International Papers

Raising a Stink in Cologne

Food was fundamental in European newspapers this weekend. An item in Britain’s Observer Sunday reported that world leaders meeting at the G-8 summit in Cologne, Germany, designated genetically modified food as one of the “greatest threats facing the planet”–along with AIDS and the millennium bug. The topic of GM food has been widely debated in Europe but is seldom raised in the United States, where, according to the Observer, “some 70 million acres of modified soya beans, tomatos, wheat and cotton are now grown.” (For more on national attitudes to GM foods, see the Economist’s cover story.) Saturday’s Guardian featured a long piece about GM crops in India and reported that a group of 500 Indian farmers went to Cologne to protest what they see as Monsanto Co.’s attempts to make farmers dependent on genetically modified cotton crops. Meanwhile, all over Europe there were reports of increasing consumer anxiety about the safety of foods ranging from poultry to cooking oil to Coca-Cola.

The Kosovo conflict was not forgotten, as papers around the continent encouraged NATO to maintain a stiff spine regarding the demilitarization of the Kosovo Liberation Army–a matter apparently resolved Monday morning. Spanish conservative daily ABC said, “The KLA, which has not been a military arm of the alliance during the campaign, cannot now be its political partner. As just one of the parts of the conflict, the KLA should subject itself to the authority of KFOR and disarm itself.” In Germany, Tagesspiegel of Berlin said, “It is understandable that the KLA wants to remain armed in case of possible Serb attacks in the future. But Nato in its military movements can’t consider that during these critical days, as they work to prevent a security vacuum with the Serb withdrawal. … If the principles of the G-8 states are to be believably achieved and the chance of a multiethnic Kosovo, at least at the starting point, is to be retained, then the KLA must also let itself be disarmed.”

Also on the subject of Kosovo, a leader in Saturday’s Independent of London counseled against analogy creep. It said, “There have been rather too many emotive analogies drawn with the Nazi Holocaust, which are in danger of clouding the truth rather than illuminating it. … Language is important and, although the Serbian state pursued a policy of vilification, expulsion and murder against the ethnic Albanians, it did not amount to genocide. … If there are 10,000 dead in Kosovo that is a terrible crime, but it is not the same as the hundreds of thousands that were once feared. There is a parallel between Hitler’s ambition for a racially pure Greater Germany and Milosevic’s ethnically homogenous Greater Serbia, but Milosevic was not working towards a Final Solution; he did not aspire to world domination; he did not espouse an ideology of eugenics.”

Returning to a still-unresolved earlier conflict, an editorial in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post came out in support of an Anglo-Dutch proposal designed to ease the West’s “economic stranglehold” on Iraq. As the SCMP observed, although it was “[r]ecently overshadowed by the conflict in Kosovo,” for 10 years now the West has used “tough sanctions and low-intensity bombing, which has taken place on average once every three days” to battle Saddam Hussein’s regime, without “having the required effect.” The new proposal would set strict conditions under which the West would lift the economic embargo and foreign companies would be allowed to bid on contracts to rebuild “the country’s shattered oil industry.” According to the SCMP, “[I]t is now time to break the deadlock by pushing forward with this humane proposal.” Nevertheless, the plan was denounced in the Iraqi press, where the government paper al-Jumhouriya said, “The vicious British draft has even exceeded the unjust and cruel resolutions by the Security Council against Iraq.”

In other media matters, intervention by Canada’s ruling Liberal Party has delayed conservative newspaper magnate Conrad Black’s elevation to Britain’s House of Lords. Black, a Canadian who owns Britain’s Telegraph newspapers, Israel’s Jerusalem Post, and most of Canada’s dailies, had been advised by Canadian officials that he would be able to accept a lordship, for which he was nominated by Conservative Party leader William Hague, if he took out dual British-Canadian citizenship. With the intervention of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Black received a British passport, but the week before the honors were announced, Ottawa reversed its position and declared that a 1919 law prevents Canadians from receiving peerages. Black told his Canadian flagship the National Post that “as a Canadian citizen I find the conduct of our government slightly embarrassing.” The London Times,  the Telegraph’s main rival, said that by this fall Canadian legal reforms should make the peerage possible and noted rather archly that “[t]he prestige of a noble title is now within Mr Black’s grasp, but … he must wait, until the autumn, before the prize is securely his. The delay should not, however, prove too trying. Mr Black has, after all, been anticipating the pleasure of a peerage for almost a decade.”

The last British royal wedding of the millennium–Saturday’s marriage of Queen Elizabeth’s youngest son Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones–was the occasion for the recently installed poet laureate’s first official ode. Andrew Motion’s poem “Epithalamium” (read it here–free registration for the Times site required) was described as “safe” and “traditional” in the Independent, but novelist J.G. Ballard told the Times, “The poem proves that it’s time to discontinue the office of Poet Laureate in the hope that the Royal Family will follow soon after.”