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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 03:48 GMT 04:48 UK
European press review

Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi's resignation, the release of two German hostages in Iraq and the power play between the prime minister and interior minister in France all feature in today's European papers.

Bye-bye Berlusconi

The German daily Der Tagesspiegel says Italy's interests would be best served if Silvio Berlusconi withdrew from politics altogether.

With his ridiculously impudent global political ambitions, Berlusconi recklessly squandered Italy's credit in the EU - Rome's 'natural sphere of interest'
Der Standard

"After all, he shares the blame for Italy again being split into two ideological blocs, which were supposed to have been overcome after the end of the Cold War," it comments.

Italy urgently needs a rejuvenation of both its political leadership and political philosophy, the paper says, "but that will only happen if Berlusconi steps down from politics for good."

Otherwise, it concludes, "he will continue to serve as an excuse for both sides to continue their partisan battles."

Austria's Der Standard says Mr Berlusconi failed to fulfill a single promise he made to Italian voters five years ago.

"The country is economically worse off", it says, while the "buying power of the Italians is waning to such a degree that they are even saving on food".

In terms of the political landscape, his legacy is "even more miserable", the paper adds.

"After five years of Berlusconi, the country is split into irreconcilable camps and his TV channels and newspapers have done a good job of brainwashing the masses."

And, it continues, contrary to his claims Italy has "an extremely poor reputation in Europe and the world".

"With his ridiculously impudent global political ambitions, Berlusconi recklessly squandered Italy's credit in the EU - Rome's 'natural sphere of interest'."

Hostage release

Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau says it would be cynical to feel anything but relief and gratitude for the release of two German engineers in Iraq after three months in captivity.

Perhaps the prospect of profits in a destroyed country clouded the company's judgment about the risks involved
Frankfurter Rundschau

The details of their release are still unclear, but the daily questions the motives of European companies working in Iraq.

It is not cynical to wonder whether it was "solely out of a sense of noble service to the Iraqi people that a German firm would send its employees on a suicide mission", the paper says.

Perhaps, it suggests, "the prospect of profits in a destroyed country clouded the company's judgment about the risks involved".

The daily praises the German government for doing everything in its power to secure the release of the two hostages.

"But it must also make it clear that it is everybody's responsibility to ensure that there is no repetition."

German angst

With just a month to go to the World Cup, a commentary in the German paper Die Welt laments what it sees as a serious lack of self-confidence afflicting the German psyche.

The world fears our despondency, our bad moods, our lack of self-confidence and our eternal German angst
Die Welt

"Foreigners just don't like us," the paper says, "and whereas in the past we could always count on them at least fearing us, this is now no longer the case either."

At most, it says, "the world fears our despondency, our bad moods, our lack of self-confidence and our eternal German angst."

Germany's inferiority complex and tendency towards "national depression", it adds, is "well and truly getting on our neighbours' nerves".

French face-off

The French daily Le Monde says the real purpose of a controversial immigration bill currently before the National Assembly is to win votes for Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's presidential election.

An editorial in the paper says Mr Sarkozy, the author of the bill, aims to win over far- right voters.

However, it warns, "this is a dangerous political game" which risks giving credibility to the National Front.

The centre-left Liberation continues to revel in the rivalry between would-be presidential candidates Sarkozy and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

Mr de Villepin spent most of Tuesday denying accusations that he had ordered an inquiry against Mr Sarkozy in connection with the so-called Clearstream affair, which centres on murky allegations of corruption and money laundering.

Liberation is unimpressed. A cartoon on the front page shows a jovial President Jacques Chirac with one arm around Mr de Villepin and the other around Mr Sarkozy, oblivious to the fact that each has stabbed a knife into the other's heart.

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.





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