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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 April 2006, 03:09 GMT 04:09 UK
European press review

Austrian papers welcome a court decision to sentence a former politician for downplaying the Holocaust. The French press examines the delicate relations between Prime Minister Villepin and President Chirac in the wake of the youth employment law debacle. Swedish dailies weigh the pros and cons of nuclear energy on the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

Holocaust denier

Austria's Der Standard praises a court decision to hand down a suspended one-year prison term to a former politician for playing down the Holocaust.

He has rightly been convicted for this
Der Standard

John Gudenus, a former member of Austria's upper house, was tried for suggesting that the existence of gas chambers in the Third Reich should be verified. Later he said there had been gas chambers in Poland but not in the Third Reich.

The paper argues that these two remarks are "cynical and humiliating and show contempt for the Verbotsgesetz", Austria's Holocaust denial law.

"He has rightly been convicted for this," it says.

The paper adds, however, that comparisons with Holocaust denier David Irving, who was jailed for three years by an Austrian court in February, are not warranted.

It feels that while David Irving has caused "great ideological damage", John Gudenus is more of a marginal figure who has "learned absolutely nothing from history".

Austria's Die Presse agrees that the two cases are different.

The paper observes that David Irving has written books and "is admired as an icon" in neo-Nazi circles.

John Gudenus, on the other hand, is regarded as an "eccentric", it adds.

The paper believes that, as a result, the jurors did not take him seriously, and "this helped Gudenus in court".

France's 'losing duo'

"Isolated Villepin asks Chirac for support" reads the front-page headline of France's Le Monde.

To date the anti-CPE generation does not seem to have been taken in by this sudden friendship

After the fiasco of the First Employment Contract, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is now intent on showing another side to the right in France, "a right with greater concern for the French social model that doesn't want to play on antagonism or the breakdown of society to win [the presidential election] in 2007", the paper says.

Mr Villepin knows that he can't go it alone. So far, however, President Chirac is declining to take sides, perhaps, Le Monde suggests, to avoid "thwarting the deep desire of the political majority to rally around Mr Sarkozy", the French interior minister whose popularity soared during the youth employment crisis.

Mr Sarkozy is Mr Villepin's greatest rival to win the right-wing nomination to contest the presidency.

The cartoon on Le Monde's front page shows President Chirac falling backwards, almost crushing Prime Minister Villepin while a small but determined Nicolas Sarkozy hangs grimly onto the president's trouser legs.

The struggle is surveyed by footballer Zinedine Zidane who has just announced he will retire after this year's World Cup. Chirac is saying: "Zizou, tell me how you hang up your boots?"

The left-leaning daily Liberation focuses on a charter signed by the French government and management representatives on 26 April to end the exploitation of young people working as interns in France and abroad.

For Liberation the move is a charm offensive by the "losing duo of French politics", President Chirac and Prime Minister Villepin. They are now intent on making overtures to the young despite all the evidence that they have no empathy with them whatsoever.

"To date the anti-CPE [First Job Contract] generation does not seem to have been taken in by this sudden friendship," an editorial remarks.

'Parliamentary tourism'

Under the headline "Euro-madness in Strasbourg", Germany's Die Welt says the time has come for MEPs to be based only in Brussels.

The paper says allegations that Strasbourg has been charging excessive rent for European Parliament buildings have come at a good time because they shed light on "the real scandal: the parliamentary tourism of Euro-MPs".

It observes that the "shuttling" takes a lot of time, prevents MEPs from working efficiently, and costs the European taxpayer "more than 200m euros per year".

"This has nothing to do with Europe," the paper says, but is the product of "political vote-buying" in the early days of European integration.

"From the point of view of the politicians in charge, there are of course many reasons not to tread on the toes of the sensitive French," it says, "but it is much more important to strengthen Europe's credibility."

Nuclear renaissance

Two Swedish newspapers reflect on the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, but reach different conclusions.

The memory of Chernobyl should make us think that nuclear energy has no place in the future

"Nuclear power is not a strength", Aftonbladet argues.

"Sweden was affected by about 5% of the radioactivity which leaked", it notes, adding that plants and animals in the north of the country still have excessive levels of caesium and that people in the region still fear suffering from "inexplicable diseases".

The paper argues that increased nuclear power will not cut the price of electricity as Sweden is now part of the European electricity market.

The ongoing safety and security risks associated with nuclear power, together with the dangers of proliferation, outweigh the benefits of nuclear energy.

"The memory of Chernobyl should make us think that nuclear energy has no place in the future," it says.

Expressen disagrees.

"Nuclear power is on the threshold of a renaissance", it says.

On Chernobyl it points out that "the handling of the crisis was a disaster in itself" and that "the Soviet system's contempt for individuals was monumental".

"Nuclear power is not without risks", it points out, "but the Chernobyl disaster was unique. And nuclear power plants are significantly safer today than in 1986."

But we should also build modern, safe, Swedish nuclear power stations

Fossil fuels were thought to be safer and cheaper than nuclear power 20 years ago, but the greenhouse effect has since emerged as the greatest environmental threat of our times, the paper says.

"Nuclear power does not produce any greenhouse gases. Nuclear power is now cheap. It has a third benefit for Sweden and the EU: it reduces the dependency on oil and gas-producing countries. President Putin has already shown that he can quickly turn off the mighty Russian gas tap for political reasons."

"It is high time for forward thinking. Research and development of renewable energy sources is an indispensable feature of Swedish energy policy. But we should also build modern, safe, Swedish nuclear power stations", 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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