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Last Updated: Friday, 23 July, 2004, 05:30 GMT 06:30 UK
European press review

Two papers on Friday praise newly-elected European Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso for a good first impression, but still have reservations.

Elsewhere, the acquittal of six German executives in a corruption trial, the shortcomings of the former Spanish premier and the new French climate plan are under scrutiny.

But in Russia, diplomatic incidents are in the news.

New broom

Several papers consider Thursday's election of former Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso as the new president of the European Commission.

"The Portuguese know how to surprise people, and... Jose Manuel Durao Barroso is a good example of that," Slovakia's Pravda remarks.

The judge has pronounced a moral verdict about the behaviour of the defendants which could hardly have been any clearer
Sueddeutsche Zeitung

Although the paper notes that leading 24 European commissioners will not be easy, it stresses that "from the very outset he made clear his intention of being 'a playing captain'."

Austria's Der Standard says Mr Barroso made a good impression during his presentation in the European Parliament.

But it adds that he needs political priorities in order to become a strong president.

"Apart from vague signals in all directions and his defence of the Iraq war, Barroso failed to offer anything of substance," it remarks.

"His strong performance in the European Parliament was a beginning, but no more."

Pyrrhic victory?

Several German papers focus on the acquittal of all six defendants yesterday in a high-profile corruption case centred on the legality of bonuses paid to Mannesmann executives after Vodafone bought the company in 2000.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung says the trial has fulfilled its purpose despite the acquittal of the head of Germany's largest bank, Joseph Ackermann, and all his co-defendants.

"The judge has pronounced a moral verdict about the behaviour of the defendants which could hardly have been any clearer."

The defendants may have scored a judicial vistory - morally they are seen as losers because of greed and abetment
Frankfurter Rundschau

According to the judge, awarding the bonuses was not in the interest of Mannesmann and illegal under German stock law, although it did not amount to a criminal offence.

The paper believes the fact that the head of Deutsche Bank was found to have violated German stock law is "explosive".

"The trial will change the behaviour of top executives at German companies," it predicts.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says the acquittals "can reassure nobody".

"The defendants will have to live with the stigma that the court has reproached them with serious violations of stock law."

It adds that the trial has given the public what it calls "alarming insights" into the management structures of German companies as well as the work of "supposedly objective prosecutors".

The Frankfurter Rundschau agrees that the reputation of the defendants has suffered.

"The defendants may have scored a judicial victory - morally they are seen as losers because of greed and abetment."

It argues that in order to prevent similar cases in the future, the law may have to be changed to ensure complete transparency with regard to corporate pay.

"Then the public can and should arrive at its own verdict."

The climate legacy

The French daily Liberation casts a sceptical eye over the government's climate plan.

It observes that scientists from around the world have "sounded the alarm in vain, predicting... flooding in the north, water shortages in the south and millions of displaced people", because, it says, "nobody is listening".

This episode shows that Aznar has confused himself, his post and the state
El Pais

The paper sees the government's "recanting" over the climate plan as typical of the avoidance policy practised by politicians in the developed world.

Although Environment Minister Serge Lepeltier originally "looked credible... after a gestation period... of months and months, his plan announced yesterday boils down to just a few symbolic little measures".

The paper condemns the indefinite postponement of "the only real measure initially planned" - the pollution tax on dirty vehicles - as "spinelessness".

Going, going, gong

Madrid's El Pais reports that former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar paid a lobbyist $2m of Spanish public money to secure him a medal from the US Congress.

"This episode shows that Aznar has confused himself, his post and the state," the paper says, also recalling his daughter's earlier wedding in a palace and his alleged removal of secret documents.

The Barcelona daily El Periodico agrees.

"This new episode... reflects the egoism that pervades him and his known tendency to monopolize the state."

Fly in the ointment

Russia's Izvestiya reports a diplomatic spat yesterday over the upgrading of a Russian military aircraft by a British firm.

The usually amiable and peaceable British bobby for some reason decided that the Russian senator looked suspicious

"The third day of the Farnborough-2004 air show was marked by scandal."

"The row broke out over a Mi-24 attack helicopter" which was exhibited at Britain's BAE Systems pavilion even though the Moscow helicopter plant had not authorized the UK to refit the aircraft, it says.

But according to Russia's Defence Ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda, there was more to the matter than that.

It says the Russian state arms trading company Rosoboroneksport had signed agreements with French and British companies to carry out joint projects on options for upgrading Mi helicopters.

"So it emerges that the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing," the paper comments.

Mistaken identity

The Rossiyskaya Gazeta informs its readers of another faux pas; the "frisking" of Russian senator, Mikheil Margelov, by London police.

"This almost diplomatic row will evidently not cause the London police any problems. Margelov is not planning to complain or cause a fuss."

Trud says the incident occurred in Whitehall, "literally 100 metres from the British prime minister's residence."

"The usually amiable and peaceable British bobby for some reason decided that the Russian senator looked suspicious."

But, the paper wonders at the criteria for being stopped by the police.

"The British counterterrorism law for some reason does not extend to the representative of Chechen extremists, Akhmed Zakayev," it remarks.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta is inclined to agree.

"London apologizes to Margelov. The Federation Council's main international politician, who was searched like a terrorist, has once again seen for himself the unpredictability of western democracy"

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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