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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 June, 2003, 03:02 GMT 04:02 UK
European press review

Oil washing ashore in southern Sweden prompts the press there to call for increased regulation of maritime traffic in the Baltic - and to blame the Danes.

German papers consider the case of a Muslim teacher who has been banned from wearing a headscarf in school.

Elsewhere, the Czech Republic faces problems as it prepares to join the European Union.

Baltic slick

The oil slick which is currently being washed onto beaches in southern Sweden from the wreck of a Chinese freighter which sunk off the Danish island of Bornholm on Saturday preoccupies the Swedish press.

Stockholm tabloid Aftonbladet describes the sinking of the freighter as "yet another warning".

"The wreck off Bornholm contains 1,600 tonnes of oil, but the cargo was fairly harmless potash."

"The oil which is now threatening the coast of Scania (southern Sweden) is bad enough," the paper said.

"The next accident might involve a fully loaded tanker, with possibly 70,000 tonnes of sticky and toxic heavy oil. The effects would be catastrophic."

What in the world were the Danish rescue leaders thinking about?
Sydsvenska Dagbladet

Aftonbladet says single-hulled tankers must be phased out in the Baltic and that the financial responsibility for accidents must be clearer.

But this requires the Baltic to be classified as a specially sensitive marine area under International Maritime Organisation rules.

"The Swedish Government missed the chance to submit such an application in April, so the aim now is that the countries around the Baltic Sea should reach agreement when environment ministers meet on 25-26 June."

"Resistance will be great, especially from Russia," the paper says, "but the Baltic Sea can be protected if the EU hardens its tone with the Russian oil magnates."

Malmoe's Sydsvenska Dagbladet bemoans the pollution affecting the beautiful stretch of coast, which it describes as the "Provence of Scandinavia", and wonders how the accident could happen in a calm sea with good visibility.

"And what in the world were the Danish rescue leaders thinking about?" the paper asks, referring to the fact that a Swedish coastguard vessel offered to tug the Chinese ship into shallow water an hour after it was in collision with a Cypriot vessel but had to ask the Danes, who did not reply for three-and-a-half hours - by which time the vessel had sunk.

The paper adds that only one of four Swedish environmental ships was allowed to enter Danish waters to deal with the oil on Sunday - the other three had to wait until the oil had spread into Swedish waters - and that the Danes refused the Swedes permission to investigate the wreck using underwater cameras.

"It isn't strange that resolute Scanians think what Ernst-Hugo Jaeregaard said out loud in Lars von Trier's TV series The Kingdom: 'Danish devils!'"

Headscarf row

Germany's Der Tagesspiegel says the country's constitutional court must reverse lower court rulings which have banned a Muslim teacher from wearing a headscarf in school.

Having to look at Mrs Ludin's headscarf is a smaller infringement than taking it away from her.
Der Tagesspiegel

One day after Germany's highest court began to hear the case brought by Fereshta Ludin, the paper argues that it is different from a previous case in which the constitutional court ruled that the display of crucifixes in classrooms could violate the rights of pupils.

"The classroom wall on which a crucifix has been put up is the state. Mrs Ludin is not the state," it says.

The paper notes that the state is not protected by fundamental rights, whereas Mrs Ludin is.

"The only thing which can be set against this is the fundamental rights of pupils and parents - and having to look at Mrs Ludin's headscarf is a smaller infringement than taking it away from her," it argues.

The Berliner Zeitung agrees, pointing out that there are no known cases in which an education authority has asked Christian teachers not to wear crucifixes.

"How would an education authority react if a Jewish teacher decided to teach wearing a kippa?", the paper asks.

It concludes that the problem is not the headscarf but the way in which education authorities and the lower courts have interpreted it.

'Frightening people'

A commentary in the Czech daily Pravo has two reasons for taking issue with the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS).

For one thing, they are "frightening people", it says, with claims that joining the European Union will dilute the Czech identity.

The ODS, the paper stresses, "should say where, when and how Belgium, Portugal, Finland, Ireland and other small union members have lost theirs".

The second reason concerns what the paper sees as the Civic Democrats' suspect motivations.

"A negative result in (next month's) referendum (on joining the EU)," it points out, "would almost certainly mean the end of Vladimir Spidla's government", which is already affected by having to "push through unpopular financial reforms".

"What if the ODS is trying to fry its election ham-and-eggs on this (European) fire?" the paper wonders.

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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