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Europe

European Press Review: Berlin-Paris Summit Sparks Mixed Feelings

European papers on Friday dwelled on the Franco-German relationship following the Berlin-Paris summit, which touched upon the Iraq issue and unveiled a proposal to kick-start the sluggish EU economy.

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Marching side by side within the EU -- French President Chirac, left, with German Chancellor Schröder.

Rome’s La Repubblica newspaper was very upbeat in advance of the meeting between French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, emphasizing that a good Franco-German relationship was good for the rest of Europe too. It wrote approvingly of their declaration that they’re prepared to contribute towards the reconstruction of Iraq by training Iraqi police and military. In doing this, Germany and France have accepted the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq as a given, which indicates that they’re now willing to legitimize it, the paper said. The Italian daily described the move as a clear signal to U.S. President George W. Bush that they won’t leave America all on its own.

Another Italian paper, Milan-based Corriere della Sera, also saw the summit as evidence of new openness towards the U.S. But it made pointed note of the French president’s insistence that handing over the government of Iraq to the Iraqis should be a "matter of months, not years." Washington has already dismissed the French proposal as unrealistic. But the paper pointed out that Berlin and Paris are worried that unless this happens soon, the security situation in Iraq will get completely out of control.

French conservative daily Le Figaro wrote the international community has no choice but to help Washington. It has to help it find an honorable way out, because it’s in no one’s interest to see both Iraq and the Middle East go up in flames. That, the paper commented, is the big difference between Iraq and Vietnam – no one can wish for a U.S. failure in Iraq.

According to Spain’s El País, ‘New Europe’ met in Berlin on Thursday – and it wasn’t ‘New Europe’ as U.S. Defense Minister Donald Rumsfeld defined it. According to the paper France and Germany are a bit arrogant, but they form an axis that’s essential for the functioning of the European Union. The left-wing Spanish daily suggested that it might be a good idea for Spain to ally itself with the Franco-German avant-garde, instead of hanging back with U.S. President Bush.

German business daily Handelsblatt wrote Schröder and Chirac have demonstrated that their countries are marching side by side within the EU. Their viewpoints on the decisive issues of EU policy are now very similar, something that was almost unimaginable just three years ago, the paper commented. And neither care much what others think of their alliance. The Handelsblatt saw a danger that France’s demands for special treatment within the EU, for example over farming subsidies, may now be replaced by joint Franco-German arrogance, and it cited their cavalier attitude to the EU Stability and Growth Pact as an alarming example.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph was also unimpressed by the two countries’ announcement on Thursday of a billion-dollar investment package to try and stimulate growth in the European Union. Both France and Germany have broken the Stability Pact and have huge budget deficits, the paper wrote. It pointed out that neither country was able to give a satisfactory explanation of where all this money is to come from.

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