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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 06:58 GMT 07:58 UK
European press review

Papers in France look at a power struggle between the president and his finance minister while east European dailies feel slighted by Washington.

A Moscow daily is alarmed by the situation in the North Caucasus and the Germans believe their national football team is well past its "play-by" date.

France's Le Nouvel Observateur says President Jacques Chirac has offered to back Nicolas Sarkozy as a candidate for the leader of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party provided he resigns as finance minister.

But the paper believes that with this "qualified" support, the president has placed "a major restriction on the very ambitious Nicolas Sarkozy".

Liberation agrees.

Mr Sarkozy is undeniably the British government's French blue-eyed-boy
Le Monde

"What looks like an extended hand is in fact an arm-wrestling challenge," it says.

"After several months of believing that he could deter [Sarkozy] from a position of strength," it says, Mr Chirac "realised that all he could do was try to deter him from a position of weakness".

Following two bruising elections, it continues, "the Chirac camp is no longer in a position to convince activists and elected representatives that the future is not on the finance minister's side".

Le Monde focuses on apparent differences between the two in their views on the Franco-German pair as Europe's driving force.

The paper quotes Mr Sarkozy as saying that the Paris-Berlin link should not be "exclusive" and that France must work with Germany, Britain, Italy and Poland "on an equal footing".

According to the paper, Mr Sarkozy "is adamant that the German model is currently not necessarily the best one to follow, and that other alliances must be built."

Mr Sarkozy "is perceived by the German authorities as a troublemaker" and "a threat to the cosy French-German relationship", it says.

But he "is undeniably the British government's French blue-eyed-boy", the paper adds, arguing that London "is attracted by his dynamism, his bluntness, and an economic outlook much more liberal than that of most French leaders".

A Swiss daily, Le Temps, writes that Mr Chirac has set a "trap for the 'traitor' Nicolas Sarkozy".

Mr Sarkozy has been "caught in a pincer movement", the paper says, and the president "pretends to support him... all the better to try and stifle him".

Scanty rewards

The Hungarian Nepszabadsag is disappointed by the outcome of Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy's visit to Washington earlier in the week.

This time we only got to the promises stage - even though they were promises made by the president quote here
Nepszabadsag

"No treaty of eternal friendship was signed," the paper says.

Since the prime minister had "spectacularly proved his solidarity with America by signing the Letter of the Eight in open defiance of Brussels and Paris over the war in Iraq", the paper says "it would have been nice to have something concrete to show for it".

But "this time we only got to the promises stage - even though they were promises made by the president".

A commentator in Warsaw's Trybuna is equally unimpressed.

The daily says that Washington's introduction of additional visa requirements for Polish visitors contravenes President Bush's earlier promises of the simplification of the visa policy.

"What seemed to be about to get much better will become much worse," it says.

"The Poles have special reasons to be dissatisfied," it adds, pointing that Poland is a strategic partner of the US and should stand on a par with other EU members.

Chechen stalemate

President Vladimir Putin announced on Thursday that Russia was stepping up its military presence in the volatile Northern Caucasus region.

Russian newspaper Novyye Izvestiya says the situation is "spinning out of control".

It notes that the Russians are "sceptical .. not just about the prospects for an early resolution to the long-drawn-out conflict, but also about the very possibility of finding a common language" with those they perceive as "recalcitrant Chechens".

Football shame

Several German papers see the national football team's early exit from the final stage of Euro 2004 football championship as an accurate reflection of its current abilities.

Just as in German politics .. football in Germany isn't really going anywhere
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Die Welt says that coach Rudi Voeller, who resigned after Tuesday's defeat by the Czechs, has been unable to provide the team with "a clear tactical concept or a highly developed playing culture".

"Since the Euro-triumph of 1996," the paper notes, "we have beaten no major European nation in a competitive match."

Germany, it argues, "is now no better than average".

The Berliner Zeitung says it will be difficult to have a world-class team again in time for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

"German players can run, as could certainly be seen in their defeat against the Czech Republic," the paper says, "but as far as technical ability is concerned, the decline has not been stopped."

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung draws a parallel with politics:

"Just as in German politics and business some things are making only painfully slow progress, so football in Germany isn't really going anywhere."

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.





EUROPEAN PRESS PROFILES
 

SEE ALSO:
The press in France
29 Apr 04  |  Europe
The press in Germany
11 May 04  |  Europe
The press in Russia
01 Apr 04  |  Europe
The press in Hungary
29 Apr 04  |  Europe
The press in Poland
29 Apr 04  |  Europe
The press in Switzerland
17 May 04  |  Europe


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