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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 06:45 GMT
European press review

The row over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark continues to exercise European commentators on Wednesday. Christian Schwarz-Schilling's appointment as chief international envoy to Bosnia, Mittal Steel's takeover bid for Arcelor and decision to allow French clubs to raise money from stockmarket flotation also attract attention.

Danish cartoon furore

A commentary in Germany's Die Welt headlined "Holy anger" believes that Muslims' reaction to "the publication of harmless caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad" in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten begs the pressing question: "Is Islam capable of coping with satire?"

The standards that Muslims require are overtaxing for open societies
Die Welt

The paper points out that the issue has nothing to do with "a battle between cultures" as there are "thresholds of consideration" which cannot be crossed when it comes to making fun of religion.

"But the standards that Muslims require are overtaxing for open societies," the paper believes.

The daily points out that in the West there is no right of exemption from satire.

"Christianity itself has become a subject of pitiless criticism, an object of satirical analysis, which marks the triumph of humour over religious worship", it argues.

It points out that there was no protest when a primetime programme on Syrian TV portrayed a rabbi as a cannibal.

"Muslims' protests would be taken more seriously if they came across as less hypocritical," the paper feels.

Austria's Die Presse believes it would have been better if the caricatures had not been published.

"The fact that our society has got as far as tolerating making fun of the Christian religion does not necessarily require us to demand that Muslims should do the same with their religion," the paper feels.

It believes that Muslims should at "least have mentioned" in their protests that without "radical, impatient and violent people who represent Islam" such caricatures would not exist.

'Threats win through'

Sweden's Expressen says the front-page letter published in Danish, English and Arabic by Jyllands-Posten in which it apologizes for publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad "sends out unpleasant signals that threats work".

"How Jyllands-Posten thinks - or rather does not think - plays less of a role after the flag burnings, threats and diplomatic pressure from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries over the last few days", the paper says.

Jyllands-Posten's "retreat-like humming and hawing is simply an unpleasant confirmation that fundamentalist threats - against individuals, against economic and political interests - win through", it goes on.

"Defending freedom of expression against fundamentalist threats is a cause. It is a matter of principle, whether it involves Rushdie's 'Satanic Verses', a film about veils and the oppression of women or some clumsy drawings in a Danish newspaper."

Great expectations

Germany's Die Tageszeitung says people in Bosnia-Hercegovina expect a great deal of the new international envoy, Christian Schwarz-Schilling, who took over from UK's Paddy Ashdown on Tuesday.

"He has good standing, even on the Serbian side," the paper feels.

It says Germany can make use of it moral and political authority in building democratic societies in the Balkans.

"It's just up to German society to show willingness," the paper feels.

The Nezavisne Novine daily, based in the Bosnian Serb Republic, believes the handover "is probably the last stage of the international protectorate".

It notes that in October the post of the High Representative is likely to be replaced with that of the EU's Special Representative and that more responsibility will be handed back to Bosnian politicians.

"But let's not deceive ourselves," the daily says. "In October we'll get another foreign governor. This shows that our country is still not ready to take over responsibility for its own future and the need for an international overseer - be they from Britain, Germany or indeed from Mars - reflects the political and economic realities on the ground."

Mr Schwarz-Schilling's promise to be more of a mediator and less of a protector is encouraging
Nezavisne Novine

Mr Schwarz-Schilling's promise to be "more of a mediator and less of a protector" is encouraging, the daily believes.

His pledge to focus on economic issues rather than constitutional reforms is the right move from the point of view of ordinary people who are fed up with empty words about complicated state structures while they are hardly able to make ends meet, it argues.

"Mr Schwarz-Schilling should tray to resist attempts to have constitutional changes imposed as his main priority and should focus on the economy which could do more for ordinary people than the best constitution in the world," the paper advises.

The Bosnian Muslim daily Dnevni Avaz carries an exclusive interview with Mr Ashdown, who describes steering Bosnia-Hercegovina towards European accession as the biggest success during his four-year tenure.

Steel deal spat

France's Le Monde considers the "lessons" to be drawn from Mittal Steel's proposed takeover bid for the EU steel group Arcelor.

Arcelor is based in Luxembourg but its shares are listed in Paris and it has a large French workforce.

Both France and Luxembourg have expressed deep concern about the employment implications of the bid, despite assurances from Mittal's head Lakshmi Mittal on Monday that he had no intention of closing steel plants.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on Tuesday renewed his call for "economic patriotism" to protect key industries from foreign predators.

The first lesson, the paper says, is that in the era of globalisation "it is extremely difficult to define the nationality of a company".

"It is therefore even more difficult to put forward the 'economic patriotism' so dear to Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin," it adds.

The second lesson is that "if it goes ahead, this will be the first successful hostile takeover in a key sector of the economy," the daily continues.

"Should we just let markets and shareholders decide then?," it asks, taking the example of Britain.

"No," it answers. "If an industry is regarded as strategic, there is no fatality in the state being absent from its capital".

Ultimately, the paper concludes, this affair shows that "the old (steel) economy has not said its last word yet".

French football Plc

Still in France, Liberation reports that Sports Minister Jean-Francois Lamour yesterday announced that restrictions on football clubs raising money by selling their shares the stock markets would be lifted in compliance with EU regulations.

Yesterday the minister "gave in to the Brussels referee who supports the free movement of football capital", the paper says.

This will enable French clubs to use public savings to improve their performance," it adds.

But "the problem is that this stock market listing is going to widen the gap between the rich and the others even further and ultimately dry up interest in a championship which already has double standards," the paper says.

"For show, there'll still be the Champions League, the European competition of the richest," it concludes.

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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