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Voice of America, 02-01-07

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>

SLUG: 5-50833 Europe-Italy (BKR) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:





    INTRO: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is under pressure from his colleagues in the European Union to prove he still supports European integration despite his virtual sacking of pro-E-U foreign minister Renato Ruggiero over the weekend (on Saturday). V-O-A correspondent Roger Wilkison reports some of Italy's E-U partners are expressing dismay at Mr. Ruggiero's departure and wonder if Mr. Berlusconi's government is as fully committed to the idea of a closer-knit Europe as its predecessors have been.

    TEXT: The advent of the euro caused financial and then, political, upheaval in Italy. Last week, as the new single European currency was being launched, central bank employees went on strike. Now, commercial bank employees are on strike as well. The lack of preparation in Italy for the euro's arrival is seen by some E-U officials as a reflection of the Berlusconi government's lack of support for the new currency and for the European Union as a whole. That was also the view of Foreign Minister Ruggiero, who resigned under pressure on Saturday. Prime Minister Berlusconi, speaking through an interpreter, says he is personally taking over the top diplomat's job.


    Here I am, adding to my role of premier also for a period, and I don't know how long it will last the added responsibility of minister of foreign affairs.

    /// END ACT ///

    Mr. Ruggiero, a respected former head of the World Trade Organization, left the government after he clashed with several cabinet colleagues who belittled the importance of the euro's launch last week. He also questioned the government's commitment to further European integration. Seeking to contain the damage, Mr. Berlusconi sought to reassure critics at home and abroad that he is still committed to further European integration.


    The policy of this government will be convincingly pro-European. I believe that the feeling I have had several times sitting at the table with other European prime ministers is that our country is more pro-European than all the others.

    /// END ACT ///

    That may have been true in the past, but Italy's partners are not so certain that is the case now. In recent weeks, Italy opted out of a multi-billion-dollar pan-European military aircraft project. It blocked agreement on the location of new E-U institutions. And it signed up only reluctantly to a pan-European arrest warrant that is supposed to make it easier to catch suspected terrorists. Among those expressing dismay at Mr. Ruggiero's departure was Belgian foreign minister Louis Michel, a longtime critic of Mr. Berlusconi.


    He says Mr. Ruggiero came to the conclusion that he no longer had any political space within the government to defend his convictions. But Mr. Michel's Spanish colleague, Josep Pique, whose country has replaced Belgium at the head of the E-U's rotating presidency, told reporters in Brussels that it is too soon to speak of a crisis between Rome and its partners.


    He says it is not right to assume that Mr. Ruggiero's departure means that Italy will become a problem for the bloc. Still, Mr. Pique says he will try to meet Mr. Berlusconi in Rome this week to elicit a reaffirmation of Italy's support for the euro and European integration. Analyst Robert O'Daly, of the Economist Intelligence Unit, a London research organization, says he does not doubt Mr. Berlusconi's commitment to Europe. But he says some members of the center-right governing coalition have urged Italy to be more forceful on the international stage, especially in Europe, where its blind adherence to the E-U ideal has long been taken for granted.

    /// O'DALY ACT ///

    I do think that you will see a less pliant Italy within the E-U...Italy has long accepted whatever went on in the E-U but had very little clout, and there is an attempt, in a way, to try and redress that imbalance...So I think the problem remains that the Italian government has no strategy and has not yet worked out how it is going to go about achieving so-called objectives of defending its national interests.

    /// END ACT ///

    So, as Italy becomes more assertive within the E-U, it is perceived to be euro-skeptic. Former Italian ambassador to Russia, Sergio Romano, now a columnist for the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, argues that part of the problem is that most E-U governments are controlled by social democrats who were aghast that Mr. Berlusconi and his center-right coalition defeated a social democratic government in elections eight months ago and did not extend him much of a welcome to the European family.

    /// ROMANO ACT ///

    Social democratic governments did not really like the appearance of a center-right government in Italy...Berlusconi was criticized because he belonged to a trend that social-democrats in Europe, of course, saw as a menace, as a danger.

    /// END ACT ///

    And, says an E-U diplomat, many of Mr. Berlusconi's colleagues took an instantaneous dislike toward him because the self-made billionaire businessman comes from a totally different background and is not a career politician. But the diplomat says that if the E-U could survive former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was a ferocious opponent of closer European integration, it can also survive Mr. Berlusconi. (Signed)
    NEB/RW/KL/MEM SLUG: 6-125517 Editorial Digest (1/7) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:



    INTRO: The United States begins the first full work week of the new year with editorials in the morning papers still focused on the aftermath of terrorist attacks and Afghanistan. Other topics include introduction of Europe's new, unified money, the euro, as well as Argentina's financial mess; the latest on safeguarding Russian nuclear weapons; and the debate on freeing Mexican trucks for wider driving in the United States. Now, here is __________with a closer look and some quotes in today's U-S Editorial Digest.

    TEXT: The aftermath of last September's terrorist attacks and the conflict that followed against terrorists in Afghanistan continue to be the most popular editorial topic in many newspapers. On the general topic of global terrorism, Boston's Christian Science Monitor suggests:

    VOICE: With the first phase of the campaign against terrorism (the Afghanistan war) near an end, it is still not clear how the United States plans to reduce the strong anti-American feelings in the Muslim world. The main approach is to use public relations to promote human rights, democracy, and religious freedom, mostly among Arabs who enjoy little of those. But such a mild tactic often runs counter to other U-S interests, such as a dependency on Middle East oil, and a desire to defend Israel. ... the roots of terrorism lien mostly in religious intolerance, which itself grows on Arab poverty and the lack of a political voice. Just as the U-S revived Germany and Japan after World War Two, it can now aggressively push democratic ideas, religious freedom, and economic uplift in the Islamic world.

    TEXT: Turning to specifics, a debate has arisen over whether to televise the federal court trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the French-Moroccan accused to being part of September's airliner hijacking plot. U-S-A Today, published in a Washington, D-C suburb says: "Televise [the] terrorist trial; [the] war effort will benefit. ... Throwing open the [federal] courthouse doors is long past overdue." However in Oklahoma, citing the fear of recrimination against potential witnesses, among other things, The Tulsa World disagrees, suggesting:

    VOICE: As tempting [as] the idea might be, the request probably should be denied. ... Cameras have their place in the courtroom. But ...The Moussaoui trial would probably be better off without... live TV coverage.

    TEXT: In Texas, The Dallas Morning News is expressing satisfaction with revised rules for the military tribunals that may be used to try some suspected terrorists. The massive air and truck lift of emergency food and supplies to the Afghans draws praise from today's Houston Chronicle which concludes. "Averting famine and feeding millions, in addition to taking down terrorist rulers, is part of the good news from Afghanistan that should go out as part of the message in this new year."

    TEXT: Domestically, the Los Angeles Times is decrying the long time during which both the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health [N-I-H] "have ...been without chief executives...". It urges fast Congressional approval for President Bush's choice to head the N-I-H, well respected researchers Anthony Fauci, currently director of a major N-I-H division. Jacksonville's Florida Times-Union is angry that Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is holding up approval of the new Transportation Security Administration head because he is upset with Republican opposition to extending farm subsidies. Internationally, the introduction of the unified European monetary unit, the euro, on New Year's day is drawing comment such as this from Florida's Orlando Sentinel.

    VOICE: The auspicious debut for Europe's new common currency could not have come at a better time for the world. After 2001's global conflict and turmoil, the cooperative spirit behind the introduction of the euro on the first day of 2002 offers reason for renewed hope and optimism about international affairs. ... From a historical perspective, a monetary union encompassing much of Europe is especially remarkable. The euro is the first common currency on the continent since the fall of the Roman Empire. And who would have thought that a region divided by two devastating wars in the 20th century would be united economically so early in the 21st [century]?

    TEXT: In Tennessee, The Memphis Commercial Appeal calls the monetary experiment "breathtaking," adding:

    VOICE: The road toward a true United States of Europe is arduous and uncertain. The practical ideal of a united Europe is barely a half-century old among nations whose histories since the Roman Empire consist largely of fighting one another. Still, the birth of the euro is a meaningful testament to the power of that ideal.

    TEXT: The financial crisis in Argentina, where the peso is being devalued, draws this reaction from Ohio's Columbus Dispatch. The paper disagrees with the economic theories of the latest president, Peronista party's Eduardo Duhalde, fifth chief executive in the past three weeks, who claims the free-market policies introduced in the 1990s caused the nation's troubles. Quite the reverse says the Dispatch, which laments reforms did not go far enough. And now:

    VOICE: After devaluation, debtors will need far more pesos to meet their payments. A wave of bankruptcies is expected, which will only increase the economic misery. Short of a massive bailout by international lenders, that misery will not ease for a long time to come.

    TEXT: As regards the threat of unused and poorly guarded Russian nuclear weapons, The Dallas [Texas] Morning news says the United States "is right to help diminish overseas threat."

    VOICE: The Bush administration wisely came around on an important issue after Christmas. The president said ... he now favors programs that help Russia destroy and end the spread of its nuclear weapons. ... One serious problem is the porous nature of Russian safeguards. Security at Russia's 123 nuclear sites has weakened... Congress should welcome the administration's change of heart...

    TEXT: On the issue of giving Mexican long distance trucks more freedom to deliver all over the United States, as called for in the NAFTA agreement, another Dallas Morning News editorial faults a compromise agreement signed by President Bush in mid December.

    VOICE: [it] ... was meant to deal with unsubstantiated fears that Mexican trucks would be so unsafe as to wreak havoc on U-S highways. It establishes extraordinary safety and inspection requirements on Mexican trucks. It does not require the same of Canadian trucks, which have been free to enter the United States since 1980. ... the United States can and must do better.

    TEXT: Domestically the issue of food safety and specifically, bacteria standards for meat is upsetting The Saint Petersburg [Florida] Times. The paper sharply criticizes a federal judges ruling that says the government must not withhold its seal of approval for meat contaminated with salmonella bacteria because, the judges ruled, the mean is "not injurious to health." The paper says the ruling is absurd and endangers the public's health. Today's Savannah Georgia Morning News meanwhile, is upset at the political bickering in Congress between Senate Democrats and Republicans that is holding up approval of 94 badly needed federal judgeships, the highest number in eight-years. And on that contentious note, we conclude this editorial sampling from Monday's U-S press.

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