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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 04:59 GMT 05:59 UK
European press review

The German papers focus on Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's change of holiday plans, and an Italian paper begs tourists to visit despite the current row.

A Swiss court decides democracy is not always best, and Hungary hears a call for a return to knitted shopping bags.

German holiday

Germany's press is not convinced of the wisdom of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's decision to cancel his holiday in Italy.

The Frankfurter Rundschau says the chancellor shouldn't have allowed his holiday plans to be wrecked by, as the paper puts it, "political hooligans in Rome".

A holiday in Italy would have been in the national interest
Der Tagesspiegel

The paper concedes that Gerhard Schroeder's anger is justified after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi failed to call a junior minister, Stefano Stefani, to account over what it calls "sweeping insults against the Germans".

But it points out that any boycott of Italy would only hit the Italian tourism industry rather than the government.

"Precisely because the right-wing government in Rome has attacked all Germans indiscriminately, it would have been a sign of moral superiority not to make all Italians pay for it," the paper argues.

Der Tagesspiegel fears that the chancellor's cancellation means he won't get a proper rest.

"A holiday in Italy would have been in the national interest," the paper declares.

The players in the row are using outmoded systems of old nationalistic reflexes
Der Standard

On a more serious note, it interprets Gerhard Schroeder's decision as part of what it calls "his kind of populist foreign-domestic policies".

"It has little to do with a foreign or European policy which is guided by reason," the paper warns.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung sees common ground between Stefano Stefani and the German chancellor.

"Stefani, the popular press and now Schroeder, too, are fuelling the vague feeling that one country can 'insult' another," the paper says.

It suggests that this kind of thinking is typical of the 19th century, when it led to wars over national honour.

Austria's Der Standard agrees.

"The players in the row are using outmoded systems of old nationalistic reflexes," the paper says.

Italians who vote for Berlusconi are not all mafiosi and the Northern League is not the whole of Italy
La Stampa

It urges Gerhard Schroeder to occupy the moral high ground by breaking what it calls "the vicious circle of artificial and calculating outrage" and spending his holiday in Italy despite his cancellation.

Mr Schroeder might also have read the Wednesday edition of the Turin daily La Stampa before he took his decision.

In an article taking the form of a letter, the paper begs an anonymous German friend not to cancel his annual holiday in Italy.

"True, the psychological climate between Germans and Italians has not been... so aggressive and vulgar for many decades," it admits.

The paper says even Mr Stefani's failed marriage to a German and membership of the Northern League cannot fully explain what it calls his "odious and almost obscene displays of racism".

It insists that hoteliers and tourist guides in Venice, Tuscany and Liguria do not share such attitudes.

"The Italians who vote for Berlusconi are not all mafiosi and the Northern League is not the whole of Italy," the paper adds.

Swiss democracy

The Geneva daily Le Temps hails as "courageous" the Swiss Federal Court's decision not to put foreigners' citizenship applications to the public vote.

The magistrates ruled against what the paper calls "that direct democracy that serves a little too easily, in this country, as a supreme reference, a sacred cow, with solutions to all the problems of the Swiss," the paper says.

"Democracy is not the violation of the constitution by the majority," it adds.

And instead of sending the ball back into the politicians' court the judges played their role to the full, the paper says.

"The most direct lesson that can be learned... is that naturalization is no longer the act of sovereignty it used to be, but a more administrative than political decision," it adds.

Shopping for votes

The Hungarian daily Nepszabadsag targets the policy of the main conservative opposition party, Fidesz (Hungarian Civic Alliance), on women.

We are hardly ahead of Cambodia, Iraq or Albania concerning the proportion of women in politics

Fidesz chairman Viktor Orban cautioned the party's newly founded Female Section against feminism, and called on them "to knit a net around the party as strong as a shopping net", the paper says.

The paper contrasts this image of a net-like eastern European shopping bag (no longer in use) with the policy of the German conservative CDU-CSU's so-called Frauen Union, which, it says, "demands full equality in public life, work and family".

"The situation has hardly changed in the East", the commentary says, referring to party leaders on both ends of the political spectrum who see the role of women in politics mainly as one of maximizing votes.

"While we are hardly ahead of Cambodia, Iraq or Albania concerning the proportion of women in politics, there is nothing to be surprised about in all this," the paper concludes.

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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