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Monday, 7 August, 2000, 07:02 GMT 08:02 UK
European press review

Both in Germany and abroad, the sudden concern of the country's media and politicians over the growing problem of right-wing violence is regarded with some scepticism as to its sincerity.

From scepticism to downright sarcasm, Europe's main dailies take a dim view of Serbia's opposition, whose internal squabbles they see as playing straight into Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's hands.

It is one year since Russia became embroiled in its second Chechen war, and no end to the conflict is in sight - nor is a Russian victory.

Raging on too is a forest fire that has torched a large swathe of the Spanish province of Catalonia.

Finally, a French daily sees limited autonomy for Corsica as a sign to other separatist movements in France to demand the same.

German uproar

Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung appears unable to believe in the sincerity of the current uproar among Germany's politicians and media over the growing number of right-wing attacks against foreigners - some of them lethal.

"People have been killed by right-wing extremists for years," the paper says, and goes on to call the outrage currently gripping Germany as "incomprehensible".

"What is happening now is a well-rehearsed ritual in the media business. It is the political summer break," it says. "And a so far neglected topic comes just right."

Once everyone - the media and politicians - has had their say and people begin to switch off under the flood of information, the reporting on the problem will also cease, the paper says cynically.

"The summer break will be over," it says, but "the right-wingers will continue to attack people".

Sunday's edition of the Portuguese Jornal de Noticias has a front-page picture of a menacing group at a German skinhead rally, under the headline "The Germans want to block the Nazis".

But the paper finds it staggering that it has taken fatal incidents for Germany "to wake up to the reality that Nazi forces exist in German society".

It points out that there have been at least 600 far-right attacks in Germany every year since 1991 and 28 direct attacks on minorities this year alone.

The paper describes what it calls "a wave of statements, opinions, appeals and even accusations from all parts of society - politicians of all colours, churches, unions, employers, police and members of the public" and then exclaims "strange this sudden wave of indignation - just because there were deaths!".

Rome's La Repubblica places the attacks of German right-wingers and Neo-Nazis in a European-wide context.

"Xenophobia is the cancerous tumour of the West, which is rich in means but poor in ideas," the paper says. "This phenomenon runs through the continent from north to south and spares neither Andalucia, Flanders or Apulia.

In the case of Germany, the paper says, the matter immediately seen as more sinister. "There, history weighs upon the present more than elsewhere," it says.

Milosevic's allies: the Serbian opposition

"The Serbian opposition is incapable of defining a strategy for dethroning Milosevic", says the headline of an article in Geneva's Le Temps on the decision by the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement to go it alone and select its own, rather than a joint candidate for September's presidential elections in Yugoslavia.

"The failure of the unitary negotiations reveals the catastrophic state of an opposition which," it says, "has not succeeded in overcoming the personal quarrels which are undermining it."

It adds that "President Slobodan Milosevic can be pleased with the shape that the elections are taking".

"With a divided opposition and the boycott by the Montenegrins confirmed, Slobodan Milosevic's victory is almost guaranteed."

It says that because the other opposition parties' preferred candidate will only stand if the Montenegrins take part in the elections, the Serbian Renewal Movement's Vojislav Mihailovic could be the only candidate facing Milosevic.

"This sad pantomime reveals to what extent the Serbian opposition is incapable of defining an autonomous strategy without the support of the Montenegrins," the paper says.

"Slobodan Milosevic appears as the absolute master of the game," it adds.

Vienna's Die Presse cannot hold back the sarcasm as far as Serbia's opposition is concerned.

It calls the decision by Serbia's two main opposition leaders, Vuk Draskovic and Zoran Djindjic, to each field his own presidential candidate to run against President Milosevic, thus splitting the opposition vote, as "a masterful achievement".

"He who has such enemies needs no friends," it says about Milosevic, and adds: "Milosevic can always rely upon his most important allies: the Serbian opposition."

Paris's Le Monde profiles Vojislav Mihailovic, the current major of Belgrade, who plans to stand against Mr Milosevic. It says Mr Mihailovic is the grandson of General Draza Mihailovic, the leader of the Chetnik resistance fighters during World War II, who was executed after the war after being accused of collaborating with the Nazis.

"The single fact of being Gen Mihailovic's grandson could handicap the mayor of Belgrade in that generations of students have learnt to associate the Chetnik movement with a policy of collaboration with the Nazis," it says.

"The candidacy of Mr Mihailovic", it adds, "is a real surprise for a large part of Serbian public opinion".

Second Chechen war

"In the Chechen cul-de-sac" is the title of a commentary in Hamburg's Die Welt on the first anniversary of the start of the second Chechen war, on 6 August 1999.

"The Russian military has got stuck in a cul-de-sac in the northern Caucasus," the paper says. "The so-called anti-terrorist action, accompanied by countless human rights violations, has bogged down."

The paper believes that Russia is just as unlikely to win this war as it was unable to win the first.

"The brutality... is growing; a solution is not in sight," it says.

Forest fires rage

The Spanish front pages are full of pictures of a massive forest fire in Catalonia which the headline-writers are variously calling "one of the worst fires of the summer", a "devastating fire" and an "ecological disaster".

El Mundo reports that the fire is affecting more than 3,000 hectares in the Alt Emporda area on the Mediterranean coast, including a nature reserve protected because of its "great diversity and richness".

The paper says that when it went to the press the fire was still out of control due to the 63 kph winds hampering the firefighting effort.

It adds that the regional authorities say the fire was started by a "negligent" farmer burning stubble.

Corsican autonomy

"The nationalists are counting on the snowball effect", says the headline of an article in Paris's Liberation on the meeting of Corsican nationalists and other regional separatists in Corsica this weekend .

It follows the French prime minister's decision to grant a degree of legislative autonomy to Corsica, which, the paper says, "has given a few ideas to the separatists from the other regions", including the Basque Country and Brittany.

The paper asks why the autonomy obtained by the Corsicans should be refused to the other peoples who also have "their language, their political prisoners and their particularisms".

"In the coming months," it says, "the government could have to reply to this question".

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