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Europe

European Press Review: A Bumpy Economic Road Ahead

Stagnation in the euro zone and news that Germany may be plunging into a recession dominated the editorial pages of Europe's major dailies on Friday.

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Estimates show the euro zone stagnated in the first quarter of the year, the editors of the London-based Financial Times wrote on Friday -- with the Netherlands, Germany and Italy performing particularly poorly. And the future, the paper continued, does not look bright, either. It is impossible to put a gloss on any of these figures, the paper concluded, adding that the danger is that the euro zone could fall into a long period of stagnation where everyone blames someone else for the economic woes.

Germany's Lübecker newspaper also warned against complacency, saying the Minister of Finance's announcement on Thursday that Germany was facing a massive tax shortfall, didn't come as a surprise, but was
still a bad message. The population is dwindling, unemployment is rising and an upswing isn't in sight, the paper warned. The only surprise was German Finance Minister Hans Eichel's refusal to acknowledge the actual situation. His budget had little to do with truth and clarity.

That was the old continent's Black Thursday, wrote the Rome-based La Repubblica, adding that a lasting violation of the stability pact by Germany seems to be unavoidable.

It could hardly be worse, Austria's Der Standard from Vienna said: Germany's economy has dwindled in the first quarter, and reactions from both politicians and experts show that they were in fact surprised by this development. But, the paper said, this bad news actually helps Chancellor Schröder, as the extent of the problem underlines the need for structural reform in Germany.

The Paris-based Les Echos warned that trying to return as quickly as possible to the targeted three percent budget deficit in times of growing unemployment and recession could be suicidal. This is true for Germany and the entire euro zone, the paper said.

Finally, looking at Friday's big event in Berlin, the Neue Ruhr/Neue Rhein Zeitung commented on the relationship
between U.S. President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. It said U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit isn't going to change much between the two leaders. There might one day be another
handshake photo opportunity between them like at the NATO summit in Prague last year, but one thing is clear -- they will never be friends. But the paper said it's not so tragic if their chemistry doesn't gel. What's more important is that both sides learn to work without showing emotions and giving each other the cold shoulder -- for the sake of the global economy -- if for no other reason.