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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 05:08 GMT 06:08 UK
European press review
European papers give the world summit in Johannesburg an unsatisfactory verdict, while in Russia, a senate debate sparks discussions of a territorial dispute with the United States.

Disappointing summit

As the World Summit for Sustainable Development ends, the press in Europe find little to feel optimistic about the future, as some refer to the conference as unsatisfactory.

Overall, the Swiss Le Temps says, "when the summit ends on Wednesday evening, a great many illusions will have ended with it".

The paper believes the summit's final document "has disappointed ecologists and delegates alike for the feebleness of the political results it enshrines".

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung regrets the absence of a commitment to advance the development of renewable energy during the talks.


More progressive Europeans scored a few successes... but only as long as these did not affect the US' economic interests

Frankfurter Rundschau - Germany

"This is a disappointing outcome," it says, not so much because of the opposition of the US, but because it was rejected by so many developing countries.

The Frankfurter Rundschau describes the lack of agreement on renewable energy and reducing agricultural subsidies in industrialised countries as "totally unsatisfactory".

This outcome, it says, shows that the "coalition of conservative economic interests and power politics" has barely been shaken.

The paper says that the "more progressive" Europeans were able to score a few successes against Washington, but only as long as these did not affect the US' "core economic interests with their direct links to the White House".

Frankfurter Rundschau nevertheless feels the summit had one positive element.

"Burning issues such as poverty, climate change, health care, globalisation and human rights were brought back into the consciousness of the international public," it points out.

"Even if the spirit of Rio no longer blows, people were at least reminded of it," the paper concludes.

Health and human rights

Some papers highlight a dispute over religion and human rights, which the Paris-based International Herald Tribune says threatened to derail the Earth Summit on Tuesday.

The paper says negotiators worked into the night to resolve the disagreement over a clause for governments to deliver health services to all "in a manner 'consistent with national laws and cultural and religious values".

The Canadian delegation, it explains, decided that this placed too much weight on religion and not enough on basic human rights.

Canada therefore called for the addition of the words: "And in conformity with all human rights and fundamental freedoms".

Geneva's Le Temps says, quoting a Swiss delegate, that the original clause "lent respectability to regimes which, like the Taleban, deprive women of their essential rights".

The paper supports this view and points out that "Muslim countries, the United States and the Vatican are resisting the amendment on the grounds that it could be construed as legitimising contraception and abortion".

Give us back our water!

The prospect of a territorial dispute between Russia and the US, is discussed in many Russian papers, as the upper house challenges the legality of a deal made between the USSR and the US over a decade ago.

In 1990, the mass-circulation Komsomolskaya Pravda explains, the then US secretary of state, James Baker, and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze signed a deal demarcating the boundary between Russian and US territory in the Bering and Chukotka Seas.

The deal was known as the "Baker-Shevardnadze agreement".


The demarcation line has not prevented the Americans from unilaterally tracking and detaining our fishing vessels, even in the buffer zone

Trud - Russia

The Baker-Shevardnadze line was immediately ratified by the US Congress, but the Soviet Union refused to do so because "it infringed Russia's national interests", the paper recalls.

Opponents of the agreement claim the deal handed the Americans an area whose stocks of the Alaskan pollack fish are worth $200m.

It also gave US nearly 50,000 sq km of mineral-rich continental shelf.

According to the Trud, the majority of Russian maps do not show the demarcation line.

"Moreover, this has not prevented the Americans from unilaterally tracking and detaining our fishing vessels, even in the buffer zone," it claims.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta says the dispute has "every chance of becoming a major international scandal".

According to the paper, Russian senators claim that instead of following the median line between Russia and America, the new border was drawn in a "crooked" way.

The paper however doubts that the Americans will be prepared to make concessions, let alone quick ones.

But the Internet newspaper Gazeta suspects that the real target of the Russian senators' ire is Eduard Shevardnadze himself, who is now president of Georgia.

The paper dismisses the senator's claim that Mr Shevardnadze's signature on the document is in itself invalid as he was representing the defunct USSR and not Russia.

In Gazeta's view, this claim is designed "to discredit Shevardnadze's image... at a time of fairly tense Russian-Georgian relations".

Not content with stirring up trouble with America, Gazeta says, the senators are now promising "to tackle the problem of the Barents Sea, where the 200-mile zone on the Norwegian and Finnish sides needs adjustment".

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


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