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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 06:05 GMT 07:05 UK
European press review

Newspapers in France are grappling with the latest house fire that killed seven African immigrants in Paris. Elsewhere, there is comment on the difficulties facing the German ruling party, the celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of Poland's Solidarity movement and the Czech president's proposal to create a loose organisation of European states.

'Pyre of France's inhumanity'

"State of emergency" Liberation cries in its editorial, accompanied by a full front-page picture of one of Paris's "thousand slums".

A state of emergency must be decreed to secure the buildings that need renovating.

The paper is outraged that yet another fire has struck "victims... who are all badly housed, poor and immigrants from Africa".

"All burnt on the pyre of France's inhumanity," it despairs.

It accuses the authorities of "passing the buck to each other after each tragedy" and describes attempts at blaming immigration as "flagrant pandering to base public opinion".

"The victims are not the ones who are guilty," it argues.

"Aside from letting indifference win out over solidarity, French society cannot suffer this kind of decay," it continues.

It urges the government to swiftly tackle a shortage in public housing.

"A state of emergency must be decreed to secure the buildings that need renovating. And the creation of social housing must be elevated to the status of a great national cause," it demands.

Le Monde focuses on "the very powerlessness of the public authorities to prevent these disasters".

"Each time, it is families of modest means - destitute even - mostly of African origin, who become prisoners of dirty and overcrowded buildings," it says.

The daily shows little confidence that existing plans could sufficiently remedy what it describes as a poor housing record over the past two decades.

"It's better than nothing, but it is not quantitatively enough to satisfy the enormous demand for social housing nor the rocketing rise - apparently unstoppable - of rent and property prices," it says.

Fighting for future

As Germany's ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) prepares to unveil its pre-election manifesto, Der Tagesspiegel says the party is going through one of its deepest crises.

It predicts that, after the election, the party will be hit by a "reality shock" worse than the one suffered in 1982, when the government was brought down by a vote of no confidence.

This time around, it says, there will be no "attractive extra-parliamentary peace and environmental movement" but "burdensome left-wing competition in parliament".

Only those who give clear answers for this period may dream about the future
Frankfurter Rundschau

Above all, it continues, the party will have to face up to the truth about Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's social and economic reforms.

"His reform policies lacked legitimacy, in the first instance not among voters," the paper says, "but in the SPD, which was, as a result, unable or unwilling to convince its own supporters."

Meanwhile Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau accuses the opposition Christian Democrats of focusing on long-term visions while being too vague on its reform plans.

"Visions are a nice thing, important and indispensable," it says.

But, it argues, what is at stake is the party's plans for the four-year parliamentary term which will follow the elections on 18 September.

"Only those who give clear answers for this period may dream about the future," the paper says.

Solidarity legacy

With European leaders gathering in Poland to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of Solidarity, a French paper considers the significance of the movement often credited with playing a key role in the collapse of communism.

France's Le Monde argues that whatever Poland's current difficulties may be, Warsaw is asserting its role in Europe drawing from the Solidarity experience.

"From the highest unemployment rate in the EU ... to the crumbling of political parties in which one looks in vain for the spirit of the glorious days of 1980-89, they are not short of reasons to be disenchanted," it says.

In Ukraine last winter and in Belarus today, the Polish political class is willingly exporting its democratic credo
Le Monde

But despite this, the paper notes the country seems to have found a way of making Solidarity live on.

"Today, not only is Poland a member of the EU, but in some respects it has also renewed, through a gutsy policy of support for democratisation in the East, its activism at the very heart of the Twenty-Five," the daily feels.

"In Ukraine last winter and in Belarus today, the Polish political class is willingly exporting its democratic credo," it explains.

"There is indeed a link with the heritage of Solidarity," it says.

But it sounds a note of caution.

"Poland's activism in this also carries risks with it. Its support for the Belarus democratic opposition is not without diplomatic consequences....between Moscow and Warsaw," it warns.

What kind of Europe?

Czech Mlada Fronta Dnes takes an issue with President Vaclav Klaus's recent proposal that a centralised Europe be replaced by an Organisation of European States.

The daily argues that many problems in Europe are shared, they cross borders and often global.

"If Europe is to cope both with the negative and the positive aspects of globalisation, democracy also has to cross borders," the daily says.

It believes that "a national state can no longer make good political decisions and adopt effective laws in isolation".

The daily calls for dialogue, discussion and democracy and hopes that the European Commission's plan D, containing all three, will help the union get out of the current "precarious" situation.

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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