was "a timid European." (French translation courtesy of BBC Monitoring.) It says that Jospin split the difference between the British nationalist view and the German federalist view.

In England, the Times reports that the more radical elements of the speech put Labor on the defensive. In his re-election campaign, Blair has ignored Europe and run on economic issues, but "the French Prime Minister embarrassed Mr Blair with integrationist calls for a European constitution, police force, and new guarantees on workers' rights and welfare." (Click here to read a summary of The New Yorker's take on the election in "In Other Magazines.") A Times editorial gripes that, despite the criticism of European federalism, Jospin's speech reveals that "far less divides France and Germany than divides both from the British position."

An opinion column in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung argues that analysts should "spare his mature speech the reductionism of treating it only as … a volley against the program and designs recently proposed by … Gerhard Schröder." Jospin's "practical proposals" ought to be taken more seriously:

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As its unmistakable undertone, Mr. Jospin's speech suggests that Fortress Europe must be reinforced against the unpleasant consequences of globalization. On that point, he is expressing the broad and non-partisan consensus of the Parisian political class. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about his speech on the "future of an enlarged Europe," however, is that he does not expend a single word on the countries that have spent so many years waiting to join the European Union.

The editorial pages debate the future of Indonesia. President Abdurrahman Wahid's supporters continue to riot on the assumption that he will be impeached this week for his role in two financial scandals. In an editorial Monday, the Jakarta Post blasted Wahid:

He has warned of a violent backlash by his supporters if the House continues with the plan to convene on Wednesday to consider calling for impeachment proceedings against him. He has also repeatedly claimed that six provinces would declare independence if he were removed from power. Whether these are prophecies, which is doubtful, or veiled threats, which is more plausible, such statements have raised serious questions about the credibility of the President and about his commitment to the country and to the people who, through a democratic election, put him in power 18 months ago.

Australia's the Age argues that Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri is ready to assume the presidency, pointing out that although her unassuming style "is anathema to what we in the West expect from a leader," she is the only Indonesian politician "to emerge from the past five years of political turmoil … with her power bases intact." The Sydney Morning Herald is less sanguine and laments the flagging hopes for good government in Indonesia:

Mr Wahid, seen not so long ago as democracy's best chance in Indonesia, now seems ready to say anything to retain power. Ms Megawati remains as inscrutable as the Mona Lisa. The disgraced military and political elites simply wait for the restoration of the old order under a new and, they must hope, more malleable and predictable leader.

South Africa's Daily Mail and Guardian reports on a potential coup brewing against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwean military commanders predict that the probable failure of the maize crop could spark civilian riots, and they have told South African officials that they would take power if Mugabe orders the use of force against ordinary Zimbabweans. That military leaders would lead the coup "confirms the widely held view that the greatest threat to the Zimbabwean president's power is not the political opposition but his own allies who fear he may drive the country to ruin."