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Europe

European Press Review: Cynical Gesture

European editorial writers on Tuesday commented on Turkey’s bid to join the European Union and how EU countries are reacting to that. Also, some papers were critical of the latest violence in Israel.

With just a day to go before the European Commission decides on whether Turkey is ready to launch full EU membership negotiations, the Financial Times in London said that French President Jacques Chirac has thrown his own personal hand grenade into the debate. He’s decided that France will hold a referendum on Turkish membership, but the paper sarcastically noted that Chirac has said it might not happen for another decade. The paper thought this is a cynical gesture to appease hostile public opinion from a man who professes himself a supporter of Turkey in the EU. The paper ended on the note that referendums may

appear to be the ultimate test of democracy, but it believed they are the cowardly way out for politicians who are often to weak to make the decision themselves.

Germany’s Leipziger Volkszeitung thought the mixed signals from EU governments is not only making Turkey confused but is unsettling Europeans as well. The paper pointed the finger at the EU Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen for making the situation worse. It was just a short time ago, remembered the paper, that he raised doubts about Turkey’s membership bid. And now all of a sudden, he can’t get the negotiations going fast enough, the daily concluded.

The local French paper La République des Pyrénées thought the EU commission will most likely give Turkey the green light to start membership talks which will probably intensify the difficult debate on whether the EU should share borders with the Islamic world. The paper questioned if Europe’s boundaries should be political or geographical and thinks both arguments are defendable. One can decide that Europe is a closed Christian club or, said the paper, one could consider the fundamental question of the century; that of an Islam with a human countenance.

Other European editorial writers commented on the latest Israeli incursion into the Gaza strip.

Britain’s The Guardian said Israel can defend the operation as a need to protect its territory from Palestinian rockets, but the paper was disturbed by the scale of the offensive which it points out is the largest since the reoccupation of much of the West Bank in 2002. It questioned the intention of Ariel Sharon’s government. The paper said there is evidence that Israel is deliberately targeting Gaza’s already rickety infrastructure. The paper asserted that Israel needs to understand that making Gaza worse even though it’s pulling out of that area is not in its interest. Nobody seriously believed that Israel will be able to neutralize the attacks in the Gaza strip in the next couple of months, wrote the Neue Züricher Zeitung in Switzerland. And there’s no way that Israel will be able to prevent Hamas propagandists from portraying Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza as a success for the Palestinians, according to the paper. These are the consequences of Ariel Sharon’s refusal to seriously negotiate with the Palestinians over the Gaza pull out and what happens there afterwards, the daily concluded.