The Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Guterres, exhorted the European Union to stand up for itself, adopt a more optimistic stance and lose its inferiority complex when comparing itself against the USA. He stated that the recent economic problems experienced by the USA were a clear sign that the time has come for the European Union “to affirm itself as the most competitive area in the world, through policies which foster economic growth, through the affirmation of the European social model and through a strategy of sustainable development”. Antonio Guterres also highlighted the recent recessive policies adopted by the USA in terms of the environment and claimed that “Portugal believes that the European Union must have political cohesion, a strong will to act and a confident discourse”. As the European Union Summit ends in Stockholm, the EU leaders issue a joint statement which pledges to make the EU economy the most dynamic and competitive in the world by 2010. As this statement is made, certain criticisms raised at the Lisbon summit last year are addressed. Accused of forgetting their social responsibility as governments struggle to gain economic advantages, the statement later today will reaffirm the EU’s pledge to link social solidarity issues with increased economic dynamics. To achieve this, the EU is expected to liberalise the markets further, promote professional training schemes and address social exclusion. Pretty words maybe but one should not forget that it is precisely the liberalisation of the economy which creates social exclusion and can lead to situations of plutocracy. This will certainly be the area to watch over the next few decades, both in the west and in the east of Europe. Meanwhile the European Investment Bank conceded to Moscow 93 million USD for environmental projects in the Baltic area. President Putin stated that the situation in Chechnya and Macedonia were parallels and Moscow’s only alternative was to disarm the rebels. There is a clear message here for those of good hearing: linking the question of Chechnya to any aid or support programmes is tantamount to interference in Russia’s internal affairs. Just as foreign interference nearly created a global Balkans crisis, to interfere within the Russian Federation’s frontiers is dangerous and unwelcome. As the EU finds the confidence to affirm itself as an independent entity, there is a growing feeling among its leaders that the countries to the east are as European as those in the west. That there are numerous appeals among citizens of the EU for Europe to come together as one, from the Atlantic to the Urals, is unquestionable. The question is how to achieve this without intrusion, insuring against exclusion while at the same time fostering continued economic growth.
TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON
There are several versions of the recent assassination of the most prominent Iranian nuclear scientist and high-ranking officer of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh