European Press Review: A Lesson in Democracy? | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 18.03.2004
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European Press Review: A Lesson in Democracy?

European newspapers on Thursday commented on allegations that outgoing Spanish Premier José Maria Aznar pressured newspaper editors to write that ETA was to blame for the Madrid bombings.

José Maria Aznar and his conservative party were the victims of voters who cast ballots not out of fear, but anger, wrote Le Monde. The French daily commented that Spaniards could not tolerate the fact that the Spanish government had deceived them in trying to lay the blame for last week’s bombings on ETA, the Basque underground organization -- despite the fact that authorities were already pursuing the first clues indicating Islamic militant involvement. This manipulation of information reminded the people of other lies, the paper said, like that of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The election result, concluded the daily, is not a surrender to terrorism, but rather a lesson in democracy.

Berlingske Tidende from Copenhagen saw things differently: It is regrettable and sends an ambivalent message to potential new terrorists that a terror attack before an election can frighten the whole population as it did in Spain. Unfortunately, though, the outgoing Aznar

administration bears a not inconsiderable responsibility for linking terrorism and the democratic process, the daily believed. It criticized the conservative government for instrumentalizing the deaths of more than 200 people for political purposes. Aznar’s obstinacy and some would say improper methods in clinging to the theory of ETA involvement has blotted the reputation of an otherwise admirable Spanish prime minister, the paper commented.

Vienna’s Kurier was more frank in its description of the outgoing leader. Aznar blew his chance to go down in Spanish history as one of its most successful prime ministers, it said. After eight years of conservative rule, Spain’s economic success was impressive. But now, Aznar will be remembered as a liar and a cheat, or at least as someone who simply used the truth as an instrument of power, the Austrian tabloid commented.

The Daily Telegraph was less concerned with Aznar’s legacy and more with the incoming socialist government in Spain. Zapatero is leaving Great Britain and the United States in the lurch and is siding with France, it wrote: Spain is switching fronts and by doing this, it is destroying the Iraq war coalition. The London paper warned that this is no way for a NATO country to treat its partners, for after all, it will also need intelligence information from them if it wants to avoid terrorist attacks in the future.