BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 14 September, 2001, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
European press review

Many editorials in Europe's newspapers urge a measured response to the devastating attacks on New York and Washington.

There is a general view - with some reservations from Germany - that Nato is the ideal vehicle for this response.

The 'revenge impulse'

Under the headline, "The grief, the strength", the French La Croix captures the mood of a nation in its front page picture of a young American woman whose face is an etching of grief and steely resolve combined in equal measure. In her outstretched hand, a photograph.

"Requiem for the missing 5,000", is Liberation's headline over a photo of young Americans holding candles in the New York night. "We know who did it", says the headline in Le Parisien, superimposed on a photo of the rubble under which thousands lie dead.

"America mobilises the world", reads the headline running along the entire front page of Le Figaro, over a picture of the American president inspecting the damage to the Pentagon. "George Bush," the paper says, "is in the process of building a broad coalition, and already a rapprochement with Russia is emerging."

"The only reservations," it adds, come from Europe, "where restraint is being urged."

Reflecting on what it calls "the horror" of Tuesday's attacks, the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano acknowledges the West's debt of gratitude to the United States for its role in two world wars and for standing up to what it says was "the most terrible political and ideological system ever designed for world domination".

"The more the reason," the paper adds, "for those who have always nurtured a grateful friendship towards the United States (...) to voice their concerns and hopes for the future."

One such concern and hope is that Washington does not give in to what the paper calls "the revenge impulse" which, it stresses, "is not to be confused with the desire for justice".

"It is the task of politicians, diplomats and international institutions," the paper says, "to confront and resolve existing problems by removing their causes and... breaking the fatal chain of action and reaction."

But the French weekly L'Express feels that America would not understand if its dead were not avenged.

"Such an act of war," the paper says in an editorial, "cannot be allowed to go without a riposte of some kind."

"George W Bush, despite his unfamiliarity with international affairs," it adds, "must now find the appropriate response."

As for the Europeans, "how could they fail to show their solidarity with a people who twice came to the rescue in the last century?" it asks.

The question of how to show this solidarity is pondered by the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which points out that "Nato's need to display a united political front and a willingness to act is as great as it was during the Cold War".

For its part, the paper adds, "the United States needs the support of reliable allies".

"This explains President George W Bush's great interest in the support promised by the North Atlantic Council," it points out.

Tuesday's mass slaughter has reminded the Europeans "that they are joined with the United States in a community of fate" based on "shared cultural roots and attitudes", the paper believes.

"If the atrocities committed on Tuesday heighten this awareness and... increase the appreciation of the transatlantic alliance... then this is a shimmer of light in the darkness of death and destruction," it concludes.

German caution

However the Berliner Zeitung fears that Germany is ill-prepared for the new policies required by Nato's invoking of its mutual defence clause.

The paper points out that even participation in what now seems like a relatively harmless United Nations mission in Somalia caused a major controversy in Germany. And now a heavy military strike against Afghanistan or other countries looks likely, it stresses.

"Germany will take part in it in one way or another - it will have to," the paper concedes. But for what it says are "historical reasons", Germany will always have to be cautious and preserve constitutional obstacles to any use of its army.

Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung agrees that Germany must throw in its lot with the Nato partners.

"The time when wealthy Germany could adopt a count-me-out position is over once and for all," the paper says.

But Berlin's Die Tageszeitung is obviously worried.

"Germany has taken a first step in the direction of war," the paper says, "and the government has kept this fact well-hidden from its citizens."

It warns that Nato's decision follows what it calls "a logic of escalation", since the involvement of a large number of countries in reprisals could make them more severe.

"This could in turn provoke a drastic reaction from the terrorists and their supporters," the paper says.

Bush urged to act prudently

Vienna's Die Presse expects the United States to "react militarily" but urges President Bush to weigh his options carefully.

"A massive mis-hit would be fatal," the paper warns, because it would create the impression of American helplessness in the face of terror and also weaken solidarity in Europe and elsewhere.

It points out that the present situation opens the door to a plan for Afghanistan developed jointly with Russia, China and Pakistan, as well as for new efforts to resolve the Middle East conflict.

"Rash military action could slam this perhaps historic window of opportunity shut in no time," it says.

No 'crusade'

"United States considers military attack", "Thousands Fleeing Afghanistan", "Slovakia to support West's action", are just a few of the headlines in the Slovak Narodna Obroda, whose America correspondent says that "a military attack... is only a matter of time".

The paper also quotes the Slovak prime minister as pledging support for "all steps to be undertaken by the United States and Nato if the allies decide to retaliate against the terrorist attacks under Article Five of the Washington Treaty".

"The punishment," urges the Spanish El Pais, "must not turn into a crusade beyond the limits of the fight against terrorism." Getting this right, the paper believes, "will be more complex than all the planning for the (Western coalition's) counter-offensive in the Gulf War".

The action of the United States and its partners, it adds, should take the form of "a global police action of the greatest magnitude, even if it means the removal of any given regime which collaborated with the terrorists".

"The French Government," the paper points out, "is right in asking the United States to ensure that the world is not more dangerous after the punishment than it is now."

President Bush, says Madrid's El Mundo, "has the duty to listen to the governments of whom he has asked for support and solidarity", because "only by so doing will it be possible to avoid the risk of a military response going far beyond the demands of prudence and justice".

The problem of intelligence

Still in Spain, La Razon believes that the old rules of warfare no longer apply. "The threat now comes from hooded men in far-away places," the paper says. "Just as the battleship was superseded by the aircraft-carrier," it adds, "the concept of cross-border warfare must give way to a more sophisticated intelligence war - in both senses of the word (intelligence)."

The problem is, according to the French Le Monde, that the domestic and external arms of American intelligence are coming under growing criticism for seeming as surprised by the attacks as the general public.

"Even at this time of national unity," the paper says, "the fact that neither the CIA nor the FBI had the slightest inkling of the approaching tragedy is bound to call their methods into question."

"The CIA is well aware of its deteriorating image," it adds, "but it is not just by sponsoring TV series glorifying its agents that it will recover, especially if such agents are increasingly absent from the world's hot spots."

The organisation "will have to reinvent itself", the paper believes, "if it is to face the new threats... increasingly to be found within an America whose borders are growing more and more porous".

Two-pronged response needed

"Bring the murderers to justice, but tackle the causes of these outrages," urges London's The Independent.

It agrees that America is entitled to try to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice. However, it adds, "lashing out indiscriminately against any state, group or individual... would only help recruit a new generation of martyrs prepared to die in a holy war."

Reducing the likelihood of future attacks, the paper points out, requires an understanding of what drives people to "such a pitch of righteous anger that they believe killing thousands of civilians, and themselves, is both necessary and virtuous".

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

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories