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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 April, 2003, 05:07 GMT 06:07 UK
European press review

The Danish press focuses on a documentary about the country's European Union presidency which has soured relations with Germany and Turkey.

Finland gets a new government, but the party which narrowly won the election pays a heavy price for the prime minister's post.

Elsewhere, German papers view proposed changes to military service, and a French jailbreak by helicopter is also covered.

Documentary storm

In Denmark a television documentary on the Danish EU presidency, in which the Danish foreign minister tells Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen that German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has said that Turkey will never join the European Union, preoccupies leader columns.

Berlingske Tidende says maximum openness about political negotiations is "not only positive... it is also necessary."

"But openness should of course not be administered so that you unwittingly offend anyone on the way, and this applies in particular to foreign powers. This is why the case of the documentary is... so unfortunate."

The paper says at least three mistakes have been made: the exchange about Turkey should have been cut out, the premier should not have approved the film without consulting the foreign minister, and the prime minister should have sent letters to the parties involved beyond Denmark's borders when he became aware of the unfortunate business.

"It isn't any more serious than that," the paper says.

The paper urges its readers not to be fooled by the Danish opposition "sharpening its claws".

"Claiming that the episode decisively harms Denmark's interests is greatly overshooting the mark," it says.

Tabloid BT is more critical, headlining its editorial "Say sorry, Fogh!"

The paper says it understands why Mr Rasmussen is so pleased with the programme as he was at the centre of a event in world history at the time.

"But, but, but," the paper says, "it appears with great clarity that the prime minister's respect for his foreign minister takes up a very, very small space."

"Another thing is that the TV film, which was shown first on Swedish and later on Polish TV, has attracted international attention and triggered something reminiscent of a diplomatic crisis in relations with Germany."

The paper says the film "reveals nothing other than what everyone who is interested knew in advance, namely that the EU's member countries speak with two tongues in association with Turkey."

"Fogh should perhaps consider making an apology and realise that he has let himself be seduced by his happiness over a successful film which makes him a glowing star in a drama in world history."

Finnish government

Finland's Swedish-language Helsinki Hufvudstadsbladet says the country's Centre Party has paid a heavy price for the prime minister's post in forming the new coalition government.

"It was expected that the Centre would pay a price for the post of prime minister, but the submission is almost total," the paper says.

"All the Social Democrats' eight ministers head their ministries. The two most important posts beside the prime minister, the finance and foreign ministers, were already promised to the SDP. The Education, Social and Health, Communications, Employment, Interior and Justice Ministries all get Social Democratic leadership.

"Of the Centre's eight ministers just four are bosses of a ministry... The SDP's grip on influence and initiative will be strong."

German military

Germany's Die Welt criticizes the government's plan to exempt certain categories of young men, including those who are married, from military service.

The paper points out that one group of young men, those who are fit and single, will still be called up even if they don't want to serve.

"Such measures are steadily increasing the injustice of the conscription system," it warns.

The paper argues that in light of what it calls "this farce" it would be best to end conscription altogether and it advises the government to look abroad for alternatives.

"The British have just shown in Iraq what a small but powerful professional army can do," it says.
Britain showed in Iraq what a small but powerful professional army can do
Die Welt

Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung disagrees, arguing that the reasons for conscription have not changed since the end of the Cold War.

According to the paper, they are "the need to recruit suitable soldiers and the army's close links with society ('citizens in uniform')".

But it warns that the current proposals are leading to the de facto abolition of conscription "by decree", although in theory this would require constitutional change backed by a two-thirds majority in parliament.

French jailbreak

The front page of France's Le Parisien is dominated by the headline "Another escape..." above the photo of a prison in southern France from which three inmates escaped by helicopter.

France Soir leads on the same story, highlighting the fact that the incident was over "in three minutes".

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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