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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 June, 2003, 05:56 GMT 06:56 UK
European press review

A range of European Union-related issues attract comment from papers across the continent today. German, Austrian, Scandinavian and Russian papers discuss the British Government's decision to postpone its decision on adopting the euro. Poland's 'yes' vote in its EU entry referendum is widely welcomed.

Czech papers focus on their president's refusal to disclose his position on the Czech Republic's entry into the EU. And German papers are divided by their country's involvement in Afghan peacekeeping.

Britain's euro decision

A commentary in Germany's Die Welt argues that the British Government's decision to delay adopting the euro is justified.

"It's bitter for Europe," the paper says, "but, in the present context, good for the island's economy".

The UK's euro debate is mainly about politics
Der Standard

It would be foolish for Britain to join the euro as long as the continent refuses to lower taxes or liberalise its labour markets, it says.

But the paper regrets that, in addition to economic considerations, the euro is also the subject of "a violent row" between Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown.

"Neither the venerable pound nor the euro deserve to be used to score points in domestic political quarrels."

"The [UK's] euro debate is mainly about politics," is the verdict of Austria's Der Standard.

"Opponents of the euro are against any further EU integration; advocates hope it will lead to a change of course in European integration."

It would be close to political suicide for Tony Blair to hold a euro referendum now

Although the euro zone is incomplete without Britain, the paper believes "this is a minor defect, not a disaster".

Denmark' Information says the UK chancellor's decision on the euro was expected, but wonders how it should be interpreted.

"Gordon Brown claimed that it was EU-positive and represented a 'black day' for all anti-Europeans.

"This is difficult to see," the paper says. "The case is rather that Tony Blair wants to avoid steering straight into a major political defeat."

"With the majority of major British newspapers - and the Conservative opposition - against, with his personal credibility at a low and with a finance minister who wants to lead the project personally and decide the time [of entry], it would be close to political suicide to hold a euro referendum now."

God save the Queen! Including on British banknotes
Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Helsinki Hufvudstadsbladet, a Swedish-language daily in Finland, remarks on what it sees as the British public's lack of enthusiasm for the euro.

"For many British people getting rid of the pound is almost equivalent to getting rid of the monarchy."

A link to the monarchy is also made by a commentary in Russia's Nezavisimaya Gazeta, titled "God save the Queen! Including on British banknotes".

"It is much nicer to think that the British cabinet could not take any other decision at a time when Her Majesty [Queen Elizabeth II], whose image graces British banknotes and coins, is marking the 50th anniversary of her coronation," it says.

Welcome, Poland

The result of Poland's referendum on EU membership, in which 77% voted "yes", is welcomed by Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which says the Polish people should be congratulated.

Poland has found its place in Europe

"Now almost nothing stands in the way of EU membership with equal rights, which will give Poland the opportunity to make up for the delay in its development."

The result is also welcomed by the Scandinavian press.

"Poland has found its place in Europe," Norway's Aftenposten declares.

"In the 1980s, and in the 1790s, the Polish people and their leaders recognised that Poland's place was with Western Europe. On both occasions such an alignment was unacceptable to the rulers in Moscow," the paper says before concluding that the referendum result finally assures Poland of its "rightful place in the European family".

In an increasing number of EU countries, EU membership is being seen as the project of society's elite

"Welcome, Poland" is the headline of an editorial in Denmark's tabloid BT.

But the paper says "the low turnout is thought-provoking and worrying".

"Despite the overwhelming majority in favour of membership, a minority of the population actively said 'yes' to the EU," it points out. "Therefore, the referendum result cannot remove the image of the EU's key fundamental problem:

"In an increasing number of EU countries, EU membership is being seen as the project of the society's elite. For the ordinary citizen it is difficult to establish a relationship with the EU."

Stockholm's Expressen describes the result as "wise and historically important", and welcomes Poles who may want to work in Sweden.

Czech silence

The Czech president's refusal to say how he will vote in the republic's referendum on EU membership attracts criticism.

Vaclav Klaus's attitude to the EU has been barely intelligible for a long time
Mlada Fronta Dnes

A commentary in Lidove Noviny asks: "Why does President Vaclav Klaus refuse to say whether he will vote 'yes' or 'no' on the Czech Republic's entry into the EU?"

Mr Klaus tends to be consistent in his opinions, it says, and a look at his past statements on the EU points to a clear "yes". So, the commentary concludes, it should not be a problem for Mr Klaus to reiterate this.

But in the view of a commentary in Mlada Fronta Dnes, the president's refusal to state his position should not surprise anyone as "his attitude to the EU has been barely intelligible for a long time".

German anxiety

The killing of four German soldiers in a suicide attack in Kabul on Saturday draws comment from several German papers.

Only increased involvement by the international community can prevent Afghanistan's peace agreement from collapsing
Die Tageszeitung

Berliner Zeitung questions the wisdom of plans to increase the German army's involvement in Afghanistan.

The paper sees the decision as a part of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's new policy of trying to repair Germany's relationship with the US.

"If the German army goes into [Afghanistan's] provinces, all the resistance - which so far has been focused on the Americans - will also be directed against the Germans," it warns.

Another Berlin daily, Die Tageszeitung, disagrees.

"Only increased involvement by the international community can prevent the peace agreement from collapsing," it says.

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

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


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