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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 06:00 GMT 07:00 UK
European press review

Papers across Europe remain transfixed by the row over Italy's nominee for the post of European commissioner.

Swiss papers look at the implications of an expected influx of workers from the European Union's newest members, while some finger-pointing by the Spanish defence minister leaves the press there divided.

And a French daily gives plans for the compulsory teaching of English a cautious welcome.

Tussles in Brussels

The incoming president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, offered MEPs a compromise on Thursday as he tried to defuse the row over his choice as justice commissioner, Rocco Buttiglione, whose views on homosexuality have split the European Parliament.

Many European papers foresee little respite for Mr Barroso despite his efforts.

The question of a conflict of interests... arises in matters of morality as much as it does on economic issues

In France, Le Figaro points out that the parliamentary groups which have pledged to support him over the issue can only deliver 296 votes between them, not enough to secure a majority in the 732-seat assembly.

By refusing to discard Mr Buttiglione, the paper says, Mr Barroso "has gambled on a bout of arm-wrestling with the parliament".

Liberation is adamant the new commission chief is making "a serious mistake" in sticking with Mr Buttiglione.

The paper asks whether the Italian, a devout Catholic conservative, can be expected to uphold European laws with which he may privately disagree.

"The question of a conflict of interests," it argues, "arises in matters of morality as much as it does on economic issues."

In Spain, El Pais believes Mr Barroso's decision to stand by Mr Buttiglione has left him with "two bad alternatives".

On the one hand, his new team at the commission could be rejected by MEPs, or, on the other, he could be kicking off his presidency "from a position of weakness".

Either of these, it suggests, would damage the European Union as it tries to ensure its new constitutional treaty is ratified by each member state.

There will certainly be a majority for Barroso's commission, and the parliament will once again have made itself look ridiculous
Die Welt

Germany's Die Welt thinks that neither side in the dispute should expect to gain much from the affair, but argues the European Parliament has far more to lose.

"Eventually," the paper predicts, "there will certainly be a majority for Barroso's commission, and the parliament will once again have made itself look ridiculous."

In Poland, Gazeta Wyborcza sees Mr Barroso going to war with the parliament, and looks ahead to the real possibility of MEPs refusing to give their approval to his new team of commissioners.

"That," the paper warns, "would raise the threat of an unprecedented crisis in the union."

But Hungary's Nepszabadsag believes that some form of mutually acceptable compromise will be found, and offers its own perspective on the workings of the European Union.

"The way decisions are taken in the EU," it explains, "is by someone vetoing the best solution, the aggrieved party vetoing the second best, and then agreement being reached on the third best."

Labour fears

In Switzerland, concern is growing among trade unions over an agreement which will extend the right to work there to nationals from the European Union's new member states.

The fight against dumping is more urgent here than in other countries
Tribune De Geneve

According to Le Temps, the unions have demanded tighter restrictions on employment conditions to protect their members from what the paper calls "wage-earner dumping".

If no such measures are taken, the paper says, "they will attack the extension of free circulation by referendum".

And a No vote there "would deal a fatal blow to bilateral relations with the EU".

Tribune De Geneve, meanwhile, has no doubt the agreement with the EU will have an impact on Swiss wage levels.

But because the country has few collective agreements, no minimum wage and lower levels of protection for workers than the EU, "the fight against dumping is more urgent here than in other countries", it points out.

While those factors may make the Swiss labour market more flexible, the paper warns that "undercutting could easily find fertile ground here".

Blame game

Spanish Defence Minister Jose Bono took the country's previous government to task on Thursday over a plane crash in Turkey in 2003, in which 62 Spanish peacekeepers returning from a mission in Afghanistan died.

Blame in the matter has been subject to political manipulation

Mr Bono said that the Defence Ministry, headed at the time by his predecessor Federico Trillo, had chartered an unsuitable aircraft in order to save 6,000 euros.

For ABC, the comments show that "blame in the matter has been subject to political manipulation" by the ruling Socialists.

The paper said the party was guilty of turning the issue into "a tool of political harassment" against their political opponents, the Popular Party.

La Razon also thinks it can see "ulterior political motives" at play, concealed as "the pretence of a noble determination to get to the bottom of things".

But for El Pais insists that Mr Trillo "should be asked to have the decency to resign his parliamentary seat, at least as moral compensation for the families of the 62 Spanish soldiers who died in the accident".

Lingua franca

France's Le Monde devotes its front page lead and editorial to an education report which advocates the compulsory teaching of English in French schools, on the same footing as French and mathematics.

The recommendation "is going to spark quite a controversy", the paper predicts.

"Despite the cries of protest that can already be heard," it adds, "let us take the risk of calling it good common sense."

In exchange for this show of common sense, however, the paper calls on EU education ministers to make the teaching of two foreign languages compulsory in their countries.

If this could be done, it says, "the imperialism of the English-American language" would give rise to "much less anxiety".

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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