Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Europe Is Banking on U.S. Leadership Conference Focuses on Clinton's Role

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Europe Is Banking on U.S. Leadership Conference Focuses on Clinton's Role

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton's trip to Europe and the conference of seven major industrial democracies that began Friday in Naples show European leaders how far they still have to go to solve the security and economic problems after the Cold War.

From the European point of view, the president's role is crucial. Without clear American leadership and commitment, the West can neither redefine relations with Russia and the Eastern European countries the Soviet Union used to dominate, nor redefine the institutions needed to ensure lasting stability from the Atlantic to the Urals in the new era.

Those are the broadest purposes of the president's trip and of the annual summit meeting of the so-called Group of Seven. For the first time, the meeting includes President Boris N. Yeltsin of Russia as a full participant in the political part of the gathering, which will begin after the economic discussions end.

Yeltsin is not participating in the economic talks, which the Europeans would like to center on jobs and the lack of them in Western Europe, where 11 percent of the work force is now unemployed.

The problem could become even more acute as low-wage Eastern European countries make the transition to market economies and increase their exports of cheap manufactured goods because Western Europe's welfare-state economies make labor too expensive to be competitive.

"Unemployment is the central problem of our economies and has become the main problem of the G-7," said a high-ranking aide to President Francois Mitterrand of France. "If we do not solve it, we risk shaking the foundations of our entire economic system."

With many Western European leaders in weak domestic political positions or facing elections within the next year, few are eager to tell voters that things like six weeks of vacation every year, and 35-hour weeks, may have to be changed as their neighbors to the east begin to compete with them economically. …

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