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Last Updated: Friday, 21 January, 2005, 06:35 GMT
European press review

President George W Bush's second inaugural speech dominates European papers on Friday. Elsewhere, a French paper welcomes a proposal on immigration quotas, and a German daily is bemused by a new game apparently sweeping the south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

'Madman with a mission'?

"Messianic, triumphalist and arrogant," is how Spain's El Periodico assesses the tone of Mr Bush's speech.

The paper says Mr Bush's "abuse" of the word "freedom" and "his invoking of God's will" are a "bad omen" in view of "how such ideas have been manipulated and applied in relation to Iraq".

At the start of his second term, it says, "this disturbing Bush" is unlikely to get the opponents of the Iraq war around the world to change their mind.

In Germany, Die Tageszeitung says the speech has sent "a chill down the spine of anyone unwilling to become accustomed to listening to this madness".

"To describe Bush as a madman with a mission at the head of a state bristling with weapons", the paper says, "does not really get us any further... and, although insulting, it is no longer even particularly original".

Great unknowns

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung says "the whole world is seeking an answer to the question of whether George Bush will really be a changed president in his second term".

In the paper's view, the speech "signalled at least that, despite the bitter reversals in Iraq, his sense of mission has not been broken".

Mr Bush chose to distance himself from the speech of fear in favour of the denunciation of hatred and a drive for freedom
El Pais

El Pais suggests that simply counting the number of times Mr Bush used the words "freedom", "liberty", "tyranny" and "democracy" "may well reflect what his vision may be", adding that the word "Iraq" was notably absent from the speech.

Pointing out that Mr Bush also avoided the words "terror" and "terrorism", the paper concludes that he "chose to distance himself from the speech of fear in favour of the denunciation of hatred and a drive for freedom".

"And in distancing himself from unilateralism," it adds, "he proffered a hand to his allies."

The daily predicts that the first two years of the second term "will be decisive, and most likely far from tranquil, both in the USA and the rest of the world".

The Czech Hospodarske Noviny is confident Mr Bush will stick to his goals.

"However," the paper adds, "what is not certain at all is whether he intends to achieve them in a different way, and whether he can be more successful than up to now."

It believes that the Iraq war has "exposed the limitations of America's present line and its impact on the transatlantic relationship".

"Bush's re-election is not the worst option .. considering the personal relationship with President Putin
Krasnaya Zvezda

For Russia's Krasnaya Zvezda "Bush's re-election is not the worst option," considering "the personal relationship" that has developed between him and Russia's own president, Vladimir Putin.

"The public assurances given by the White House chief about being amiably disposed towards Putin," it argues, "must count for something."

"So there is hope that despite the cold draughts of failure to understand the imperatives of Russia's current development, the level of political cooperation will - at least - not collapse," the paper concludes.

Finally, Hungary's Nepszabadsag takes a pragmatic approach. It warns Europeans to avoid stereotyping President Bush either as "a god" or as "a monkey", and instead, "treat him as the world leader that he is for their own benefit".

Mr Bush, the paper stresses, "will be the president of the USA for the next four years, and whatever he ruins, he will ruin it for us too". So "it is worth keeping our fingers crossed for him, for mere selfishness if for no other reason", it points out.

Desirable immigration

In France, Le Monde welcomes a debate on immigration quotas, sparked off by a proposal from the leader of the ruling UMP party and former cabinet minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who last week urged quotas based on immigrants' qualifications and the country's labour needs.

The paper argues that immigration should be seen as an opportunity rather than a setback.

The initiative is welcome, it adds, "because it invites the French to see immigration as something they need", not something they "must endure".

For over two decades the debate on immigration has been clouded over by the urgency of the fight against racism
Le Monde

But the paper also expresses some reservations.

"Is it desirable for the North to 'go shopping' among the technicians and professionals whom the South needs for its own development?" it wonders.

'Cowpat Roulette'

Back in Germany, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reports that a complaint has been filed over possible psychological damage being inflicted on cows by a new kind of gambling which is spreading fast in the south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

The game is called "Cow Bingo" or "Cowpat Roulette" and all it requires is a field divided into numbered squares - and a cow - it explains.

Spectators bet on their chosen numbers, the cow is led into the field, and the winner is the player who picks the square where Daisy deposits the first cowpat.

But the local agriculture department is pondering whether Cow Bingo "offends the dignity of ruminants", the paper says.

"At the current stage of scientific knowledge," it quotes a ministry official as saying, "there is no way of accurately determining a cow's feelings as it does its business in front of a large and possibly cheering crowd".

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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