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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 05:41 GMT
European papers assess Georgia 'revolution'

Papers across Europe look at events in Georgia after the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze over the weekend, swept out of office following huge protests.

Many draw comparisons with what happened in Europe at the end of the 1980s and consider Georgia's future after its 'velvet revolution'.

'Velvet revolution'

France's Liberation does not mourn the departure of the Georgian president.

"Shevardnadze... went as far as he could in the confiscation of Georgian power without firing on the crowd like his Azeri neighbours," it says.

The events in the streets of Tbilisi are a late response to radical change in the autumn of 1989, they are a revolution
Berliner Zeitung

The paper welcomes what it calls "this democratic success" but warns it must not be overestimated, because the future is so uncertain.

"The ship Captain Shevardnadze wanted to commandeer is going under," it says, in reference to Georgia's wrecked economy and endemic corruption.

And the paper ironically highlights the key role of "former big brother" Russia in negotiating Mr Shevardnadze's exit.

"The Kremlin, after sowing discord and doing everything to make Georgia ungovernable, has the magnanimity to calm things down at the close of play."

Germany's Berliner Zeitung says developments in Georgia mark a revolution of the kind seen in other European states at the end of the 1980s.

"The events in the streets of Tbilisi are a late response," it says, "to radical change in the autumn of 1989, they are a revolution".

It recalls that electoral fraud also triggered an eruption of popular anger in former East Germany, Lithuania and later in Serbia.

And the paper hopes Georgia's future will be "wonderfully free of violence" - just like with recent events.

Georgia, Russia and the West

Switzerland's Le Temps sees very different forces at work, suggesting Georgia's political upheaval was "too well choreographed to be spontaneous".

The handover of power, according to the paper, was "probably the subject of a top-level arrangement between the Kremlin and the White House".

The struggle for dominance in the Caucasus will continue despite the changed political conditions in Tbilisi
Tages-Anzeiger

"The two parties have too much to lose in the adventure not to give in to the temptation of organising the events."

Spain's La Razon suspects Washington played a significant role.

The paper notes the US and other Western countries have already invested millions of dollars in an oil pipeline, while Russia has tried to oppose this and maintain its traditional influence on the country.

"The suspect victory of the president and a party considered pro-Russian," it says, "have sparked off a revolt behind which can be sensed the hand of the US."

The Swiss Tages-Anzeiger says Mr Shevardnadze's departure will not change Georgia's "fundamental strategic weakness" faced with Russian and Western interests.

"The struggle for dominance in the Caucasus will continue despite the changed political conditions in Tbilisi."

And it calls for a UN supervisory role to maintain stability and deal with Russian and US interests or, the paper warns, the country will face "impending disintegration".

'Revolutionary cycle'

Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung highlights similarities with events in Belgrade three years ago but questions the democratic credentials of the Georgian opposition.

"Calls to take the president's residence are not evidence of a democratic attitude," it says, adding that the opposition is united only by its disapproval of Mr Shevardnadze.

The true revolution still lies ahead of the Georgians, ahead of all those who cheered so loudly when the former chief reformer, Shevardnadze, left
Die Presse

"A shared will for anything seems to be practically out of the question at the moment," the paper believes.

Another German paper, Die Tageszeitung, also shares doubts about the Georgian opposition.

"This is not a case of democratic forces fighting against a terrible dictator but, at best, a question of chasing an elected but corrupt president from power early in order to jump on the gravy train oneself."

While Austria's Der Standard sees the beginning of "a new revolutionary cycle" it rejects comparisons with events in Prague in 1989 or Belgrade in 2000.

"Ten years after their independence, the Caucasus republics are delivering their verdict on new governments, not on the former colonial masters from Moscow" the paper argues.

And also in Austria, Die Presse warns that a functioning democracy is not created solely on the back of the "frenzy of overthrowing a dictator".

This can only be achieved when public services are free of corruption and when citizens accept their country's system of laws.

"The true revolution still lies ahead of the Georgians, ahead of all those who cheered so loudly when the former chief reformer, Shevardnadze, left," it concludes.

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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