International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

June 17, 2003

June 17, 2003





**  The "wounds have not healed" completely from the U.S.-Euro rift over Iraq.


**  Belgium's law of universal competence is "horrible" but U.S. "blackmail" is not welcome.


**  Europeans are uncertain about the implications of NATO's "transformation."




'Foundations of the Alliance fragile'--  Polish and Czech editorialists were optimistic after President Bush's trip to Europe that the transatlantic allies had found their way "out of the crisis" precipitated by the war in Iraq.  "Bush reached out to all Europeans," said Poland's center-left Polityka.  A Czech writer agreed that "Bush sincerely tried to rectify" impaired relations with the allies.  Papers elsewhere, however, judged that the Alliance "has by no means overcome its crisis yet."  Toronto's liberal Star said Bush and other G-8 leaders "struggled to smooth things over" at Evian but wrote the summit off as "more smoochfest than anything else."  A Dutch daily held that transatlantic relations are "almost as desolate" as before Evian.  German and Turkish outlets complained that the U.S. still had their countries under "punitive quarantine" for "insubordination" on Iraq.  French papers meanwhile detected a shift in U.S. thinking--while "Europe used to be part of the solution, in Washington's mind it is now part of the problem."


Rumsfeld's 'threatening words' on controversial Belgian human-rights law are 'part of his game'--  Commenting on the "blunt pressure" displayed in Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's "excessive and unpleasant" admonition that the U.S. would not help fund a new NATO headquarters in Belgium until the "law of universal competence" allowing anyone to sue any party (including U.S. officials) for human-rights violations was expunged, Belgian dailies concluded "America's anger" stemmed not from "the law alone" but "is inspired by Belgium's attitude in the Iraq war."  Still, many Belgian writers felt the U.S. was "100 percent right" about the "absurd and arrogant" law.  Germany's left-of-center Berliner Zeitung took the view that Rumsfeld's "crude animosities" were part of his "game to split Europe" into old and new.


The 'transformation' of NATO raises uncertainties--  Disagreements on Iraq and issues like the ICC led one French commentator to conclude that there is a "widening moral, legal and political gap" between the U.S. and Europe.  German, Dutch and Czech observers, however, detected "a glimmer of hope" emanating from the NATO ministerial meeting in Madrid.  They concluded that "NATO is managing to fulfill its new role," changing from "a transatlantic defensive alliance into an intervention and stabilization community" for the world's trouble spots.  Other outlets feared this transformation "has nothing to do with the things NATO stands for" and risked turning the Alliance into "a U.S. foreign legion financed by Europe."  France's right-of-center Les Echos approvingly pointed to joint Anglo-French action in the Congo as demonstrating that France and the UK could "stand together after their rift" over Iraq and that "for once, Europe is capable of operating without the U.S."

EDITOR:  Steven Wangsness

EDITOR'S NOTE:  This analysis is based on 55 reports from 20 countries, June 3-June 16, 2003.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "America Has Descended Into Madness"


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote in the center-left Independent (6/16):  "I wrote recently that Blair has sold our country to America without our consent.  I now think it is worse; he didn't charge for this delivery of our future into the hands of George Bush.  He gave us away.  Now if Blair is really a major influence on the Bush administration, why has he not used this blessed position to temper this descent of The Big Country into madness?  The actions of the U.S. government today make it essential to put a greater distance between us.  It is in our national interest not to be seen as uncritical groupies of the hyperpower.  A recent survey among 21 nations concluded that the war in Iraq has widened the rift between the U.S. and Western Europe, 'inflamed' the Muslim world, and damaged global public opinion and support for the Atlantic alliance.  For U.S., now read UK too.  Prime Minister Blair has never had a mandate from us, the people, to take us into the armpit of the U.S.  It is time we declared our right to be an independent nation just as Americans did centuries ago."


"A Cross-Channel Rapprochement"


Guillaume Parmentier, director of the French Center at the French Institute of International Relations, commented in the independent Financial Times (6/12):  "Britain decided after Suez that the only way to be important in the world was to exert influence over U.S. policy.  The price would be alignment with U.S. positions.  France decided that it was imprudent to rely on an alliance with the U.S., since the Americans would always impose their views whenever those clashed directly with their allies' interests.  A campaign of opposition to U.S. policy is bound to divide the European Union.  Many European governments are comfortable with a close partnership with the U.S.  They will not support closer political integration if this puts them on a collision course with America.  It needs a more integrated Europe in order to strengthen the transatlantic relationship."


FRANCE:  "Africa:  A Small Step For Europe’s Defense"


Right-of-center Les Echos editorialized (6/16):  “Divided over Iraq, unable to commit in the Balkans for quite some time, Europe is taking a major step forward as it sets up its central command for Congo’s operation Artemis in Paris....  This initiative aims to demonstrate the goodwill of France and Great Britain, Europe’s main military powers, to stand together after their rift over Iraq and their ‘friendly disagreement’ about Europe’s defense....  With this joint operation in Africa the British Prime Minister wants to give a strong signal in support of his determination to move forward in building Europe’s defense initiative.… In spite of this, Artemis remains a limited operation, both in time and space....  But it does prove that for once, Europe is capable of operating without the U.S.”


"Transatlantic Values: Not So Common"


Sylvie Kauffmann in left-of-center Le Monde (6/6):  “It is proper these days to say that Americans and Europeans share common values.… But in reality this apparent convergence of views hides differences not necessarily underscored by either Ms Rice or President Chirac.… Beyond democracy and the market economy, American society and European societies have evolved differently, revealing a widening moral, legal and political gap over important issues such as war, peace, social justice, immigration and religion.… This does not mean that Americans and Europeans have nothing to say to each other, on the contrary.  While this convergence of values is not as concrete as leaders on both sides keep repeating, the fact remains that there is a community of interests...and multiple reasons to work together.  But openly and without playing games.”


"A Marginalized France"


Nicolas Bavarez in right-of-center weekly Le Point (6/6):  “Everything indicates that France has been marginalized in Europe and in the world.  Its relationship with the U.S. has been durably damaged and will have an impact in public opinion and in the elite that will survive the Bush administration.... France’s diplomacy comes out wounded to death from its duel with the U.S. although its position on a number of issues was well founded....  A famous motto says that ‘a diplomat who is having fun is less dangerous than a diplomat who works.’  It is not clear whether France’s diplomats are having fun or working.  What is certain is that they are dangerous.”


"America’s Lesson To The Old Europe"


Jean-Jacques Mevel observed in right-of-center Le Figaro (6/2):  “It is from Poland that President Bush decided to settle the score with ‘the Old Europe.'...  President Bush chose to announce his European priorities before the Evian summit.… In Krakow, Chirac was not mentioned once, although he was clearly the target when President Bush denounced those who establish Euro-American antagonism as a principle.… Listening to the U.S. president one would think that it is Paris which is trying to divide Europe and Washington which is trying to keep it together....  In a 28 minute speech meant to give Washington’s transatlantic vision, the EU was mentioned only once.  We are left with the impression that Europe was deliberately ignored....  The Krakow speech seems to confirm a shift at the highest U.S. level....  While Europe used to be part of the solution, in Washington’s mind it is now part of the problem.”


GERMANY:  "Digging At Brussels"


Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich noted (6/16):  "Belgium had just been overrun by a bulldozer by the name of Rumsfeld.  The Pentagon head said that the NATO headquarters should be moved away from Brussels if Belgium did not change its genocide law....  Rumsfeld's tone was so tough that the Belgians must feel publicly humiliated.  But the Belgian government knows that it has gone too far.  That is why it has defanged the law....  Of course, the theoretical possibility still exits that a U.S. general can still be arrested on his way to NATO, but only if the Belgian government were of the opinion that the United States was not a democratic state and that the law should be administered in Belgium.  But in reality such a case is hardly imaginable.  Nevertheless, Rumsfeld rebuked the Belgians.  He likes it to pick an argument with the Europeans.  He confirmed the attitude very clearly that also lead to the most recent decision on U.S. immunity before the ICC:  The United States does not tolerate any other law, either in Belgium or elsewhere."


"Congo Mission, Rapid Reaction Force"


Jochen Clement commented on national radio station Deutschlandfunk of Cologne (6/12):  "NATO is running the risk of turning from an alliance into a security agency where everybody can get the soldiers he needs.  But such an extension of tasks has nothing to do with the things NATO stands for.  It is a defensive alliance that shares the same values and where its members organize their security....  But now an increasing number of 'coalitions of the willing' are set up on the basis of a leadership by NATO, and these coalitions take over totally different tasks.  This will blow up NATO's mission and also impede its capability to act in view of an increase in members....  As a matter of fact, an EU mission in the Congo should have been organized in coordination with the Alliance...while the EU would have taken over only political control.  But the United States would have had to approve it in the NATO Council.  But France wanted to do everything without the United States in the Congo and did not apply these rules.  And the other EU members allowed France to do what it wanted....  It is politically a small-minded thinking that France is now in a defiant way suggesting the other approach....  There will always be a tough wrestling between France and the United States, a very old conflict is coming to the fore again....  These are not very rosy prospects for the Atlantic alliance."


"Alliance Crisis"


F. Flocken noted in a commentary on regional radio radiokultur of Berlin (6/13):  "The alliance has by no means overcome its crisis yet...since the controversies during the Iraq crisis have left deep wounds in the Alliance.  These are wounds that have not yet healed and which will result in horrible scars later on....  It is now becoming clear that the leading power in NATO pulled the wool over its partners' eyes in the Iraq crisis.  The war was waged by referring to the relevant danger of WMD, but a smoking gun has not been found until today.  For the U.S. power, this may be insignificant, but the effects on transatlantic relations are devastating.  The Bush administration's credibility is gone....  The foundations of the Alliance have become fragile, because, for the United States, NATO is no longer the prime security alliance, but only a coalition among many.  The mission determines the coalition, not the coalition the mission."


"Double Intervention"


Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger had this to say in an editorial in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (6/13):  "At the end of the year, NATO's rapid reaction force is supposed to be halfway operational.  It is to fight terrorism, among other things, and this all over the world.  This is an idea from Washington...which other NATO members also support.  At the same time, however, other members are driven by the childish urge to show themselves and others what they are capable of doing.  The mission of European soldiers in the Congo is being celebrated already now as a new European foundation mythos, being born in Central Africa.  This is, please allow me to say this, nonsense.  1,400 European soldiers will hopefully save the lives of some people in northeastern Congo.  But they will not open the gates to eternal peace.  Maybe the time has now come to think about whether the establishment of military double structures is not a luxury that we should stop ourselves from setting up."


"New Thinking Needed"


Centrist Darmstaedter Echo noted (6/13):  "A few appeasing words and gestures will not be enough to heal transatlantic relations.  They can at best pretend that relations have normalized.  Indeed, a new thinking is necessary, for there will be no future for the Alliance without common rules that are binding and obliging to all sides.  The right to determine these rules, whether in transatlantic relations or in a reformed UN system, cannot be put in the discretion of one single government or a few politicians.  All sides must come together and work them out--on the same eye level, and the earlier the better."




Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger noted in an editorial in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (6/12):  "There will be an ongoing discussion if the attitude of the federal government on the Iraq crisis served or damaged Germany's interests and respect.  There is no doubt that there was--and is--a price to pay: Germany is ignored in a provocative way.  In the meantime, the German government considers this price to be unbearably high--although it has contributed to it considerably.  Now, it praises its friendship with America to the skies and doesn't want to look back.  But 'forget it' is not U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's style, who will not forget that Berlin got in Washington's way.  This means continued punitive quarantine.  This is how one has to understand Rumsfeld's repeated differentiation between old and new Europe.  He had better recall the words of his superior in Krakow:  a European way of thinking and Atlantic friendship are no alternatives.  Exactly."


"A Matter Of Attitude"


Holger Schmale concluded in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (6/12):  "The German government's clear position on Iraq inspired a lot of respect for Germany in many parts of the world.  The government, however, is about to lose it again.  The current almost subservient tone of the chancellor and his ministers toward American partners is embarrassing.  The most recent example was given by Defense Minister Peter Struck, who had nothing but servile phrases in response of the crude animosities of his U.S. colleague Rumsfeld.  Wouldn't Rumsfeld be the right man for some clear words...regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction?  Instead, Rumsfeld continued his game to split Europe in an old and new part.  First, this is a question of attitude toward the United States, Rumsfeld noted.  And in this respect, the unconditional following of the former Eastern bloc countries is much more convenient for the Washington strategists than German and French insubordination in the Iraq war question.  We will not forget this, was Rumsfeld's message in Garmisch, ignoring the many appeals of Schroeder, Fischer, or Struck that one has to look forward now.  As the current administration in Washington has lost its confidence in the current government in Berlin anyway, a self-confident continuation of the own course in foreign politics together with like-minded partners might be more appropriate here.  But this is a question of attitude, Rumsfeld would say.  He would take this more serious than Berlin's humble bows."


"A Wedge"


Center-right Nordsee-Zeitung of Bremerhaven noted (6/12):  "Rumsfeld wants to drive a wedge between the European nations by dividing Europe into an old and a new one.  Only if Europe disagrees, will it remain as weak and will it be unable to counter U.S. ambitions.  A Europe that consists of a choir with many different voices is in Washington's interests.  The U.S. government is dreading no more but a Europe speaking with one voice."


 "In The Name Of Europe"


Rolf Paasch opined in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (6/12):  "The European members of the UNSC are faced with a dilemma in New York today.  If they allow an extension of Resolution 1422, the will fall behind the orientation points of European policy toward the ICC whose principle respect they demand from future EU applicants in their future relationship with the United States.  But if they steadfastly back this joint policy, they will be risking a fiasco that can only be detrimental to all sides involved and to transatlantic relations.  It is likely that, following the Iraq war, Brussels and the government in Berlin will take refuge in more diplomacy and in abstaining from Resolution 1422. But the ICC and international law will now be damaged.  But also the EU if such one-sided concessions to transatlantic reconciliation do not soon develop into a more self-confident and more conclusive representation of European interests."


"Vote Against America"


Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg editorialized (6/12):  "German diplomats must show their true colors today before the UNSC....  Of course, it would be more comfortable for the government in Berlin to abstain from voting...but based on political conviction a new carte blanche for the GIs should be out of the question....  A substantial narrowing of differences between Europe and the United States can no longer be expected, since the fundamental positions are clear and there is no need for further talks.  That is why the moment for a clear statement has come.  Those who believe that the new judges are capable of administering independent jurisdiction should not allow any special rights.  A German abstention from voting in the UN Security Council would be an inappropriate gesture of submissiveness."


"NATO Land Is Everywhere"


Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg judged (6/5):  "It is not yet an official doctrine, but all indications are that NATO is turning from a transatlantic defensive alliance into an intervention and stabilization community for trouble spots all over the world.  In Afghanistan and Iraq the Alliance plays this role already.  The safeguarding of peace between Israelis and Palestinians could soon turn out to a future-oriented task for the Alliance.  The German government has good reasons to support this development.  The old NATO has lost its right to exist after the collapse of the East Bloc....  And the attempt to turn the Alliance into a political organization by accepting new members and by concluding association agreements has made NATO insignificant.  But NATO is an instrument in which Germany has a vital interest.  The Alliance is the most important link between the United States and Europe.  In addition, the integrated military structures allow multinational missions....  The great security policy challenges in the coming years are the same for both the Europeans and Americans: military missions as protective power in civil war regions and for the safeguarding of the reconstruction of imploded nations.  Only NATO is able to take over these tasks.  An Alliance that has been restructured in such a way can link Europeans and Americans to each other in the future, too."


"Problems Of NATO"


D. Kapern commented on national radio station Deutschlandfunk of Cologne (6/3):  "NATO is hardly recognizable any longer.  Within a very brief period of time NATO changed its fundamental principles....  It is still too early to say that NATO has been saved.  There are still two enormous problems that need to be resolved:  first, the Europeans must define their role within the new NATO.  They must make up their mind on how independent this power potential is from the United States and NATO....  Second, the United States must decide what it wants a future NATO to do.  Many indications are that Washington will again forge a coalition of the willing if necessary in order to avoid making concessions within NATO.  Then NATO would really run the risk of becoming...a U.S. foreign legion financed by Europe....  In the fight against terrorism, Europe could offer many instruments the United States does not have, for instance the strategy of integrating unsafe countries into the world community....  But in order to use these NATO instruments, Washington must really want them.  If it turns down this offer and if the Europeans give up their plan to talk to the Americans eye to eye in the Alliance, the same conflict lines like in the Iraq war will break up again.  Then the 'new' NATO will look very old again."


ITALY:  "This Is The End Of A Relationship Of Solidarity"


Prominent strategic/defense analyst Stefano Silvestri wrote in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (6/13):  “An era that lasted half a century is now closing, and a completely new one is beginning.  But the change will not be devoid of consequences, and not just economic.  The massive American military presence in Europe, in fact, raised opposition and protests, but it also established a very deep relationship of mutual knowledge and potential solidarity among the allies.  More than one generation of U.S. officials and soldiers learned German, French or Italian and knew and loved Europe also because they had spent many years there.  That helped make America and its armed forces less provincial, just like it helped educate and train the European military, making them overcome old and useless national divisions and some of their mutual prejudice....  All of that is about to end, at a time when pushes towards the re-nationalization of foreign and security policies are strong and local and no-global movements are growing.  This is not a positive development....  The transatlantic dimension will be weakened.”


"If Europe Already Existed"


Barbara Spinelli commented in centrist La Stampa (6/8):  "These last few months have seen the rise of a general sense of disorientation with regard to the reunification between the Europe which already exists within an EU architecture, in the West, and those the East.  The war against Iraq burst onto the scene, and the U.S. question divided European governments to the extent of becoming the only yardstick by which to measure the progress of the Union, and to decide on the very opportuneness of a working supranational government.  Does it make any sense to usher in a political Union, and thus to turn Europe into a diplomatic and strategic entity, given that the crucial test of Iraq was badly managed in the beginning, was subsequently squandered, and that it finally failed?  In talking disdainfully about the old Europe, and extolling the new Europe which had reacted to the danger of Iraq by falling into line with it, the U.S. administration is at the origin of this disorientation, and has fueled the misunderstanding which all of us...are living through....  Do we want a Europe which abides by the decisions of the United States, or a Europe which, by rejecting them, goes it alone?  Do we want an Atlantic Europe, or an anti-Atlantic Europe?  These are the questions which are cropping up again."


RUSSIA:  "Paris Concerned About U.S. Presence In Africa"


Aleksey Andreyev wrote in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (6/11):  "Europe has decided to flex military and political muscle in Third World countries after it lost ground in the Middle East as a result of the U.S. blitzkrieg in Iraq.  The United States has virtually shut out Europe from the Iraq reconstruction effort and the Palestinian-Israeli settlement process.  Besides, Paris is worried over the growing U.S. military presence in East Africa where Washington has launched a local antiterrorist operation, with its special troops sent to Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan."


"Split In Family Makes The U.S. Move Troops About"


Mikhail Rostovskiy held in reformist youth-oriented Moskovskiy Komsomolets (6/10):  "Paradoxically, the chief reason for the U.S. eastward march is not a desire to put pressure on Moscow but a split in the once well-knit NATO family....  Chirac's and Schroeder's anti-Americanism is not due to their personal distaste for Bush's policies.  Dislike of the Yankees is common among all sections of the population in Western Europe these days.  That does not mean, of course, that Paris and Berlin are about to break off with NATO or America completely.  But Washington surely has to lean over backward to get anything from Old Europe now....  Russia's geopolitical position is not going to be affected by U.S. military re-deployment, according to President Putin's foreign-policy advisor.  In fact, Moscow would not be able to do anything about it even if it wanted to....  Of the things that count most in the modern world, crude force takes precedence over international law.  We are even worse off in that department.  The West is well aware of the condition of our army and country as a whole.  Russia is no longer considered a serious player in Europe, let alone America.  So all Russia can do now is put a brave face on a sorry business, forget its imperial ambitions and get under the U.S. umbrella."


"Russia No Longer Foreign Policy Priority"


Dmitriy Trenin of Moscow's Carnegie Center contended in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (6/9):  "Russia is not among the United States' foreign policy priorities.  Problem countries are.  Russia is no longer in that group.  That being so, the U.S. leadership does not have much time for Russia--the talks in St. Petersburg lasted about an hour, which is symbolic.  That calls for a lot of concentration, promptness, and a clear understanding of this country's interests and possibilities, particularly a deliberate long-term strategy to develop 'special relations' with the global superpower, based on shared interests in the security and energy areas."


AUSTRIA:  "The Emperor And The Auxiliaries"


Senior editor Hans Rauscher commented in liberal daily Der Standard (6/6) :  “The U.S. is not only the most powerful nation on earth, the Americans now also have a leadership that intends to realize fully their country’s position on a political level.  One might even argue that it’s not conservatives who rule in Washington, but radicals; people who want to push the social state into bankruptcy via insane tax reductions, who make politics based on fundamentalist beliefs, and who have radically turned around the rules of the game of international politics.  This is also beginning to dawn on the auxiliary peoples of Europe....  Today, the auxiliaries are trying to form a supranational structure, which is very successful on an economic level, but carries almost no military weight and has great difficulties in projecting a common foreign policy....  It is not a secret that, after years with the Bush administration, many in Europe--not only Chirac and Schröder--are thinking about how to emancipate themselves from the U.S.  This does not mean that old allies should become enemies--but some of the auxiliaries would like to act independently....  The debate on this has only just started in Europe.  It is necessary, even if this U.S. President is replaced by a less imperial one.”


BELGIUM:  "U.S. Irritation"


Foreign affairs writer Koen Vidal judged in independent Christian-Democrat De Standaard (6/16):  “The Bush administration is angry at Belgium.  The source of the irritation is not the law of universal competence alone.  In practice, the U.S. government does not have many good reasons to be angry at our country because of the genocide law.  The chance that an American citizen will ever be convicted on the basis of the genocide law is virtually nil....  So, why are Bush and Rumsfeld so furious?  They don’t really say it, but there are many reasons to believe that America’s anger is inspired by Belgium’s attitude in the Iraq war.  Just like France and Germany, our country is in the basket of the countries that cannot be trusted.  'Those who are not for us are against us,’ Bush said after September 11--and he will stick to that argument as long as he is President....  The question is whether countries like France, Germany and Belgium should give in to the American pressure.  The only answer is: no way.  The standpoints of those counties regarding Iraq were not inspired by a fundamental reflex of anti-Americanism but by the logic of international law.  Those who yield to the blunt pressure from Rumsfeld and his colleagues--like (VLD President) De Gucht--do not only give up their own sovereignty but they also admit that the struggle for international law is nothing more than an illusion.”


"Alliance Partnership"


Left-of-center Le Soir ran an op-ed piece signed by 17 prominent current or former European officials (6/16):  “We also consider that, even after the Cold War, the Atlantic Alliance remains the main pillar of the U.S.-European partnership....  We also agree...that neither the United States nor Europe is omnipotent: both will need help to guarantee their own physical and economic security....  We are also convinced that the development of an efficient European defense will not undermine NATO.  On the contrary, it will reinforce NATO if both sides of the Atlantic firmly want it.  Our values and our fundamental political objectives are the same as those of the United States....  There is no problem that cannot be solved if we address it together.  Being aware of this can reinforce transatlantic cooperation....  With the Iraqi crisis and because of disagreements that surfaced after September 11, the Western world’s unity is now being openly questioned.  The debate has become bitter. Some observers and some sectors of public opinion have outrageously simplified it, suggesting that the Americans were coming from Mars and the Europeans from Venus.  We have been committed to transatlantic cooperation for years and we refuse to believe that the Atlantic is becoming wider....  We claim with conviction that American and European democracies are united by their values.  They cannot succeed if they are isolated from one another, and even less if they are opposing each other....  United, we are considered by the rest of the world as representing a great vision and a great wisdom.  Divided, we will be losers.  It is up to us to take advantage of this major asset.”


"A Horrible Law"


Chief commentator Luc Van der Kelen commented in conservative Het Laatste Nieuws (6/14):  “It is a true  that something is being done behind the curtains about the law of universal competence.  Apparently, Michel and Verhofstadt begin to understand that something serious is going on and that the genocide law is a perfect alibi to make Belgium pay cash for its attitude during the Gulf war.  It would be extremely stupid to jeopardize our international reputation for that law and to risk the prosperity of the Brussels region and the whole country.  Indeed, the Belgian law of universal competence is a horrible thing.  The Americans are right 100 percent....  Just like America’s membership, our participation in NATO is based on mutual assistance.  The basic principle is respect for democracy and human rights.  When one accepts a country on the basis of these rights, one must start from the idea that that country--America in this case--is a democratic state.  That means that we must have confidence that the American legal system itself can deal with complaints against citizens and military people.  That is a matter of elementary respect and confidence....  That means that the question is elementary and fundamental: do we consider the United States a constitutional state or not?  If we maintain this genocide law--also against our democratic allies--the answer will clearly be ‘No.’  In that case, we put America on a par with banana republics and dictatorships.  That is unacceptable and the Americans are right not to tolerate it.”


"Stupid Pestering"


Deputy chief editor Bart Sturtewagen opined in independent Christian-Democrat De Standaard (6/14):  “It is easy for our Ministers to argue that they have cut the sharp edges of the law of universal competence that the Americans fear so much--but the latter don’t believe it....  As long as the law keeps its current form, we can expect an endless series of government decisions that remit complaints against foreign heads of state and government leaders to other countries.  In Belgium, this is viewed an elegant solution to a sensitive problem, but there are places where people view it as a mockery of the institutions....  It is quite ridiculous to cry blue murder over America’s perplexing severity vis-à-vis our country....  We simply have to decide whether we want to be the host country of international institutions like NATO.  The answer clearly is

'Yes'....  Does that mean that we should allow the unleashed superpower to hassle us as it pleases?  Of course not....  However, if we let our critical attitude degenerate into stupid forms of pestering, we first provoke laughter and, afterwards, irritation--not only in the United States, but also on this side of the ocean."


"America's Unilateral Policy"


Foreign editor Gerald Papy held in independent La Libre Belgique (6/14):  "The American threats at NATO are in line with the White House's unilateral policy since George W. Bush took office and which we have already criticized, for instance during the Iraqi crisis.  In the case of the Belgian law, Donald Rumsfeld has added blackmail to his usual aggressiveness vis-à-vis anyone who somehow opposes the American will.  The threat of moving NATO headquarters should not been taken lightly, but it should not be exaggerated either.  Although it was excessive and unpleasant, the American admonition nevertheless raises the question of the pertinence and viability of the Belgian law of universal competence. Should it simply and purely be abolished?  We do not think so....  It is thanks to its pioneer attitude in the field of the right of victims and of human rights that Belgium, via its Government and its Foreign Minister, has restored the Belgium's international image, that was quite tarnished.  Of course, since then the notoriousness of the Belgian law has led to abuses that were not helpful and that complicated our diplomacy.  To be coherent, the future Government should specify the application criteria of this law and let the judicial power implement them.  If it manages to do so, the law will survive, and it will perhaps have reached the necessary balance between the defense of victims and the protection of the country's interests."


"The Despicable Arrogance Of The Strongest"


Baudouin Loos contended in left-of-center Le Soir (6/13):  “Donald Rumsfeld’s statement at NATO...illustrates the Bush administration’s manners: one must follow the path indicated by Washington or run the risk of getting in serious trouble.  ‘You are with us or you are against us,’ George W. Bush said after September 11.  The Belgian government is not being paid back for the efforts that it recently consented to in order to make the law of universal competence almost inapplicable as soon as the complaint was against a citizen from a democratic country....  The United States likes to lecture others on human rights--its State Department’s annual Human Rights Report is a perfect example--but the few hundred Afghan and Arab prisoners being detained in Guantanamo since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 do not have any rights, they almost no longer exist.  Is one being systematically anti-American when one blames the Bush administration for its arrogance and for the methods it uses?  Should multilateralism, dialogue, discussions, and the search for peaceful solutions to conflicts disappear in favor of the law of the strongest?  Of course not.”




Philippe Martin judged in Catholic Vers L’Avenir (6/13):  “There is not the slightest doubt that the Americans have not forgotten what our defense and foreign ministers said before the war in Iraq, nor have they forgotten the veto at NATO and, also, the stopping of trains transiting through Antwerp.  All this because of the electoral campaign that was going on, but it was very naive to believe that the United States would turn a blind eye to the Belgian politicians’ ingratitude.  But now, while a move of NATO would have disastrous consequences on employment and on Brussels’ reputation, what one can see is first and foremost the surprising capacity of Belgian politicians of being amnesiac when faced with American threats.”


"Rumsfeld The Saber Rattler"


Chief commentator Eric Donckier wrote in conservative Christian-Democrat Het Belang van Limburg (6/13):  “When Donald Rumsfeld says something one is tempted to reject it before he’s said it.  His physical appearance, his attitude, the way he looks over his glasses, the way he talks: it all reveals us that the man is a saber rattler who prefers to solve conflicts with weapons, rather than with words.  We could also say: whose business is that man interfering in?  In this case, however, we must not say that because our own law of universal the Belgians the right to meddle with other people’s business significantly....  Now that we have weakened the law of universal competence under American pressure to an extent that it does not make much sense anymore, we’d better abolish it.  Then, all the problems will be gone.  Belgium must not play the conscience of the world.  By the way, who are we that we should play that role?  What we must do is try to make the United States recognize the ICC....  It is very alarming that the United States has not recognized (the ICC in) the Hague yet.  It is also alarming that the United States accomplished yesterday that American soldiers who act under the command of the UN will enjoy immunity before the ICC.  When Foreign Minister Michel meets with his American colleague Powell again he must talk about this--instead of explaining the eroded and meaningless genocide law to Powell.”


"Rogue States And Belgium"


Chief commentator Luc Van der Kelen observed in conservative Het Laatste Nieuws (6/13):  "Belgium is really becoming an important country.  Indeed, which country gets the attention of the U.S. government two days in a row?...   Only rogue states can count on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s attention--and Belgium....  Naturally, Rumsfeld is exaggerating, but the message has come through:  the law of universal competence must go, the complaints against Bush Sr. and Colin Powell must go too--or NATO will leave.  There is no doubt anymore about that.  That is clear from the undiplomatic way in which Rumsfeld lashed out at Belgium.  The Americans have never used such strong language against an ally.  This is so unique that the magnitude of the problem must be clear to everyone.  This U.S. administration not only barks--it bites, too.  The whole Belgian attitude vis-à-vis the United States--including the possible ban on arms shipments--caused part of the American dissatisfaction.  The genocide law, however, is the perfect alibi to teach Belgium a lesson and a to set an example for the allies.  This law--which gives Belgium worldwide jurisdiction--is absurd and arrogant, also in its modified version.  Is the Belgian government willing to jeopardize our reputation as a loyal ally and an investment country with legal protection for that law?”


"American Undermining Work At The UN"


Hague correspondent Alain Franco commented in left-of-center Le Soir (6/12):  “The renewal of UN Resolution 1422 [granting Americans who participate in UN peacekeeping missions impunity for another year] is only one aspect of the undermining work that has been undertaken by Washington against the ICC.  For months, U.S. envoys have been traveling the entire world to try to broker--often under pressure--bilateral impunity agreements....  That is, for instance, the case with Croatia.  Since yesterday, American diplomats have been explaining the Racan Government that it will have to either sign an agreement or forget about a $19 million military assistance package.  For the time being, Zagreb is resisting.  As a EU candidate member country, Croatia points out that it has to follow the EU’s ‘leading principles’--a kind of red line defined by the Fifteen to counter the United States’ attempts to obtain impunity.  Zagreb also highlights the following paradox: ‘The United States is asking us to extradite our nationals to the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia while at the same time refusing to extradite its own nationals to the ICC,’ a Croatian official is quoted as saying.  The Fifteen reminded the Balkan countries and the upcoming ten new EU members that they had to abide by these

'leading principles.’  This demarche aroused the Bush administration’s anger, warning that ‘this unfriendly gesture’ would have a ‘very damaging impact’ on transatlantic relations.”


"U.S. Foreign Policy"


Foreign editor jean Vanempten wrote in financial daily De Financieel-Economische Tijd (6/7):  "During his world trip, Bush clearly expressed his preferences.  Poland and Russia were on top of the list.  Evian was an inevitable intermezzo on his way to the Arab world.  Actually, the hard core of this security advisers are still particularly rancorous about the U.S. defeat in the UNSC.  The stubborn resistance of France, Germany and Russia has not really been forgiven.  Nevertheless, it is remarkable how warm the ties with President Putin are again.  That has probably more to do with political opportunism than with principles.  The fact that Putin continues to support the Iranian nuclear programs without any scruples is barely triggering comment on the other side of the ocean.”


"Sham Reconciliation?"


Francoise Delstanche commented in financial L’Echo (6/4):  “Will the transatlantic reconciliation that was initiated this weekend go beyond appearances?  Of course, everyone watered down his wine and, from George W. Bush to Jacques Chirac, the climate is one of appeasement....  Yet, in spite of this lull, the divisions remain difficult to iron out, as illustrated by the very stiff handshake between the two heads of state.  About the past, ‘we have not changed our mind, neither did the United States,’ the Elysee’s spokeswoman admitted.  In spite of George W. Bush’s more or less conciliatory statements, the United States still wants to dictate the international agenda as it suits it.”


BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA:  "America Of Course!"


Bakir Hadziomerovic held in Croat-language Dnevni list (6/5):  “To whom we are closer, Europe or the U.S.?… To be honest BiH is not the only country that is dealing with the U.S. ultimatum [regarding the ICC].  All neighboring countries including some of the EU members are in the same position…  We don’t need to repeat twice that the Americans brought peace to this country (although they did it in the moment that suited them).  The second important fact for understanding the American ultimatums is the number of their soldiers, SFOR members, here in BiH.  The third and the most important detail is that this country (BiH) must not remain without U.S. support especially if we plan to come closer to what Lithuania or Poland are today....  The Executive Order signed by the President of the U.S. George W. Bush on blockage of property and visas for more than 150 persons...and the announcement from the White House that U.S. soldiers would extend their mandate in BiH, were the best signals to local authorities that Parliamentary fulfillment of the American request should not be postponed....  Before dealing with local criminals and war criminals...'moralists' are wasting our time and our nerves with discussions on whether we are closer to the Europe or the U.S.  As if they do not understand that the future of this country is not in our hands and that, fortunately the Americans are entering through a large door in this small BiH.”


CROATIA:  "The Problem of Croatian-U.S. Relations"


Liberal party chairman Ivo Banac wrote in Jutarnji List (6/7):  "In 2002 the United States vetoed a one-year extension of the SFOR [Stabilization Force] mission in Bosnia, while the UN Security Council voted down Resolution 1422, which would have exempted U.S. troops serving in SFOR from investigation or criminal proceedings by the newly created International Criminal Court (ICC).  It was only after the Security Council agreed to the U.S. demands that the Bush administration withdrew its veto and approved the extension of the SFOR mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  This precedent is important in terms of understanding the Bush administration's current campaign for a general exemption of U.S. military and other official personnel from the jurisdiction of the ICC, which is especially relevant in the case of Croatia."


CZECH REPUBLIC:  "NATO On The Way Out Of Crisis"


Pavel Tomasek wrote in leading business daily Hospodarske noviny (6/13):  "A few months ago it might have seemed that the Alliance was an organization designed for a write-off....  When it offered help to the U.S. after 9/11, it was discreetly declined because practically it did not have anything to contribute....  Yesterday’s agreement of the NATO ministers, however...indicates that the once again able to find its way out of a crisis....  Massive reduction of the number of staff headquarters worldwide, as well as the sound emphasis on creating units of rapid deployment, precisely respond to the situation after 9/11....  Adjustment of [international] military capacity must follow, so that this important step will not turn out to be a mere declaration [and] the most successful military organization in history will not turn into yet another discussion platform, like the UN."


"New Man In An Old World"


Zbynek Petracek judged in the political weekly Respekt (6/9):  "It must be admitted that George W. Bush, during his trip to Europe and the Middle East, was forthcoming, empathetic and at the same time he managed to push through his ideas.…  Bush sincerely tried to rectify the impaired relations [with the "old Europe"]...and the only criticism was targe

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