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Europe

Does Berlusconi Mix State Power with his own Interests?

The trial of Italy's prime minister comes under the scope of Europe's editorial pages -- and most conclude that he'll get off scott free -- even if, as some papers allude, he deserves to be convicted.

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The best of Europe's editorial pages, summarized daily.

The corruption trial of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi attracted the attention of many European opinion writers on Tuesday. Spain’s El Pais warns that all Italians can fear for their democracy if Berlusconi has his way in court. "Here’s a man who controls both the public and private television channels and who mixes state power with personal interests," the paper writes, adding that this already bears very little resemblance to democracy.

And the Russian paper Kommersant says that even if Berlusconi were sentenced he probably wouldn’t end up in prison. Berlusconi’s advisors are working to restore immunity for the state’s most-powerful politicians, and the paper predicts that there’ll be nothing to stop them from getting such a law passed.

"Wiser, but not always right," comments the London Times on the occasion of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s 50th birthday. The paper says that while there are doubts about the Labour party, support for Blair’s leadership has rarely been stronger. This, despite charges that Blair has become distant from domestic affairs and obsessed with international matters. The Times says it’s hardly surprising that the wider world has come to dominate his agenda, writing: "The prime minister intuitively appreciated from the second he was informed of the events of Sept. 11 that a fundamental shift in American foreign policy would be forthcoming." And on the topic of the subsequent tightening of relations between America and Britain, the paper says that while there is much Bush and Blair disagree on over domestic policy, this is of no consequence for the conduct of diplomacy.

The German paper Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten is critical of Germany's currently poor relations with the U.S. The paper says a sulking Chancellor Gerhard Schröder should now take a cue from Defense Minister Peter Struck and visit Washington to ease tensions over Iraq. The paper comments: "Even though the U.S. defied international law by invading Iraq they did remove a terrible dictator. And if the U.N. can return to Iraq, Berlin must do everything to improve relations and support the reconstruction and rebuilding of democracy in the war-torn country."

Commenting on Schröder's planned social and economic reforms, Berlin's Die Welt writes: "Despite warnings by the Social Democrats that the coalition could collapse if the reforms are not accepted, the opposition shouldn’t get too excited. The coalition is not dead yet. And now that the opposition has released its reform agenda, the Social Democrats can make the case that with a change in government, things would only get worse."