International Papers

Impeachment, Strasbourg-Style

The press in Europe gave big advance billing Wednesday to constitutional showdowns on both sides of the Atlantic–the opening Thursday of Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial and a vote the same day in the European Parliament in Strasbourg that could result in the dismissal of all 20 members of the European Union’s ruling commission.

The main Flytrap angle across Europe was “porn king” Larry Flynt’s accusations of hypocrisy against Republican Rep. Robert Barr, R-Ga., but comparisons were also drawn between the impeachment of the president in Washington and what La Repubblica of Rome called “a European-style impeachment” of the president of the European Commission, Jacques Santer.

The paper pointed out that the European Parliament, although elected by the peoples of the European Union, still doesn’t have the powers of a normal parliament, while the commission, which it was planning to censure for fraud and other irregularities, isn’t a real government but rather a group of unelected bureaucrats. The “psychodrama” in Strasbourg was the fruit of “a generalized institutional sickness,” La Repubblica said.

A leading target of the parliament’s attack is former French Prime Minister Edith Cresson, Europe’s commissioner for education, who is alleged, among other things, to have appointed her dentist to be a scientific adviser. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph of London Wednesday, Cresson (notorious in Britain for having stated while prime minister that a quarter of Englishmen are homosexuals) blamed her troubles on “a shadowy conspiracy of ultra-Rightists who leak lies to the newspapers” and on a new generation of European parliamentarians, who lack the old European idealism.

Lamenting this loss, Cresson said the European countries had a shared culture that set them apart from Americans, “who are extremely enthusiastic about something one day and say exactly the opposite a few days later.” She went on, “Perhaps we are more sceptical. Perhaps we are more reasonable; perhaps we have suffered far more. We are different, and the world needs that for its balance.” In a separate article, the Telegraph described the European Union as “teetering on the brink of chaos.” The firing of the European Commission “would leave the EU institutionally crippled only 14 days after the birth of the European single currency,” it said.

In Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday that “material having to do with Labor Party leader Ehud Barak’s campaign for the premiership” had been stolen in a Watergate-style break-in of the Washington offices of his campaign advisers, Stanley Greenberg and James Carville. A Barak campaign official said Wednesday on Israel Radio that it was believed that “Israeli material was the main focus of the break-in.”

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Egypt’s Al Ahram daily said in an editorial that “now that it has been revealed that the U.S. has used UNSCOM for spying purposes, it has become necessary that the international organization take a firm stance by which to prevent any of its organizations being used for purposes other than those mandated.” The paper called for “an impartial inquiry” into UNSCOM and the dismissal of chief arms inspector Richard Butler, “whose record with Iraq has lacked honesty, to say the least.” It also said people are wrong to imagine that Egypt will “abandon its role in preventing further U.S. aggressions against the Iraqi people” because of Saddam Hussein’s “foolish campaign” against the country. “Egypt cannot endorse interference in other countries’ internal affairs,” it concluded.

With the Times of London warning Wednesday of future trade conflict between the United States and Europe and Japan, the Japanese ambassador to Washington, Kunihiko Saito, was quoted in Tokyo’s Asahi Shimbun as saying that the United States is getting impatient with Japan’s rising trade surplus. Saito said trade friction will be inevitable this year in certain sectors, such as steel, but that the good performance of the American economy has so far prevented such friction from becoming serious. Asked about the U.S. response to suspicions that North Korea was engaged in underground nuclear development programs, the ambassador said that “the US government apparently understands the serious consequences of military strikes against North Korea, similar to the attacks it conducted against Iraq.”

The Financial Times of London carried a front page report of Rupert Murdoch saying in Singapore that many Internet stocks were heavily overvalued and unlikely to meet profit projections. He was also quoted as saying that his company, News Corp, would “certainly not be making takeovers of large or already over-capitalised companies” and that the Internet was “not the death-knell of the old” among media organizations. The Internet would destroy more businesses than it created by “wiping out the middlemen,” he said.

While the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said that the discontented flight crews of Cathay Pacific Airways have still not decided whether to implement a plan to stop smiling at passengers, the Times of India carried an editorial Wednesday calling on the flight attendants to “have second thoughts.” The paper declared, “A smile costs nothing, but it brightens up the moment for the one who flashes it, and the one who watches. Grim faces and hardened jaws are not people-friendly.”