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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October, 2003, 05:49 GMT 06:49 UK
European press review
The gains made by the far-right Swiss People's Party in Sunday's elections dominate European papers, while a leadership reshuffle in the right-wing Freedom Party draws comment in neighbouring Austria. A German daily welcomes Europe's mediation efforts in Iran, and in Russia, a paper probes an unorthodox solution to the capital's housing shortage.

Powerful orator

An editorial in Switzerland's Le Temps says the success of the Swiss People's Party, or SVP, has shattered political certainties.

The paper says the question now is whether party leader Christoph Blocher should get a second seat in the cabinet.

It argues that this would be justified.

Mr Blocher "embodies the party, he has formed its doctrine, he has ensured its success even in the French-speaking part of Switzerland", it says, adding that "everything points to this solution because the integration of the troublemaker is in accordance with the logic of the very particular institutions of this country".

The Swiss Tribune De Geneve shares similar concerns.

"The answer to the question must depend on a cold assessment of the political objectives of the powerful orator from Zurich and of his ability to integrate into a collegial government in a system of consensus."

Although the paper describes the party's exploits of people's fears for electoral ends as "odious", it argues that it would be wrong to describe Mr Blocher as a xenophobe.

He has never called a popular verdict or Swiss institutions into question and he is able to compromise, it adds.

Fortress mentality

A commentary in France's La Croix puts the success of the SVP down to a perceived threat to Swiss identity.

The paper describes the party's success as an "extremist upsurge" which "highlights the concern over identity that has taken hold of a country faced with an increasingly open world".

The SVP victory clearly strengthens the anti-European and narrowly nationalistic elements in Swiss politics
Der Tagesspiegel

It observes that throughout the election campaign the party told the Swiss the story of the country's "golden age".

"As in other European countries, where other populists have found an audience, nostalgic illusions thus continue to exude their venomous appeal," the paper concludes.

"Switzerland is no longer Switzerland," reads a front-page headline in Belgium's Le Soir.

The paper says that the Swiss People's Party conducted what it describes as a "xenophobic" and "law and order" campaign.

Berlin's Der Tagesspiegel says the victory "clearly strengthens the anti-European and narrowly nationalistic elements in Swiss politics".

"What's really dramatic about this fortress mentality is what it means for Switzerland itself. In the end only Switzerland itself suffers under the obsessive view that Europe needs Switzerland but Switzerland doesn't need Europe."

Austrian reshuffle

The latest reshuffle at the top of the Austrian right-wing Freedom Party (FPOe) and its repercussions on the government bring some sharp comment in the Austrian press.

Herbert Haupt, who resigned on Monday, is due to be replaced by Infrastructure Minister Hubert Gorach. While Mr Haupt remains nominally party leader, former party leader Joerg Haider's sister Ursula Haubner will become the party's managing chairwoman.

The actors have remained the same, the FPOe seems to be following the slogan: Never change a losing team
Der Standard

Vienna's Die Presse is pessimistic about the chances of the reshuffle improving the government's performance.

"Joerg Haider has finally taken the reins back into his own hands - which the coalition partners have noted with a gnashing of teeth," it says, suggesting that having too many leaders may prove to be counterproductive.

"Besides Vice-Chancellor Gorbach there is a party leader (Haupt), a managing party leader (Haubner) and an actual party leader (Haider)".

Der Standard agrees.

"The actors have remained the same, the FPOe seems to be following the slogan: Never change a losing team."

It concedes that the party may now have a better public image but adds that Mr Gorbach enjoys no more support among party officials than Mr Haupt did.

"For most of the officials he is an unpleasantly ambitious and vain careerist. In the final analysis Gorbach has however the same problem as Haupt: and that's Haider," it concludes.

Diplomatic excursion

As the German, French and British foreign ministers head to Tehran to discuss Iran's nuclear agreement, Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung hails the move as an "exceptional diplomatic excursion".

Europe is "flexing its foreign-policy muscles", it proclaims.

"The big three are strong when they articulate common interests," the daily says, adding that this could serve as a model for similar missions elsewhere.

"This foreign policy works with, not against the United States," it says. Washington is too powerful and hated for Tehran to be able to submit in a confrontation without losing face, it adds.

"Thus, the Europeans are acting as mediators and facilitating what may be the most important component in the diplomatic deal: nobody can lose."

Moscow's 'living dead'

And finally in Russia, Moskovskiy Komsomolets recounts the woes of a Russian pensioner who has spent years trying to prove that she exists.

The paper says that numerous certificates and tenant records show that Lidya Timofeyevna Kazaryan died in 1994, adding that it has now become almost impossible to disprove it.

Moscow is gradually becoming a city of the living dead
Moskovskiy Komsomolets

"Criminals have, it seems, prepared the most terrible grave for the pensioner - she is buried in paper," it says.

But Lidya Timofeyevna Kazaryan is not the only Muscovite to meet "this miserable fate", it adds.

The capital's prosecutors are investigating other "fictitious deaths", suspecting that these have been notified for one purpose only - to clear way for someone to take over their flats.

"Whereas previously the Muscovite's extremely painful housing shortage was resolved by contract killers, now it is done without spilling a single drop of blood. What is more, the person can go on quietly drinking, eating and going to the theatre, travelling on the underground and even not know that they are dead. Moscow is gradually becoming a city of the living dead."

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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