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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May, 2005, 05:27 GMT 06:27 UK
European press review

The build-up towards France's referendum on the EU constitution moves up another gear as President Jacques Chirac attempts to sell the treaty to a TV audience.

There is growing unease in German papers at the prospect of Turkey becoming a full member of the union.

And papers in Denmark mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Nazi occupation in World War II.

Chirac makes his pitch

Buoyed by an apparent surge in public support for the EU constitution, French President Jacques Chirac made a televised appeal on Tuesday evening for voters to back the document in a referendum at the end of this month.

But France's Nouvel Observateur, while voicing support for the constitution, deplores what it sees as the failure of the media to let the treaty's opponents have their say.

"The less they are allowed to express themselves," it says, "the more convincing they become."

The president flattered the national ego
Le Temps

The 'yes' camp, it points out, dominates the establishment media, leaving critics of the treaty to air their views in "alternative outlets, which people respect".

"It is, therefore," the paper concludes, "in the interests of the 'yes' supporters to bring the debate into the fully lit arena of rational debate."

Switzerland's Le Temps says Mr Chirac wants to show he is still at the forefront of the pro-European campaign, "so that he can claim the credit" if the French public endorses the constitution.

He "played the card of France's greatness" in his bid to woo voters, it notes, by stressing that the document "will strengthen France's influence in Europe".

"The president flattered the national ego," the paper observes, "and as advised by several media specialists, added some passion to his arguments."

"Yesterday," it adds, "it was not just a question of convincing the undecided, but also a matter of presence, indeed of performance."

Turkey under attack

With Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visiting Turkey, Germany's Der Tagesspiegel says the problems faced by Christians there represent a "sore point" in the country's bid for EU membership.

"There is hardly any other area in which Turkey is as far removed from the implementation of European norms as that of religious freedom," it maintains.

The paper observes that Christian minorities are at a "strong disadvantage" despite recent reforms, although it adds that the state is also trying to control Islam as much as possible.

It concludes that Turkey will have to "completely reorganise the relationship between the state and religion if it wants to join the European Union".

Another German daily, Die Tageszeitung, warns of the rising influence of nationalism on the policies of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as he faces mounting criticism home and abroad.

"It is understandable if Erdogan is nervous faced with this new situation," the paper says, "but the premier is currently showing a mentality which... needs to change urgently."

Denmark remembers

Denmark celebrates the 60th anniversary of the end of German occupation on Wednesday, an event which the Copenhagen daily Information recalls as "joyful liberation".

The paper has more than one reason to celebrate. It was founded as an illegal news agency in 1943, and so is also marking 60 years as a legal daily newspaper.

Events during the occupation can still trigger incredibly emotional debate
B.T.

"For this editorial office," the paper says, "it is also an essential reminder of why it was created 60 years ago: to speak out against hypocrisy and deceit like a bad conscience."

"Sixty years later," notes B.T., "events during the occupation can still trigger incredibly emotional debate - almost savage clashes."

In particular, the paper highlights Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's recent assertion that Denmark had little choice but to surrender, although its policy of collaboration initially went too far.

This, it adds, feeds into the national debate about the war in Iraq, with Mr Rasmussen's remarks "closely linked to using force against a dictator who threatened world peace".

"It is not strange that Fogh - and his opponents - have seen a parallel," the paper observes.

For Politiken, the milestone is all about learning lessons.

"Those of us who were spared the stark dilemmas of the period would be wise to listen to the experiences of those who are older, regardless of whether they chose active resistance or collaboration, as ordered by the authorities," it says.

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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