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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 December, 2004, 11:46 GMT
European press review

The dramatic finale to the Romanian presidential elections provides the focus of many European editorials on Tuesday.

And there is heated debate over the obstacles to Turkey starting EU membership negotiations - particularly in France.

Romanian election drama

Romanian opposition leader Traian Basescu's 11th-hour victory against Prime Minister Adrian Nastase in the presidential run-off is greeted with enthusiasm in Romania, but other countries' papers are not so optimistic.

"Against all the odds," says Romanian daily Ziua, "Basescu clinched a spectacular victory in the tightest presidential contest in Romania's history."

Describing Mr Basescu's post-victory TV appearance as "outstanding", Ziua says he spoke "with the aplomb and confidence of a seasoned politician".

But it warns that "just as with Nastase's arrogance, the danger is that Basescu relies too much on spontaneity and intuition".

Jurnalul National welcomes Mr Basescu's statement that "the EU membership process should be the country's top priority".

Forming an EU-orientated government, it says, is "paramount".

Azi, meanwhile, says Mr Basescu has a difficult task on his hands in trying to form a government while no one party has a parliamentary majority.

"We now have two political poles," the paper says, noting Mr Basescu may have difficulty forming a comfortable relationship with the smaller parties he needs for a parliamentary majority.

"It will make the formation of a new government a very difficult process," it says.

Polarisation?

There is little sign of hope either in Austria's Die Presse.

The paper says it is "at least doubtful" whether the new leader will be able to speed up the reforms required for EU accession.

"But based on Romanian experience," it adds, "it is rather unlikely".

Elections in Romania, the paper observes, are often won by the opposition.

However as soon as a new leadership gets in power, "it in turn gets embroiled in dark machinations".

Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is similarly downbeat.

The paper expects that Mr Basescu will have to pander to what it calls the "right-wing extremist" Greater Romania Party.

"Since the Social Democratic Party is likely to make for a strong opposition, the country is threatened by polarisation and destabilisation," it warns.

"Radical change in Romania has begun, but its outcome is highly uncertain."

Hungary's Nepszabadsag looks at the outcome from the perspective of Romania's large ethnic Hungarian community.

"It is virtually immaterial whether it is the Romanian centre-left or centre-right that meets the requests and demands of the Hungarian community", it says.

Europe's Turkish challenge

The French newspaper Le Figaro comments on France's decision to ask Ankara to admit that the killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during World War I amounted to genocide.

"The French authorities are trying to give assurances to French public opinion and the elected representatives ... who are hostile to Turkey joining the European Union."

Noting that the request will be put to Turkey during membership talks, the paper says France has "never before established such a clear link" between the Armenian deaths and talks on Turkey's membership of the EU.

The paper recalls that French-Turkish ties were strained in 2001 when France termed the killings "genocide".

"By demanding that Ankara recognises the Armenian tragedy of 1915, Paris risks reopening an old wound," the paper warns.

Denmark's Jyllands-Posten is more concerned about Turkey's neighbour, Cyprus.

In calling for improved relations on the island at a crucial moment for Turkey, Cyprus is "obviously attempting to take Turkey hostage in an attempt to have a Cyprus solution imposed without contributing anything itself," the paper believes.

"The precarious situation shows that it was a major mistake to allow the Republic of Cyprus into the EU as long as the problem of the divided Mediterranean island had not been solved."

For Sweden's Expressen, "old Europe" fears that Turkish membership will scupper European integration are misplaced.

"The EU is above all a peace project", it explains.

"Turkey offers an opportunity to tear down the wall of the 21st Century - the one between the West and the Muslim world".

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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