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Europe

European Press Review: Britain Shakes Off the Euro, Again

Britain snubs the euro but Poland embraces the EU; Germans still ponder the killings in Kabul.

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European commentators take on Tony Blair and the euro; Poland's willingness to join up.

"The British and the Euro," sighed the Tagesspiegel in Berlin, "is like Waiting for Godot. The fear of the new, the secret fear of maybe messing things up -- that's what's keeping the scales balanced." The anti-euro camp is celebrating this latest ambivalence as a major victory. Perhaps Blair's golden days are over, mused the Berlin paper, and with them, the best chance for the euro."

If a reluctant bride says "not yet" too often, it raises the suspicion that she might not want to marry at all, quipped La Repubblica in Rome. The Britons project an impression of an ambivalence toward Europe that has dragged on for years, seemingly impossible to solve.

The Berner Zeitung in Switzerland saw overseas forces and a rough-and-tumble power play behind Britain’s delaying its joining the euro. The British fear competition from Europe, said the paper, adding that it couldn't see any economic logic for the delay, especially as Britain urgently needs European investments. At the latest during the Iraq war, wrote the Swiss paper, the British mistrust of continental Europe grew into open conflict.

It’s a strange betwixt and between kind of existence that keeps the British half-hearted Europeans, wrote the Salzburger Nachrichten of Austria. They want to be in and out. They want to profit from the single market and codetermine its rules, but are not prepared to give up any of their sovereignty in return.

Other European papers looked addressed Poland's 'yes' vote to join the European Union.

Holland’s Algemeen Dagblad was among many European papers commenting on the Poles’ nod to joining the European Union. The paper pointed out that the EU subsidies Poland can expect won’t come anywhere near balancing out the social difficulties the adaptation process will bring with it.

The Aftenposten in Norway said Poland’s membership in the EU is as important for Europe as for the country itself. The paper pointed out that with more than 40 million people, democratic Poland will bring in more people than the other nine candidate countries together. A Polish "no" would have blocked the entire expansion process and hurled the EU into a crisis. The Aftenposten suggested that psychologically, politically and perhaps economically as well, it is becoming harder all the time for Norway to stay out of the EU.

Politiken in Denmark argued that Polish membership will strengthen the pro-Atlantic wing of the EU, which includes Euro-skeptical countries Britain and Denmark. At best, this could help secure good relations across the Atlantic, at worst it could worsen the already considerable problems the EU has in defining its foreign policy.

In Germany, the outstanding topic for comment was still the killing in Kabul last Saturday of four German peacekeeping soldiers in a suicide bombing.

It must have been clear to everyone, wrote the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung of Essen, that defeating the Taliban wouldn’t destroy the al-Quaida network. German soldiers fought in the war against the Taliban, now they’re targets of the terrorists. It has to be clarified, wrote the paper, what tasks German forces are to have in the future: Kosovo, Horn of Africa, Kuwait, Afghanistan, soon the Congo – and then what?

The Frankfurter Rundschau saw a brutal reality become visible: the cold logic that armed people inevitably become the targets of other armed people.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung urged politicians to consider whether conditions in Afghanistan don’t make it necessary to strengthen the ISAF force, upgrade its armaments and extend its area of operation.

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