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Rejoicing in France; despair in Ireland. “They are world champions, and they brought one and a half million people on to the Champs-Elysées, the most famous avenue in the world and the mythological residence of Greek heroes,” said the normally restrained Le Monde, France’s most serious newspaper, about the French soccer team, which won an unexpected 3-0 victory over Brazil in the World Cup final in Paris Sunday. Tuesday’s Le Monde said on its front page that “in the euphoria which has overcome the country there is a dominating idea that something has changed, or may change, in the collective consciousness, in our vision of our own identity.” France would become less racist, it said (only two members of the French team were of French, nonimmigrant backgrounds). And it pointed out that the far-right, racist National Front Party had “found itself, for the first time in ages, unheard, in fact totally irrelevant.”
The conservative Paris daily Le Figaro, in a front-page comment by Alain Peyrefitte, said France’s World Cup victory showed there was “still a future for French confidence, for French ambition, for French unity.” Referring to the multiracial nature of the winning team, the article said, “They spoke to us of France. They made France sing in our hearts. They gave us a French pride, they offered a model to the universe.”
In Britain, the London Evening Standard commented:
We have often remarked before upon the French tendency towards emotionalism and triumphalism on the slenderest of grounds–they can become dangerously stimulated over a game of boules. … This may be an appropriate moment at which to draw the attention of the French to the shortcomings of their nationalized industries, fiscal honesty, road safety, hygiene, and performance at Waterloo. Otherwise, it would all really be unbearable.
The burning of three Catholic children in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, by suspected Protestant extremists dominated most European newspapers Monday, and the Belfast Catholic newspaper Irish News devoted its front page to a poem–“Songs on the Death of Children” by Friedrich Ruckert–and its main editorial space to a psalm of David, “The Lord Is My Shepherd.” In an editorial, the newspaper said, “Evil has stalked our country, and it has touched us each on the shoulder.” It further suggested “[i]t would be a powerful focus for healing if the Church leaders were to nominate a day when we could each reassert the commitment to basic Christian principles we made at baptism.”
The Irish Independent of Dublin called on Ulster’s new first minister, the Protestant David Trimble, to show “an unequivocal commitment to the law, to partnership and equality” in Ireland. It concluded, “We in Ireland have so often asked: need it ever be thus? The wider world will ask the same question, and get the same answer. There need not, and must not, be any more sacrifices of the innocent.”
Following the resignation of Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto after a drubbing in elections for the Upper House, Japan’s best-selling newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, said in an editorial Monday that “the change is cataclysmic” and called on the next prime minister to dissolve the Lower House to permit a general election. Mainichi Shimbun, pointing out that Hashimoto’s Liberal Democratic Party failed to win a single seat in metropolitan Tokyo and Osaka, blamed the election defeat on “rising unemployment and bankruptcies.”
The Japan Times said Tuesday that the election had “injected greater uncertainty into Japan’s political future, but at the same time the outcome has raised hopes for the realization of greater justice and fairness in the nation’s parliamentary democracy.” It said, “[t]here will be no respite allowed for the next Cabinet.” In Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post said in an editorial that vacillation over tax cuts had cost Hashimoto his job. “His successor will have to set a firm course and stick to it,” it said. “Unless the will is there to restructure and introduce transparency, the system could collapse, with the prospect of dragging down the rest of the global economy.”
On Saturday, Mainichi Shimbun devoted its main editorial to Britain’s new defense cuts, pointing out that Britain expects to save 141 billion yen on its defense bill over the next three years, while Japan’s defense expenditure continues to rise. “Why has Japan been unable to reap a peace dividend like the NATO countries?” it asked. “No convincing explanation has as yet been found. The pace of deregulation and financial-market liberalization are not the only areas in which Japan lags behind Western countries; it appears that Japan’s defense, too, is due for a thoroughgoing review.”