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Last Updated: Monday, 9 June, 2003, 04:46 GMT 05:46 UK
European press review

A Paris daily calls on the British prime minister to take the task of selling the euro to his public as seriously as he took selling the war against Iraq. But the very methods by which the Iraq war was justified before the world are questioned by a Spanish paper today.

The European Union's new draft constitution draws comment from French and German papers. And a daily in Hungary compares that country's political culture to an unripe banana.

Euro or not

With just a few hours to go before British Chancellor Gordon Brown's statement in parliament on whether the UK is ready to join the euro, the Paris-based International Herald Tribune expresses dissatisfaction with the UK government's handling of the issue.

Tony Blair needs to devise a detailed plan for a transition to the euro and then sell it to the British public
International Herald Tribune

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, it says, "has acted like a suitor who consults an abacus before deciding on marriage".

The paper is also sceptical of what it terms Chancellor Gordon Brown's "ostensibly objective" economic tests for euro entry.

Warning that "continued procrastination would be damaging to both the euro zone and Britain", the paper calls on Tony Blair to demonstrate greater conviction towards the goal of euro entry.

"The prime minister needs to devise a detailed plan for a transition to the euro and then sell it to the British public with the same passion he showed in selling the war in Iraq."

'Credibility damaged'

Another paper in another country, however, questions the methods by which the leaders of the US, UK and Spain justified the war against Iraq to their publics.

The US, UK and Spain cited a threat [from Iraq] that has yet to be demonstrated in order to justify a pre-emptive war
El Pais

The Madrid daily El Pais asks if intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and its "never-proven link" with al-Qaeda was manipulated.

President George W Bush, Mr Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, it believes, have lost credibility in what it calls this "pitiful episode".

"As in the tale of the boy who cried wolf, the trio cited a threat that has yet to be demonstrated in order to justify a pre-emptive war," the paper concludes.

"Will anyone believe them next time?"

German interests

Germany's participation in the French-led peace mission to the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo is described as a potential trap by Berlin's Welt Am Sonntag because, the paper says, it may not be in Germany's national interest.

The paper suspects that France's top politicians are talking about humanitarian aid but thinking of oil, gold and diamonds.

"The UN, the EU and the German foreign minister are taking part in the peace mission without raising any objections," it says.

According to the paper, it is high time for Germany to define its own foreign policy priorities.

"Our own economic interests must play an important role," it says.

The new constitution

A few European papers consider the progress towards an EU constitution.

D'Estaing's draft constitution outlines a new Europe
Le Monde

The head of the Convention on the Future of Europe, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, has gained sufficient consensus to present his draft constitution to the forthcoming Thessaloniki summit, the Paris daily Le Monde observes.

"Just a few days ago such a result looked illusory," it says, pointing out that initially 18 of the 25 current and future EU members opposed the plan.

But after a career full of political glories the former French president could not resign himself to failure, the paper says.

"With a mastery and sometimes an arrogance that irritated the Convention's members, he succeeded in breaking up alliances, dividing his adversaries and finally obtaining broad approval."

"[D'Estaing's] plan outlines a new Europe," the paper says, arguing that new features such as a stable EU presidency and a Commission president elected by the European Parliament will strengthen Europe's institutions.

No Europe without God, Mr Giscard!
Welt Am Sonntag

But, it notes, national governments have yet to give their seal of approval and could destroy the progress made by the Convention.

"Those who carry out this job of demolition would exclude themselves from the future Europe," the paper concludes.

Germany's Welt Am Sonntag is exercised by the draft constitution's lack of reference to God.

"No Europe without God, Mr Giscard!" screams the headline of a commentary that says Valery Giscard d'Estaing's unwillingness to mention God in the constitution's preamble has caused "outrage".

"Rightly so," it says, "because your secularist outlook is not representative of a Europe that now includes a country as deeply marked by religion as Poland."

A reference to God is justified, the commentary argues, because fundamental European values could not have been conceived without Europe's Christian heritage.

Banana republic?

Hungary's Nepszabadsag expresses concern over the "immaturity of the Hungarian political class" for membership of the EU.

Hungary has lost its status as the leading student of reforms
Nepszabadsag

"The political elite has been diligently providing evidence" for the charge, the paper says, listing recent domestic battles for media control, slander cases involving politicians and disputes over Hungary's Nato role.

"Hungary has lost its status as the leading student of reforms."

The country is getting dangerously close to the "bottom group" in central and eastern Europe, the paper warns, where "political culture, public administration and the media are as unripe as a Hungarian banana".

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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