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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 June, 2005, 04:04 GMT 05:04 UK
European press review

The Dutch vote to reject the EU constitution dominates a European press still coming to terms with the body blow to the charter delivered by France.

Dutch papers view the overwhelming "No" vote as a genuine citizens' revolt, while papers wider afield predict severe difficulties ahead for the cohesion of the Union.

Dutch shout 'Nee'

For the Dutch newspaper Trouw, there is no question of the gravity of the rebuff delivered to the political establishment by the electorate.

Our democracy fails miserably in representing the wishes and cares of the citizen - that is the almost inevitable conclusion
Trouw
"For the third time in three years the citizens have revolted against the political and social establishment. Where do we go from here?" it asks.

"Yesterday, with the grand No against the European constitution, the citizens made it clear they are serious: things will have to change in our democracy. The result reveals a dramatic chasm between establishment and citizens.

"Our democracy fails miserably in representing the wishes and cares of the citizen - that is the almost inevitable conclusion."

Another editorial in the same paper concludes: "The Dutch are not against Europe... Their 'No' is a powerful signal demonstrating people are seriously concerned about the development of Europe."

The dramatic outcome is summed up in Dutch De Telegraaf as a sign of a growing gap between the political elite and ordinary public.

"A Massive No" trumpets its front page headline.

It cites independent MP Geert Wilders, who is planning to table a no-confidence vote, congratulating the voters and seeing now a "vast gap between politics and society".

More distance, please

Germany's Berliner Zeitung says the Dutch had different motives for voting "No" than the French.

"Unlike the French Left, they do not find the EU too market friendly, but on the contrary, they find it too opposed to reform," it says.

The paper says it is precisely these widely diverging views on the EU in both referendums that show the scale of the challenge facing Europe.

The Germans are well advised to slowly, with friendly words, free themselves from the French embrace
Die Welt

Hamburg's Die Welt is baffled by the stance French President Jacques Chirac has taken in response to the French 'No'.

It says Mr Chirac caused astonishment by saying he would in future defend "national interests" within the European Union.

"What has the French president being doing until now then?" it wonders.

"In short: If Chirac follows his words with actions, then the European Union will really be in crisis. The Germans are well advised to slowly, with friendly words, free themselves from the French embrace.

"A little more distance would serve Europe, and Berlin, well."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says that despite two television appearances, "both to the tones of the Marseillaise", Mr Chirac has yet to provide the French with a clear explanation as to how he intends to move the country forward.

Scapegoat

For France's Liberation: "The Dutch, massive and final 'Nee' is a continuation in the catastrophic film in which the French 'Non' was the first episode.

France risks finding itself in the traditional Anglo-Saxon position with regard to Europe: splendid isolation
Liberation
The constitution served as a scapegoat in The Hague, just as it did in Paris, in the face of multiple contradictory protests, against elites, against foreigners, the cost of living, unemployment, enlargement, or the bureaucracy in Brussels."

Looking ahead, it predicts: "Once the road to political union has been cut off, the only plan B for Europe will be Tony Blair's, with a vast free-market zone, as unregulated as possible.

"France is against this 'Anglo-Saxon' model. But it risks finding itself in the traditional Anglo-Saxon position with regard to Europe: splendid isolation."

Crisis or stagnation?

Swiss La Tribune De Geneve predicts that "what awaits is not a salutary crisis but at best a long period of stagnation".

In Spain, Madrid's El Pais says the Dutch voted chiefly against the government's chosen economic path.

"To cap it all, they have had to tighten up public finances while France and Germany have dispensed with complying with the rules of monetary union. The high cost of living, linked to the introduction of the single currency, also influenced the protest," the paper says.

The EU has historically shone thanks to its ability to compromise its way out of difficult problems
Information

Barcelona's El Periodico also follows the money angle, saying the French and Dutch votes will strain relations between the rich and less rich EU member states.

"The day-to-day workings of the Union will be more difficult in the rarefied atmosphere. To begin with, the passing of the 2007-2013 six-year budget for which the countries who are net contributors want to pay less and in which the countries which benefit, such as Spain, will face funding cuts, will be much more complicated."

However, Denmark's Information steps back and takes a hopeful look to the future.

"The EU has historically shone thanks to its ability to compromise its way out of difficult problems. Let us hope that this talent will also be enough this time, for Europe's sake," 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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