Fed up, across borders

September 27, 2005

EUROPE IS NEITHER SEETHING WITH anger nor gripped by despair. But something's definitely out of whack there. Just call it the cranky continent.

Start in the east, in Ukraine. It hasn't even been two years and already the peaceful and democratic Orange Revolution is going off the rails. The president and prime minister have had a falling out, much of it over corruption -- the tentacles of which all seem to lead back to Russia -- and the promise of a Western, open, rule-of-law Ukraine in place of the post-Soviet mafia state that had taken root there is fading. President Viktor A. Yushchenko has reached out for support to his chief rival in the 2003 elections, a man with a criminal record who had no business being in politics, much less in power. Ukraine, unfortunately, seems to be reverting to form.

In Poland, voters on Sunday thoroughly repudiated the current ruling party, made up of former communists, and put a free-market coalition back in power. The former communists had committed Polish troops to the hugely unpopular war in Iraq, and the complaint was that they hadn't gotten enough in return from Washington. The leaders of the new government say they want much closer relations with the United States, and they'll begin by demanding a great deal more quid for the Iraqi quo. The Bush administration, nevertheless, will probably listen. Three things make Poles genuinely uneasy: Russia, Germany and 18 percent unemployment.

Speaking of Germany, there is still no deal on a government. The economy is up to the axles in muck and going nowhere. Nine days ago, voters couldn't bring themselves to decide what to do about it. The politicians are acting as though they don't see why it should be left to them -- the two important minor parties have nixed joining any sort of creative governing coalition. Bargaining goes on. Efficient this is not, to the irritation of practically everyone.

Throw in the rejections by Dutch and French voters this year of a European constitution backed by their respective governments, and you begin to see a pattern of popular disdain stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea. Some in Washington are delighted at European sore-headedness, but this is foolish -- not only because sore-headed Europeans have caused the world a heap of trouble in the past, but because a purposeful Europe is one that can find ways to work constructively with the United States at a time when so much around the globe seems so uncertain and so threatening.

Before that can happen, though, talks begin next week on Turkey's entry into the European Union; this is something else the Europeans have been bashing themselves over. You might, in fact, even wonder why the Turks want any part of it.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.