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Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 11:43 GMT
European press review

The election success of nationalist parties from all three of Bosnia's main ethnic communities is greeted with dismay by Europe's papers.

They also reflect on the US presidential election, suggesting that the uncertainty is threatening to undermine democratic values worldwide. The British government's new EU charm offensive also comes under scrutiny.

Bosnia's democratic paradox

Commenting on last weekend's elections in Bosnia, Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung describes democracy as a "permanent paradox" for Bosnians.

They can let off steam in endless elections but disappointment sets in as soon as the votes have been counted, it says.

"The paradox is that, out of sheer rage over the country's miserable conditions, many Bosnians vote for the nationalist parties of their respective ethnic groups which promise them happiness in separation from other ethnic groups."

But the paper argues that these very parties are largely responsible for the lack of progress.

Since they block everything, foreign intermediaries are forced to take decisions above their heads, the paper writes. This "undemocratic" approach "must cut every Bosnian to the quick".

"In protest, the nationalists are voted in again in the next elections - and nothing gets better, while anger continues to mount," the paper concludes.

On the same subject, Berlin's Tagesspiegel quotes "an old Balkan saying" that "when something itches in the Balkans, the whole of Europe scratches". And Europe is itching like mad again after the Bosnian elections.

"The elections show that the country is irreconcilably divided into the Serb Republic and Croat-Muslim Federation, which is in turn threatened with a split."

The paper calls on the international community to suspend from office those politicians who are violating the Dayton Peace Agreement, "especially in the Serb Republic where the Karadzic clique has won".

"Otherwise Bosnia will fall behind the democratisation process in Croatia and Serbia," the paper warns.

Animal-free meals

Most French papers believe that the country's prime minister, Lionel Jospin, will announce a ban on the feeding of animal meal to any animals, in response to the mad cow disease scare which has recently hit the country.

A front page headline in Le Figaro in Paris announces "Animal meal: the ban".

"The banning of animal meal for all farm animals and no longer just for cattle was necessary in the eyes of most people involved with the issue," the paper says.

"Nevertheless, the destruction of animal meal poses numerous problems," the paper adds.

Weathering change

Le Monde in Paris carries an editorial related to the international conference on climate change which started on Monday in the Netherlands.

"Today, over 70% of French electricity is produced by nuclear power," the paper says.

"No one claims that green energy sources will totally replace nuclear power," it says, but adds that energy sources such as solar and wind power and geothermics offer credible alternatives.

"By choosing to invest in renewable energy sources", the paper says, "governments will offer a minimum number of guarantees to future generations, will reduce fossil fuel pollution, which destroys our atmosphere, and enable third world countries to have access to technology which is less harmful for the environment".

Democracy under threat

Under the headline "The smile of autocrats", Germany's Die Zeit reflects that the election uncertainty in Florida will give rise to schadenfreude among rulers throughout the world who have had to listen to lectures from the US about the virtues of democracy.

It sees a growing danger in "dictators, semi-democrats and political cynics" promoting a "post-modernist theory of relativity" according to which democracy in various guises has its shortcomings everywhere.

"Illegal ballot papers, human error and manipulated vote-counting" can happen anywhere, "whether in a parliamentary democracy in Germany, a presidential democracy in America, a Russian-style pseudo-democracy or a people's democracy along Chinese lines".

"This theory of relativity can be a sharp tool in the hands of dictators," the paper writes.

"The chaotic election in America's sunshine state not only damages the standing of the United States; it endangers the distinctive nature of democracy throughout the world."

The Hungarian Magyar Hirlap asks about the "boundaries of democracy" in connection with US reports on certain voters reportedly punching the wrong box in the presidential election.

"Are helpless voters part of democracy? Does their will or interest matter? Where are the limits of the level of social exclusion and the lack of knowledge below which it is better not to allow people to vote?" the paper ponders.

The paper adds that in modern democracies "the group of people eligible to vote and who actually turn out on the day of the election and cast valid votes" exercise democracy "in the name of whole nations".

And this is "a painfully small proportion", the paper says, adding that "so far no better solution has been found".

Anti-fascist protest

In an editorial entitled "Anti-neo-Nazi offensive", Madrid's El Pais writes that days after the masses descended on to Berlin's streets and those of other German towns to protest against fascism, legal moves to ban the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) are being firmed up.

The paper says that the decision of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's cabinet to ask the country's Constitutional Court to outlaw the party "has its risks".

If the court decides not to ban the party, the paper says, "this would not only mean a propaganda victory for neo-Nazism, but also increased difficulty in hunting down militant groups".

ETA on the run

Almost all the Spanish dailies covered Monday's anti-ETA protest in the Basque city of San Sebastian.

Following a failed ETA bomb attack on two reporters last week, hundreds of Spanish journalists took to the streets to protest against ETA intimidation.

Diario 16 leads with the headline "Basque journalists confront ETA".

Madrid's El Pais writes in an editorial that the journalists, protesting against the "dictatorship of ETA", urged all institutions and those in the EU, to defend freedom of expression which, as they put it, "is under threat more than ever in this corner of Europe".

The escape of Felix Alberto Lopez de la Calle, supposed ex-number two of ETA, from a French hotel where police had him under 24-hour watch causes a stir on most front pages of Spain's dailies.

"Scandal as ex-number two ETA escapes" cries the headline of La Razon, with Madrid's El Mundo following suit: "Ex-number two of ETA escapes from the French hotel where he was confined."

Meanwhile, Diario 16 highlights the farcical element and leads with "ETA suspect escapes, climbing out of window using bedsheets".

Britain's EU charm offensive

"The British government on Monday launched a new charm offensive in order to convince a country which is still very reticent about the advantages of European construction," says a report in Luxembourg's Tageblatt.

It says that the campaign was started in a speech by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook who tried to hammer home the idea that: "Europe represents an opportunity for Britain."

It adds that Tony Blair was due to take up the flame during a speech to bankers in the City of London on Monday night and that one of the aims is to put paid to a certain number of "euromyths".

However, the paper adds: "But even though the government is showing itself to be clearly European, it is not going as far as saying that it is clearly pro the euro."

It says: "Joining the single European currency remains a politically sensitive subject in Britain and even causes reserves within Tony Blair's cabinet."

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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