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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
European press review

European papers comment on the rare joint news conference given by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his chancellor Gordon Brown to set out their views on the euro.

The roles of German peacekeepers in Afghanistan and French ones in Africa also come under scrutiny.

Blair-Brown 'double act'

The joint news conference given by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his chancellor Gordon Brown on Tuesday gets ironic treatment from Switzerland's Le Temps.

Britain's euro soap opera is set to run and run without surprises
Le Temps

The paper likens "the double act" to a pair of famous American TV detectives from the 1970s.

"The Starsky and Hutch of the third way," it says, "gave a show of pro-European enthusiasm before the international press".

"As Blair knows he will sink without Brown," and "Brown knows he is nothing without Blair," the paper concludes that Britain's "euro soap opera is set to run and run without surprises".

American TV viewers "may be more accustomed to seeing Blair as the shoulder-slapping buddy of President George W Bush", a commentary in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune notes.

But Mr Blair observed "frostier conventions" with his finance minister, it says.

During the hour-long news conference, "[Blair] and Brown avoided eye contact and seemed to laugh together only to rebut suggestions of mutual hostility".

Europe's peacekeepers

Papers in Germany and Austria consider Europe's involvement in peacekeeping operations worldwide.

Those who send soldiers into a conflict must be sure that they will be successful
Sueddeutsche Zeitung

Referring to the recent killing of four German peacekeepers in a suicide attack in Kabul, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung argues that "the question of whether it was possible to prevent the bloody deed through greater caution and better protection of the soldiers must be answered".

"There is one binding standard for any decision [to deploy peacekeepers]," the paper contends, "namely the answer to the question: Is the problem at hand worth the life of a soldier?"

The objective of any military operation abroad, it says, must be achievable and justifiable, politically as well as morally.

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung agrees.

"Those who send soldiers into a conflict must be sure that they will be successful."

Without the old colonial powers, West Africa would have been engulfed by anarchy by now
Der Standard

The paper doubts this is true of the French-led mission in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"It is short-sighted to have no exit strategy and no plan for a political resolution of the crisis," it warns.

According to Austria's Der Standard, Paris embarked on the "high-risk mission" chiefly to boost its international prestige.

But the French were able to establish a fragile ceasefire in Ivory Coast, the paper points out.

"Without the old colonial powers, West Africa would have been engulfed by chaos and anarchy by now."

Divided we stand

A commentary in France's Nouvel Observateur agonises over what it sees as the many divisions preventing a strong Europe from emerging.

A strengthening of the Franco-German axis is the only way to save the European ideal from American neo-imperialism
Nouvel Observateur

"Since the beginning of this century," it begins, "we have witnessed the triumph of British diplomacy in its systematic endeavours to destroy Europe and the failure of French diplomacy's attempts to make Europe an independent power."

And the "national idiosyncrasies" of Europeans, it believes, are again surfacing.

"Spain is nursing an old inferiority complex by hanging on to the Anglo-Saxons' coat-tails... Italy has become so deeply Americanised that it no longer has a will of its own.

"Poland, so often invaded in the past, is delighted at the prospect of invading Iraq in its turn... And with Britain looking after America's interests, France indulges its superiority complex with arrogant attitudes that exasperate its neighbours."

But Germany, it notes, is emerging from its present "lethargy". This, in the commentary's view, is an important development because "a strengthening of the Franco-German axis is the only way to save the European ideal from American neo-imperialism".

Russia's day

On the eve of Russia's 13th Independence Day, which marks the signing of Russia's declaration of sovereignty in 1990, a commentary in the leading daily Izvestiya frets that the Russians just don't care enough.

Russian politicians get confused when talk turns to the Russian national anthem
Izvestiya

It contrasts what it sees as America's strong national pride with the apathy of Russians.

"Any ordinary American Joe from the poorest districts knows the date [of America's Independence Day] and the words of the US national anthem by heart," it says.

"Over here, even the politicians cheer up journalists by struggling to remember what Russia's declaration of sovereignty is, and they get even more confused when talk turns to the Russian national anthem."

According to sociologists, 18% of the country's population will mark Russia's independence this year - the highest figure since 1990, it reports.

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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