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Monday, 25 November, 2002, 06:36 GMT
European press review
Joerg Haider's far-right Freedom Party's crushing defeat in the Austrian general elections is the focus of much attention in papers across Europe.

Switzerland's rejection of stricter asylum laws also provokes much debate.

A Czech paper views the government's main tasks following the Nato summit.

And in France Ellen MacArthur's win in the Route du Rhum single-handed transatlantic yacht race is hailed.

Far-right falls

Austria's Die Presse views the conservative People's Party convincing win in the general elections as "first and foremost the victory of [party leader] Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel".

Voters have mercilessly punished the Freedom Party


"He has long worked himself up to becoming the most credible politician in the country," it says.

But it is the crushing defeat experienced by Joerg Haider's Freedom Party (FPO) in the polls which attracts most comment.

"The FPO was basically voted out of office," says the independent Der Standard, adding it "has been thrown back more or less to its 1986 position".

"Terrible and probably final" is how the centre-right tabloid Kurier describes the FPO's demise.

"The voters have mercilessly punished the Freedom Party," it says, "for the fact and the manner in which it gambled away its chance to be a serious party of government."

Neighbours cheer

In Germany the Berliner Zeitung hails the election result.

According to the paper, the result "has shown that there are far too many votes for the extremist populism of Joerg Haider, but by far not enough to make him a danger to Austria or even to Europe".

The EU's policy of political sanctions against Austria when the FPO first entered government is the reason for the FPO's defeat, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung believes.

"Pressure from outside forced Vienna to keep Haider, the leading light of the Austrian right, away from national power," it says.

In the Czech Republic, Lidove Noviny also views the impact of the Austrian result on European affairs.

"The Czech-EU integration effort will now not be stopped by Vienna," it says.

Close vote

Action by another People's Party, this time in Switzerland, makes the front page of all the country's dailies.

The proposal by the right-wing Swiss People's Party's to drastically tighten asylum laws "has been rejected by a whisker", writes the Tribune De Geneve - as only 50.1% voted against the plan in Sunday's referendum.

On Sunday evening Switzerland appears deeply divided

Le Temps

The paper stresses that the results are only provisional and that "over the next few weeks a surprise cannot be ruled out".

It cites Justice Minister Ruth Metzler, as saying she wants to "respond to the fears" of those who voted "yes" in the referendum.

A cartoon in the French-language Le Temps shows Ms Metzler standing at a border crossing clutching "a new asylum law".

"You are lucky it is me and not the People's Party," she tells two asylum seekers, as a border guard holds open the barrier leading into the country.

'Deeply divided'

A commentary in the same paper focuses on the slim margin between the two camps.

Switzerland has saved itself from shameful damage to its liberal and humanitarian principles

Neue Zurcher Zeitung

"On Sunday evening Switzerland appears deeply divided," it says.

But no matter how close-run the referendum was, the German-language Neue Zurcher Zeitung is sure of one thing:

"Switzerland has saved itself from a mess over its asylum policies as well as shameful damage to its liberal and humanitarian principles."

Nato newcomers

As the Czech Republic is invited to join Nato, the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes looks at the challenges facing the country.

The NATO summit is also good for Hungary

Magyar Hirlap

"The Czech Republic did well as the host of the 21-22 November summit," writes the paper, adding "now, however, Prague must strive to score further points on the international political scene".

The paper lists gaining support for EU accession, lowering the state budget deficit and job creation as the government's main tasks.

"It is evident that the country cannot be moving from one internal political turbulence to another," the paper warns.

The Hungarian Magyar Hirlap believes that the decisions taken at the Prague summit are "good for Hungary" as well.

The admission of new members - including three of Hungary's neighbours - to what it calls this "club of stability and democratic control" can only strengthen democracy in countries the suitability of which has been questioned by some, it says.

Sailing to victory

In France, the victory of British yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur in the monohull class of the transatlantic Route du Rhum race is celebrated in an editorial in Le Monde.

"This woman who is always seeking perfection, has realized a little feat by winning in a monohull before the multihulls for the first time since the contest was first held in 1978," it writes.

The paper concludes that Ellen's "choice of a boat more appropriate for the contest smiled on her".

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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