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Friday, 22 November, 2002, 06:40 GMT
European press review
The Nato summit in Prague is the top common denominator in today's papers.
Seven former members of Nato's Cold War adversary, the defunct Warsaw Pact, were formally invited on Thursday to join Nato as the alliance prepares for a totally different role.Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau argues that such is the scale of the changes to which Nato has committed itself in Prague, that it should warrant endorsement through the ballot box.
"Political honesty," it says, "would require a debate on how ... we propose to face the new challenges ... to be put to the people," it says.
The paper questions whether an alliance originally created for territorial defence can now be steered in a completely different direction without seeking popular approval.
Instead, it believes, a new alliance treaty should be negotiated, although it would be a difficult process and might result the departure of some of the present members.
"It is a bad sign that Nato is avoiding such a fundamental debate precisely for that reason," the paper concludes.
The Czech Lidove Noviny says that "the alliance is reaching out". Until now, it notes, Nato was "wedged in the Euro-Atlantic space" but yesterday in Prague "it took a step into the world outside" by announcing a new response force which will "intervene wherever needed".
As a result, it warns, the Czechs "will have to become accustomed to increasingly frequent deployments of their soldiers in dangerous missions around the world".
From the political standpoint, the paper sees Nato membership as the strongest guarantee that the newcomers from the former communist bloc will keep to the straight and narrow.
Despite lingering doubts over "corruption, old structures and tragic social conditions", it says, Nato's "massive pressure" should become "the main engine of their transformation".
A commentary in Poland's Rzeczpospolita notes that thanks to the new arrivals, Poland "is gaining allied neighbours at sensitive points on its borders".
But the paper is unhappy at what it sees as the huge disproportion between the partners on the alliance's two Atlantic shores.
Expanding Nato responsibility to new areas, it argues, "ought not to mean burdening America with the entire responsibility for the security of Bulgaria or Estonia".
In creating the American-proposed Nato Response Force, the paper suggests, "Europe should take up specific duties, not just political and discursive ones, in the protection of peace and security".
Nato's expansion, it adds, will only be significant if "accompanied by the will and possibility for joint defence of the values declared in the Atlantic Charter... on the territories of former and new members".
The view from Moscow is - understandably perhaps - somewhat more sceptical.
The government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta claims there are divisions between Europe and Washington, arguing that "not all of the American remedies to preserve Nato's viability are to the Europeans' liking".
"The idea of turning the alliance into a world gendarme... to allow the Americans to attain global supremacy," the paper says, "is opposed not just by Paris and Berlin, Nato's main European 'players', but also, with certain provisos, by London."
"Friends again?" asks the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of Thursday's handshake between President George W Bush and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at the Nato summit in Prague.
"Few handshakes have received greater scrutiny," the paper says, at least by "those Germans worried about the freeze that descended upon bilateral relations" since the chancellor's August campaign-trail vow not to involve German forces in any attack on Iraq.
The paper's view of the handshake is that it lingered "long enough for the photographers to catch (the two men) sharing a few moments of friendly banter".
"Still," it muses, "it was only a handshake" and meanwhile "nothing has changed in a German policy that has angered the White House, strained relations with other Nato allies, and awakened concerns at home that the old postwar alliance between Germany and the United States is slowly unravelling".
A different kind of newcomer preoccupies a columnist the French L'Express who criticizes the lack of foresight shown by Europe's leaders on the question of immigration.
"It is the West that has everything to lose", he says, from "systematically expelling" immigrants who arrive "intent on creating wealth". "Without the labour of people like those being hounded in the streets of Calais," he adds, "ageing Europe will in the future lack the means to pay its pensioners".
The author urges the adoption of what he calls "a Europe-wide policy of selection and integration" of would-be immigrants, together with "assistance to their countries of origin" and "the effective policing" of Europe's boundaries.
"All of this," he warns, "would cost much less than the approaching confrontation, of which what is happening in Calais is just a small forewarning".
The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
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