Today’s topic for a press review is of course the summit held yesterday in Berlin between the leaders of the EU’s “Big Three” – Germany’s Schröder, France’s Chirac, and Britain’s Blair. The subject on the table (but, as it turned out, not the only subject) was Iraq – where to go with regard to that country’s rebuilding process, what posture to take going into the crucial meetings around the opening of the UN General Assembly to occur this following week, and how to respond generally to the Americans’ patent need for a bit of assistance there.
You remember from our past discussion, here, that two of those three (Schröder and Chirac) already met last week, also in Berlin. Now, that occasion was supposedly not for the express purpose of meeting one-on-one per se, but rather to mark the first-ever joint session of the combined German and French cabinets in the German capital. That event had been planned in advance, but nonetheless it gave the two heads-of-cabinet a convenient opportunity to confer in advance of their meeting yesterday with Tony Blair, and confer they did.
What’s going on when there’s to be a three-way meeting, but two of the three have their own little meeting ahead of time? In such a case the suspicion has to arise that the thing has really metamorphosed into, in effect, a two-way meeting, between the already-met (in a posture of solidarity forged during their previous get-together) and the third, late arrival. And don’t forget yet another meeting still, that huge meeting later this week at the UN General Assembly, which will be attended by most of the involved heads of state, and which will be marked by meetings between Chirac and Schröder on the one hand and President Bush on the other – separate meetings with each. This three-way meeting in Berlin looks an awful lot like a training-session for those all-the-marbles meetings in New York. A by-now-common preparatory technique among politicians preparing for a big debate is to find a preliminary sparring partner who can best imitate the opponent that politician will face when he is later debating for real – could Tony Blair have unwittingly been fooled into assuming this role for Messrs. Schröder and Chirac, ahead of their one-on-one conversations with George W. Bush in New York?
Among the many English-language dispatches covering the summit, the Washington Post’s report ends by recounting the “embarrassing question” the three leaders encountered at their joint news conference: Was Blair seen by the other two as simply “Bush’s envoy to the talks.” Oh no, no, they hastened to answer – Chirac even magnanimously said “I want to pay tribute to the vivid imagination of the last journalist,” i.e. the poser of the question. The other common elements you’ll be able to read about in most all the coverage were that all three agreed that the UN must be given a “key role” in Iraq, but disagreed on how long it should take to do that, Chirac demanding that this take place “within a few months”; and they all at least agreed that “we all want to see a stable Iraq,” in Blair’s words. Nothing very radical there.
But the English-language press – usually – is not EuroSavant’s happy hunting-ground, nor are the common elements that everybody is reporting the usual grist for its mill. Let’s take a look at reporting and commentary from the host nation – Germany – to see what wrinkles and unique aspects of the summit are presented there. (more…)