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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 04:40 GMT 05:40 UK
European press review

Friday's papers continue to examine the major events of the week, dominated by ongoing recriminations over Monday night's plane crash in southern Germany.

An Austrian daily pokes holes in the image of the Swiss while the German press vents fury at President Bush's America.

A debt-ridden French media giant is described as part of the country's cultural heritage by a cabinet minister.

And a daily in Russia ponders the value of the euro to the country.

What's happened to the Swiss?

Austria's Der Standard sees the presumed circumstances of Monday's mid-air collision over southern Germany as a blow to Switzerland's reputation.

The impression is growing among their neighbours that the Swiss are far too selfish

Der Standard

"The suspected human and mechanical flaws" at the Swiss company managing air traffic in the airspace where the collision occurred, "have shaken trust in the almost proverbial Swiss precision", the paper says.

It believes that last year's fire in the Gotthard road tunnel had already damaged the perception of Switzerland abroad. Moreover, it adds, "the impression is growing among their neighbours that the Swiss are far too selfish".

"While refusing to co-operate with the European Union on issues of banking confidentiality," the paper points out, the Swiss "expect other European countries to co-operate in keeping away immigrants".

"Switzerland's special way is leading it up a cul-de-sac," it concludes.

Culture under threat

The prospect of French cultural assets coming under American control worries the government

Le Figaro

Wednesday's eviction of Jean-Marie Messier as boss of the French media conglomerate Vivendi Universal "has reassured neither the financial markets nor the defenders of France's cultural heritage", who fear that the group "may now be dismantled", according to Le Figaro in Paris.

"Vivendi Universal is involved with the press, book-publishing, film and television, in short, with culture," the paper quotes French Culture Minister Jacques Aillagon as saying. "We must not be dispossessed of a sizable part of our heritage," he added.

"The prospect of seeing a great many French actors and cultural assets coming under American control worries the government," the paper notes.

They [western investment banks] played their full part in this false euphoria


Still in France, L'Express ponders the implications of recent disclosures of accounting malpractices in several major US companies and at Vivendi itself.

Their bosses, the paper says, "in order to hold on to their jobs and fantastic salaries" tried "to make shareholders believe that profits would grow faster than the economy", even when they were no longer making profits.

Many of the big Western investment banks who, as the paper puts it, "loaned large sums to these heavily indebted companies", are likely to join the shareholders in the victims list. But "they played their full part in this false euphoria" with the advice they gave to savers, it points out.

The paper argues that a solution to the crisis can only be found in "better control over the capital markets... at an international level".

German indignation

"The spat started by the United States over the International Criminal Court," is examined by the German Die Tageszeitung.

As the paper sees it, America is acting "irresponsibly" in "using Bosnia as a lever to exert political pressure on the United Nations".

Europe must stand up to America

Frankfurter Rundschau

"If the international community wants to assert constitutional and democratic principles," it stresses, then all its member states must, "play by the very same rules they are promoting, or else they will lose their credibility".

The Frankfurter Rundschau criticizes Washington's general attitude to the rest of the world.

The paper believes that what it calls America's "policy of flexible coalitions" conceals America's view of itself as "a superpower that will decide... who is to rule where".

The paper sees the 11 September attacks in the United States as merely the "catalyst" for a position already planned on the basis of "a simple concept". This is that "the US should tolerate no other power than itself, and should not allow its hands to be tied by multilateral organizations".

But Europe must not stand idly by, the paper warns, because, "the new American policy is no temporary blip but a veritable sea change", it argues.

"Europe must stand up to America," the paper urges. "It is time we pulled ourselves together."

The euro... who cares (in Russia)?

The euro's improved performance appears to have earned it admiration in the rouble's homeland, where savings are traditionally kept in dollars.

According to Moskovskiy Komsomolets, those it calls "our main experts on everyday financial matters", meaning, the paper explains, "the little old ladies sitting on benches", now have a respectful attitude to the euro as it approaches parity with the dollar.

But respect may not suffice, because, "the whole economy is bound up with the dollar", so the euro is unlikely to catch on.

"If all Russians held accounts in European banks," it says, "or at least regularly spent their weekends in Brussels or Paris, reports from the currency markets would become as interesting as the weather forecasts."

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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