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Monday, 26 August, 2002, 05:14 GMT 06:14 UK
European press review

Today's papers are unimpressed by the televised debate between German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his rival Edmund Stoiber.

There is a note of pessimism regarding prospects for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. And the Czech papers see cause for concern over the handling of recent chlorine leaks.

Dull debate

Duesseldorf's Handelsblatt stifles a yawn following the Schroeder-Stoiber debate - the first of its kind in the country.


Observers thought this duel... would make the election campaign more dynamic - maybe it was too much to expect

Le Temps

"Those habitually suffering from insomnia won't need to take any sleep-inducing medicine after this broadcast," it says.

And the paper doesn't award either competitor the upper hand.

Mr Schroeder, it says, proved himself once again to be a shrewd media professional while Mr Stoiber, it maintains, displayed a convincing "aggressiveness" and knowledge of the facts.

Frankfurter Rundschau criticises the media hype surrounding the event.

"The media are throwing a party all for themselves with all their reaction pieces," it says.

And it adds that the debate failed to breathe new momentum into the election campaign.

The debate, Switzerland's Le Temps says, was "flat" and "lacked rhythm".

"Observers thought this duel... would make the election campaign more dynamic. Maybe it was too much to expect," the paper writes. "Viewers are entitled to feel frustrated."

Poor prospects

Madrid's El Mundo says the start of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg has been marred by the absence of US President George W Bush.


Johannesburg offers the planet a great opportunity to define its future, but given the size of the challenges, the prospects are not promising

El Mundo
This means it is up to the EU to come up with "tangible results", the paper says.

But it adds that "given the size of the challenges, the prospects are not promising".

In the Netherlands, Rotterdam's Algemeen Dagblad does not expect a major breakthrough at the summit either, mainly, it says, because the US is too busy fighting the war against terror.

"The world's greatest energy consumer has altogether different things to attend to," the paper says. "Bush is conspicuous by his absence."

France's leading daily Le Monde takes a more upbeat view and calls on the United Nations to address the "explosive" issues of access to water and management of energy resources.

It urges the international community to give "systematic preferential treatment" to the poorest countries.

"This", the paper writes, "would merely be reparation for the unfair distribution that took place during the last century."

Call for openness

The Czech press voices its dismay at the way chlorine leaks from a plant near Prague have been handled by the company's management.

Lidove Noviny concedes that even in the best-managed companies, accidents do happen. But it also chides the Czech firm Spolana for having the "worst information policy out".

Hospodarske noviny says while chemical works may be unattractive, their products are nevertheless needed.


Spolana has come to symbolise the untrustworthy enterprise that barely communicates either with the public or with the government

Mlada Fronta Dnes
The paper however adds that people have the right to demand that the risks involved in production are kept to a minimum and that the factory play an "open and fair game". Spolana, it says, clearly does not abide by these rules.

Mlada Fronta Dnes says after the events of the past few days, Spolana's company slogan claiming to be a "reliable partner" looks "rather like a bad joke".

During the floods, the firm "has come to symbolise the untrustworthy enterprise that barely communicates either with the public or with the government", the paper says.

In a separate article, the paper comments on earlier remarks by the head of the Spolana investigating commission, who drew a parallel between the accident and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

As regards the human cost, the paper says, his remarks were "fortunately greatly exaggerated".

However, with regard to the "failings" of the state and the company, the Chernobyl comparison appears to be "painfully accurate", it says.

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

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


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