International Papers

Polls, Popes, and Peers


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Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said Thursday that the Bosnia and Kosovo crises have proved that U.S. leadership of NATO is vital. In a front-page editorial headlined “Without America Nothing Works,” it recalled past European efforts to make NATO less dependent on the United States so as to encourage France to rejoin the alliance’s military structure. Not only did France not do so, but the failure of West European will over Bosnia and the sheer complication of the Kosovo problem made U.S. leadership essential in both cases.

Le Monde of Paris marked Friday’s 20th anniversary of John Paul II’s election to the papacy by commissioning an opinion poll that shows 53 percent of French people think he should resign. Nineteen percent disapprove strongly of the way he has done his job, and 34 percent say they have major reservations. Even among practicing French Roman Catholics, only 14 percent totally approve of him.

In extensive coverage of the anniversary, Italian newspapers made much of the first ever papal participation in a TV chat show. The pope telephoned a popular show called Door to Door at 10:30 p.m. to thank participants in a special program about his pontificate for their comments. The show’s host, Bruno Vespa, is reported to have been reduced to stutters when the call came through.

La Repubblica of Rome reported that messages to be read out Friday at the ceremony in St. Peter’s Square will include ones from Benjamin Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat inviting the pope to visit Jerusalem in the year 2000. The paper said he has agreed to go. La Stampa of Turin ran an article praising the pope’s efforts to reconcile the Catholic Church and Jews, despite the recent controversy over the canonization of the Jewish-born Catholic nun Edith Stein, who died at Auschwitz.

Israel’s Ha’aretz expressed optimism in an editorial Thursday about upcoming Middle East talks in the United States. “Ariel Sharon’s appointment as foreign minister does not necessarily bode any intention of sabotaging the withdrawal agreement,” it said. “In addition to the problems that his appointment might arouse, it can also be seen as a signal to the right-wing section of the government that its position will be given full expression in the summit talks.” The editorial added that “if the Israeli delegation returns from America empty-handed, a lot of explaining will have to be done.”

The British press was dominated Thursday by a debate in the House of Lords on the Labor government’s planned abolition of the parliamentary rights of hereditary peers. The government is committed to excluding them from the upper house of Parliament but has yet to reveal its proposals for further constitutional reform. The hereditary peers, nearly all of them conservatives, did not argue with the case for their own abolition, but repeatedly pointed out that a nonelected chamber consisting exclusively of government nominees would be even less democratic than one dominated by people who had arrived there by accident of birth. Even the liberal Guardian, which strongly supports reform, insisted in an editorial that the government be held to its promise that “the Transition Chamber will not last forever.”

The conservative Daily Telegraph revealed that the queen has decided, by her own choice, to do away with some of the ceremonial that has traditionally surrounded the annual State Opening of Parliament. When this takes place next month, such officers as the Silver Stick in Waiting will not take part. “The sight of the Great Officers of State walking backwards ahead of the Sovereign will remain unchanged, however. It is understood that they were offered the option of walking forwards, but declined.” All except the lord chancellor, although, the Telegraph reassures its readers, “his request to walk forwards stems from a desire to avoid an accident rather than from any modernising zeal.”