European Press Review: Elections in Spain and Russia | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 15.03.2004
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European Press Review: Elections in Spain and Russia

European editorial pages on Monday focused on the Madrid terrorist attacks and the elections both in Spain and in Russia.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung wrote that Europe has become more nervous. The paper said that the more suspicion over the Madrid attacks became focused on the

terror network al Qaeda rather than the Basque separatist group ETA, the more the feeling grew that it was now Europe’s turn. Suddenly, the paper commented,

countries that had previously thought they had good chances of being spared because of their foreign policy began to see themselves as potential targets for Islamic terrorism. The idea that “peaceful Europe” was detached from such events was always a misconception, the paper commented.

De Standaard from Brussels agreed, concluding that the recent evidence suggests that an Islamic organization carried out the attacks -- not ETA. In all the European capitals, the paper wrote, people had hoped that this would be an internal Spanish problem, and that the attacks in Madrid wouldn't be the beginning of a European war against an invisible Islamic enemy.

The German paper Handelsblatt said that the attacks have raised calls for stronger security measures in Europe. But it warned that the fanatics won't be stopped by increased internal and external defense measures. The paper said the key factor here as a difference of values. But it warned that European democracies ought not betray their own basic values - international law, human rights, rule of law, openness. The Handelsblatt believes that every kind of overreaction to the situation plays into the hands of Al Qaeda.

France’s Libération looked at the effects of the terrorist attack in Madrid on the Spanish election result. The paper thinks that by voting out Spanish Prime Minister Jose Aznar, the voters were punishing his government for its mistakes: namely, concealing evidence that pointed to Islamists and manipulating the media to focus blame on the Basques. The manoeuvre gives Liberation cause to worry. At a time, the paper wrote, when terrorists are declaring war on democracies, this kind of manipulation is irresponsible. The paper called it the worst of all weapons of mass destruction: it destroys credibility.

Another French paper, Les Echos, commented that there were two votes on Sunday thousands of kilometers apart, in Spain and in Russia, both of which are important for the future of Europe and for the geopolitical balance. Both

votes, it said, were overshadowed: the Spanish by terrorism, and the Russian by authoritarianism. The eleventh of March will remain one of the darkest moments

in Spanish history, writes Les Echos. But the paper pointed to the about-turn in the election as proof that democracy has taken root in Spain only one generation after the fall of the Franco dictatorship, whereas Russia, according to the paper, has shown its democracy to be weakened.

Rzechpospolita in Warsaw agreed, saying that the Russia vote shows that Putin has collected the entire political, economic, and judiciary power in his hands. Russia is shutting out democracy, the paper wrote, and without it the country will never become a normal European state.