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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 October, 2004, 07:15 GMT 08:15 UK
European press review

A green light to Turkey to begin EU membership talks receives a cool reception from much of Europe's press on Thursday.

Papers in Romania and Bulgaria do not let their governments off the hook, despite being on track for joining the EU.

And in Russia, fare-dodgers are in for a surprise.

End of Europe?

"Turkey's accession would destroy the European house as we know it," Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says.

It warns of a "lack of communal feeling" towards Turkey that the paper says existed between Europeans "even when they were at war with each other".

Whether the people of Europe want it or not, the paper says, they "should be told that the issue is not 'enlarging' the EU but transforming it".

Swiss newspaper Le Temps agrees.

It says Europe has to realise that admitting Turkey also means "seeing shattered forever the possibility of a United States of Europe - the federal dream at the heart of the European project".

Austria's Die Presse calls the debate on Turkey "absurd".

Nobody can predict in which direction Turkey will develop

And it blames London and Berlin for being the driving forces behind the overall decision.

While EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen simply carries out German policy in Brussels, it argues, Britain is happy to see Turkey join in order to undermine efforts to deepen European integration.

For France's leading daily Le Monde, the Turks are no "ordinary candidates" for membership.

It notes that Turkey has sparked controversy in all EU member states.

"Never before have there been so many precautions taken prior to admitting a new member," the paper writes.

The Czech Republic's Pravo fears the unknown future.

"Islamic fundamentalism is neither dead, nor entirely marginal in Turkey," the paper cautions.

"Nobody - not even President Chirac or Chancellor Schroeder - can predict in which direction Turkey will develop."

Another Czech paper is more optimistic on this front.

"If governments in EU countries can be headed by Christian democrats," Mlada Fronta Dnes argues, "why couldn't one be led by Islamic democrats?"

But the paper still harbours some doubts over democracy and civil liberties. "If soldiers can force a premier to resign and disband his party as happened in Turkey a mere seven years ago," it says, "then the doubts are substantiated."

Unwelcome conditions

Germany's Die Tageszeitung calls the EU Commission's recommendation "right and good".

"It would be even better if the 'yes' were accompanied by a slightly smaller 'but'," the paper adds.

For the paper, Turkey's accession is the EU's "biggest project", which requires courageous politicians - courage which it regrets was not much in evidence yesterday.

"People can only make a success of the difficult process of integrating Turkey," the paper argues, "if they really wish to see it come about". This, it adds, "must be made clear" by politicians.

Spain's El Pais also welcomes the decision, but criticises the conditions set by the European Commission, which it points out "have been imposed on no other country".

It baulks at the "permanent discrimination" against Turkey in imposing long-term limits on Turks' movement within Europe.

Spain, it says, is "one of the notable exceptions" in a Europe where "many countries have major reservations" over Turkey.

"Pat on the back"

"You're in!" Sofia's Troud newspaper rejoices, after the latest EC reports confirm Bulgaria is on track for joining the EU.

"Bulgaria's accession may be delayed only if the country does nothing further to prepare for membership," 24 Chassa writes.

Dnevnik newspaper calls it a "last pat on the back", but warns the government of further work ahead.

We do not want to become the rotten apple of Europe

"This report marks the end of a period of talking and making promises to Brussels, and the start of a period of strict control over their fulfilment," it says.

Bucharest's Azi welcomes Romania's own report, which it says "soothes our anxiety".

The paper acknowledges the report's "harsh criticism" of the lack of reform and extent of corruption, but says "we are all anxious to see it sorted out".

Cotidianul, on the other hand, believes the report underestimates its country's problems.

The paper worries that if the decision to allow Romania to join the EU is solely a political one, "none of our profound problems will ever be resolved".

"Even if the EU has given Romania a diplomatic handout," it argues, "we must improve our political and economic situation if we do not want to become the rotten apple of Europe".

Tickets please

Lastly, a Russian paper recounts how paid-up passengers on suburban trains in Moscow were forced to wait on the trains while their fare dodging fellow travellers were escorted to ticket desks in a major clampdown.

"The initial results are horrifying", a Moscow railway employee tells the Moskovskiy Komsomolets newspaper on condition of anonymity.

"You won't believe it, but about 50% of passengers are still happily riding the trains without paying, in spite of all our measures!"

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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