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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 03/05/2006

 

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France rocked by 'Clearstream Affair'

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is accused of ordering the secret services to investigate the role of his political rival Nicolas Sarkozy in the so-called  'Clearstream Affair' in order to smear him. Although he denied the accusations on Tuesday, May 2, the press speculates over his resignation and denounces the wayward drift of French institutions. » more

With articles from the following publications:
The Daily Telegraph - United Kingdom, Le Soir - Belgium, Libération - France

The Daily Telegraph - United Kingdom

"A mess on one side of the Channel, la pagaille on the other. Those convinced of the unique incompetence of Labour should shift their gaze to Paris, where the dying presidency of Jacques Chirac is sinking into ever-greater incoherence," notes an editorial. "Beyond the judicial investigation into the Clearstream affair ... lie the political implications. Having lost his first choice as successor, Alain Juppé, to scandal, Mr. Chirac seems likely to muddle on with his second, Mr. [Dominique] de Villepin. A bolder course would be to dismiss the government and call parliamentary elections. However, in view of his own and his prime minister's unpopularity, that would probably condemn the president to a second term of 'co-habitation' with the Left. ... Whoever takes the job will face the daunting challenge of reviving the centre-Right before next year's presidential and parliamentary elections." (03/05/2006)

Le Soir - Belgium

Editorialist Joëlle Meskens argues that "Clearstream is neither the first nor the last episode of skulduggery to sully France. Well before this latest scandal broke, both the left and right had their fair share of scandals and manipulations ... But does that mean we can simply shrug and tell ourselves that, when all is said and done, that's the way the game works and it's nothing new on the Seine? Less than ever. For if scandals are perennial, never has the context been so troubling. ... Trust has been shattered, 'politics with a little p' that Jacques Chirac claims to hold in such contempt has reached a new height and it is hard to imagine how this government can henceforth carry out any significant reform. Condemned to muddle through in managing day-to-day affairs, Dominique de Villepin is preparing to basically take all of France hostage." (03/05/2006)

Libération - France

For political analyst Alain Duhamel, "the Clearstream affair is not only a scandal of the state, it also serves as an implacable indicator of the Fifth Republic's lack of moorings, its opacity, its cynicism, its contempt for the ordinary rules of democracy. This is what occurs when power is concentrated entirely within the executive, when it is left in the hands of a small clutch of men, when it is neither subject to any parliamentary oversight worthy of the name, nor effective separation of power, nor obligatory transparency. ... Dominique de Villepin in fact represents nothing more than the final result, the ultimate incarnation of the gradual relinquishing of democracy symbolised by Chiraquism. ... His implication in the handling of the Clearstream affair proves just how far he is prepared to go in order to achieve his objectives." (03/05/2006)

REFLECTIONS

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ABC - Spain

Sultana Wahnón and the ideology of Ahmadinejad

Sultana Wahnón, a literature professor at the University of Grenada, analyses the revisionist statements made on several occasions by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "The declarations by Primo Levi [1919-1987] during the 1980's, at the time of the Islamic Revolution's triumph in Iran, seem timelier than ever. He said at the time that the Nazi ideology had not died, but had simply shifted to another place, and that listening to Khomeini speak made him feel like he was reliving moments from his days as a young man in Italy and Germany when he he heard the incomprehensible speeches of Mussolini and Hitler. Were he still alive, the Italian writer would be able to hear Ahmadenidjad and he would have no doubt about the need to be leery of this man and to remain vigilant in the face of his threats." (03/05/2006)

Les Echos - France

Europe is becoming a 'modern Venice'

The political analyst Dominique Moïsi, of the French Institute for International Relations, observes that Europe's image, as seen from Asia, has considerably evolved. "The European Union is only rarely considered by Asians  to be a real player on the global stage, but it is often perceived as a model for reconciliation, peace and prosperity for a continent which, for the most part, has proven unable to bury its past or keep the spectre of nationalism at bay. But if Europe's performances were to continue to deteriorate, would the Asians continue to see it as a model? The Old Continent would then become, in the best of cases, a 'depository of democracy', if not simply a sort of modern Venice - that is, a place one visits with nostalgia for its glorious past and which bears a resemblance to a museum." (03/05/2006)

Rzeczpospolita - Poland

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski on German-Polish relations

Former Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski writes in a guest commentary that Germany's relationship with Poland differs greatly from its relationship with France. He calls for the new Museum of Polish History, whose founding document was signed on May 2, to focus on this "historical" difference. "We must remind people that Poland was the first country in Europe to say 'no' to Hitler. And it paid the highest price for doing so, not only in terms of the damage caused during the war, but also in the form of the wave of hatred towards Poland... Nowadays, when German politicians and journalists ask me why it's more difficult for Poland to reach agreements with Germany than it is for France, I answer that French people in Germany (during the Second World War) were workers and free people, whereas Poles lived in concentration camps and were regarded as subhumans by the Germans." (02/05/2006)

Le Jeudi - Luxembourg

Joël Décaillon and the defense of a social Europe

Joël Décaillon, secretary of the European Confederation of Unions, insists in an interview with Marisandra Ozolins on the importance of defending the social benefits that people have won in Europe. "In a world where, according to a report by the ILO, 70% of wage earners have no work contract, and 80% of wage earners lack any social protection, the fact that one continent has systems where social protection, work contracts and solidarity still exist is a factor that must be taken into consideration. Now, is competitivity going to ride roughshod over these things? Will we tomorrow see only certain Europeans developing, while others are left behind? The current political cynicism can lead one to believe that we are headed in this direction. Except for the fact that Europeans have had their apprenticeship in democracy, they vote."  (03/05/2006)

POLITICS

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Politiken - Denmark

Partial withdrawal from Irak

The Danish government's announcement that it plans to withdraw 100 of the 500 Danish soldiers currently stationed in Iraq has triggered fierce debate. The Copenhagen newspaper voices its support for the move: "A power monopoly – the pre-condition for creating a functioning state – does not exist in Iraq. The Danish soldiers are simply protecting themselves. They're increasingly isolated and are contributing less and less to the process of reconstruction which, on top of everything else, is marked by stagnation and corruption. The political reality of the situation is that everybody – including the US – is looking for a way out of Iraq, and that there is next to no chance that Iraq will be stable at the time of withdrawal. We Danes can't change this... Let's bring all the 500 soldiers home before it's too late." (03/05/2006)

El País - Spain

Silvio Berlusconi's resignation

The daily argues that Silvio Berlusconi, who tendered his resignation on Tuesday, May 2, has not bid his final farewells to power. "He accompanied his departure with an explanation that his government had been the best in his country's history, and with a shameless assertion that Italians were going to regret it. ... The magnate, depicted as a cunning Cayman by the filmmaker Nanni Moretti, is convinced that he can win a third time, and this despite the fact he will turn 70 this autumn. Berlusconi, by his own logic and the voting results, has reason to believe that he might yet return if one considers that, in spite of the numerous political scandals and his poor leadership over the past five years, he was only 25,000 votes shy of victory. As another political Saurian - Andreotti [an 87-year-old senator] - correctly pointed out, power wears down only those who don't hold it." (03/05/2006)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

An agressive election campaign in the Czech Republic

"The Czech Republic's election campaign is full of empty words and reveals the politicians' total lack of ideas," Lukas Dolansky comments a month before the parliamentary elections. "According to the experts, the outstanding feature of this election campaign is an unprecedented aggressiveness. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek is the main culprit. He doesn't miss a single opportunity to strike out at the conservative opposition, the ODS. Even the politicians themselves have admitted that this is an unusually aggressive campaign. Communist MP Jiri Dolejs, who was recently the victim of a politically-motivated attack by a person whose identity remains unknown, noted: 'We are all responsible for the political climate in society.'" (03/05/2006)

Malta Today - Malta

Maltese government not living up to European challenge

Two years after Malta joined the EU, the pro-European daily says it has "serious misgivings about how the project is being managed" locally. "We believed that membership would inculcate a culture in favour of nurturing our national institutions. We looked forward to witnessing appointees to positions of high office acting in the national, not the party, interest. Regrettably 'il senso dello stato' is often absent. Government is well advised to explain to people the tangible acquisitions of membership, which are not few. It should be equally committed to widen civil liberties and giving space to civil society, the hallmark of a liberal society.Local European enthusiasts hope the necessary reforms to modernising our society economically, politically and socially are fast tracked. Is government prepared to take up this challenge?" (03/05/2006)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

Germany's inability to reform

Jürg Dedial sees increasing signs "that the red-black coalition in Germany is incapable of introducing genuine reforms... For example, you get dizzy reading the regulations of implementation which govern the payment of Elterngeld (Parents' benefit) recently passed by the German parliament. And it looks like there will be more of the same in heath policy, which is already extremely complicated. Nothing is to be simplified because such measures are quickly suspected of having socially unacceptable consequences, so instead they just keep tinkering around with things. The craziness of this coalition is that; in its efforts to reach a consensus, it's granting more and more state benefits and in the end it's the CDU and the CSU who are reduced to resorting to such measures." (03/05/2006)

Dnevnik - Slovenia

NATO as global policeman

"Global is expensive" says Domen Caharijas commenting on NATO's increasing commitments worldwide. He fears that, along with the UN and US, the defence organisation could be turning into a new world policeman. "At the NATO Foreign Ministers informal meeting in Sofia, NATO Secretary General Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer spoke of a stronger global role for the organisation, and the problems this would entail. He was referring to the financing of peace operations which are increasing in number, are in increasingly remote locations and are costing more and more... Slovenia pays for the upkeep of 'only' 49 soldiers in Afghanistan. For countries which have helicopters squadrons, the costs can be astronomical, and they don't even get a 'discount' on their NATO membership fees." (03/05/2006)

To Vima Online - Greece

Opening of the Inter-Balkan Cooperation Summit

"The Inter-Balkan Cooperation Summit opens today (May 3) in Thessalonica. In addition to the nine Balkan countries concerned, Turkey will also be present to hear the final report from the Greek presidency of the organisation, which is coming to an end," writes Eleftheria Kollia, stressing the significance of the Turkish representatives' participation. "The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayipp Erdogan, is once again coming to solicit the support of Greece [which last year argued in favour of opening membership negotiations with the EU] following Greece's recent firm reminder that Turkey was obliged to accept the conditions required by the EU for any eventual membership." (03/05/2006)

CULTURE

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Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

The dispute between Dutch historians

Siggi Weidemann reports on a dispute over the Netherlands' cooperation with the Nazis. Historian Ies Vuijsje has accused historian Loes de Jong, who published a 28-volume standard work on the "Kingdom of the Netherlands during the Second World War" in 1988, of having used only sources "which confirm the 'myth of ignorance' so as not to tarnish the image of the Dutch as a nation of resistance fighters." He points out that this leaves one of the key questions unanswered, namely why the Netherlands was declared "free of Jews" as early as 1943. "The causes for the disastrously high number of deportations, according to Vuijsje, were indifference and blind faith in authority, as well as a police force which cooperated with the Nazis and also the prevailing view that the camps couldn't be that bad. Moreover, he adds that the Dutch participated in the hunt for hidden Jews for money. The Netherlands was unique in that it was the only country in Europe where a bounty of 7.50 guilder (approximately 37 euros) was offered for each Jew who was tracked down." (03/05/2006)

LOCAL COLOURS

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Die Welt - Germany

The Oder as a Central European river

On the occasion of an international conference on the River Oder taking place on the Bradenburg side of Frankfurt on the Oder, Eckhard Fuhr explores the river's cultural history. "One can say, objectively, that since the accession of the Czech Republic (where the Oder has its source) and Poland to the EU, at the latest, the Oder has become a Central European river in the strictest sense of the term. However, it has not yet embedded itself in the centre of European awareness. The reconstruction of the area surrounding the Oder as a cultural space has just begun. The beginning of this process was not marked by the cultural-political laying of a foundation stone, but by a flood, the flood of 1997, which made the Oder the focus of media attention for weeks on end. The river made those who lived on both its sides feel its power and its wilfulness, and in doing so, brought them together." (03/05/2006)

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