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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 December 2005, 06:24 GMT
European Press Review

Thursday's papers are full of reports on the row over the EU budget and the prospects for an agreement at the Brussels summit, which opens later in the day. German papers single out Tony Blair's presidency for particular criticism.


"The announced revolution has not taken place," states Berlin's Der Tagesspiegel bluntly.

"The promise of great political leadership for Europe under a British presidency has not been fulfilled."

The paper says that after promising a "European Spring" in a "dynamic speech" back in June, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's proposed budget is a disappointment.

But it thinks that the chances of a last-minute compromise in Brussels are in fact not all that bad, despite the "strong anti-Blair mood".

Mr Blair, the paper says, "has shrunk from a visionary to a tactician". "As a tactician he is leaving much as it was, and as a tactician he will presumably make further compromises regarding the so-called British rebate during the summit. And he no longer even himself believes in his vision of June."

Die Welt thinks that Tony Blair has "long since departed from his role of honest broker who will put aside national interests as Council president and work in the interests of the Community".

Despite Europe-wide criticism of its first proposal, the British presidency has hardly budged in its second, the paper argues.

"Its stubborn adherence to the British rebate in particular is a blatant affront to the new member states".

"Blair has thus lost his credibility and so has his protestation that he is fighting for EU reform."


Spain's El Pais says that, after recent setbacks, the EU definitely needs an agreement on the budget but "not at any cost".

The new proposals presented by Tony Blair "are still not enough" to cover the financial needs of new member states, it says.

"It is a cruel irony to invite them to join and not have enough money to help them sufficiently".

Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland, were all supported financially as new members in their day, the paper recalls.

"It would be sad if the prime minister who promised to put his country 'at the heart of Europe' ends up causing a new deadlock at the end of his presidency of the EU".

"The last British crumb?" asks Prague's Pravo with regard to the additional two billion euros offered in Britain's revised proposal and wonders whether Mr Blair still has an ace up his sleeve.

"Blair can use it at the very last moment at the Brussels summit, on Friday evening," it says.

Under the headline "Brussels confrontation between Chirac, Blair", France's Le Figaro notes that London and Paris are still at loggerheads over the British rebate and the EU's agricultural policy.

"As is usual on the eve of a summit at which the stakes are high, everybody is sticking to their guns," the paper says.


Romania's Curierul National believes that Britain's budget proposal may seem attractive to some EU newcomers, which feel it could help them make a fast buck.

"Awaited with much interest, Britain's proposals did not bring any encouragement, but only a slight increase in amounts in the chapter on European expenses," it says.

"Despite the protests against the European draft budget presented by the British premier, some new EU members seem willing to make certain sacrifices in order to obtain a quick agreement which should allow them to get the funds they need for economic improvement very quickly."

The Serbian daily Blic says that the summit will probably be used for deals among the big members to the detriment of the new ones and aspirant nations, such as Macedonia.

Macedonia might turn out to be one of the main victims of the haggling over farming subsidies, the paper says.

"Paris has already announced that our southern neighbour might have to wait at least six months before being granted the official status of EU candidate country, until an agreement on the budget is reached."

The paper adds that France wishes to secure a better position for Serbia in its EU membership bid, which is why it will use Macedonia's candidate status as a bargaining chip "until the last moment before the summit".

Competing visions

Vienna's Der Standard is in no doubt that Britain's latest budget proposal shows that "Europe is being led by petty-minded people".

"Europe's problem is not nationalism, it is egoism", the paper says.

The situation will not change in the foreseeable future, "since for the time being we have no statesmen with the generosity and vision of Helmut Kohl, Jacques Delors or Francois Mitterrand".

But Switzerland's Le Temps thinks Britain is entitled to propose an EU budget based on its own view of Europe.

The paper says the budget plan is underpinned by the wish to consolidate a "big, open and flexible market" rather than developing ever more common policies.

Britain's argument that its proposal is realistic is "perhaps not entirely wrong", it says, because "this budget on the cheap" mirrors the current situation of a Europe which "lacks major projects".

"It is London's right to have its own vision of Europe, which may be far removed from European ideals."

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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