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Europe

European Press Review: Big Three Meet Raises Eyebrows

For most European newspapers, the "Big Three" meeting was proof enough that the EU's main players want to play by their own rules.

The British paper The Independent said the meeting has caused furrowed eyebrows elsewhere in the EU. It said the backlash against Tony Blair's new found friendship with France and Germany began even before the Prime Minister's plane to Berlin left the ground. Six European prime ministers signed a declaration essentially warning Messrs Blair, Chirac and Schröder not even to think about trying to dominate decision making in an expanded EU. Implicit in the nature of Wednesday's meeting, said the paper, is that there are first and second divisions in Europe.

Another British paper The Guardian said Tony Blair may relish his place at Berlin's top table, but surely he would understand that France and Germany have not abandoned their fundamental alliance, which is often at odds with British interests, for example over farm subsidies.

The French paper Le Figaro said London, Paris and Berlin are trying to address two of the ills plaguing the EU - its poor economic competitiveness and its political and military insignificance in the world arena. Together France, Germany and Britain generate more than half the wealth produced in the EU. They believe that in working together they can give Europe something that it lacked during the Iraq war, namely unity and leadership. To a limited degree, the Iraq war meant failure for all three. Tony Blair failed to established himself as an Atlantic-orientated leader of Europe, Gerhard Schröder couldn't prevent the war and Jacques Chirac failed to rally Europe behind him in opposition to the Americans. All three now believe they can only win if they work together, because each of them has been politically weakened, the paper added.

The German Frankfurter Rundschau also gave front page coverage to the Berlin summit and observed that is hardly surprising that the meeting of the three countries has sparked the ire of other EU members.

Elsewhere, the truck toll fiasco hasn't gone unnoticed among Germany's neighbours. The Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung observed that the row between the government and the consortium responsible for the proposed pricing system has become so grotesque that both sides can be described as losers.