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Europe

European Press Review: EU Rewards Greek Cypriot Recalcitrance

On the eve of the twin referendums in Cyprus, European Papers on Friday cast doubt on whether voters will choose to end the 30-year division of the island.

"Voting 'no' would endorse partition," proclaimed London's Financial Times. The nearest thing to a settlement of Cyprus' 30 year division looks pretty well doomed, the paper predicted. "But, contrary to what anyone thought, death to a settlement will probably come from the Greek Cypriots, rather than the Turkish Cypriots, who with Turkish troops created the division in the first place," it observed. "For the EU to have to appear now to 'reward' Greek Cypriot recalcitrance with club membership is galling enough. Even worse is that the Greek Cypriots' current leaders have conducted the current negotiations and referendum campaign in a way that shows them quite unfit to join a democratic union," it concluded.

The Austrian daily Der Standard said if the Greek Cypriots reject the UN reunification on Saturday then only the Greek Cypriot side will enter the European Union on May 1. The paper warned that the international community needs to give some serious thought about the status of the Turkish Cypriot side. "The Turkish side does not deserve further isolation from the United States and the European Union," the paper admonished, writing that no vote could lead to two separate states on the island. It would be a bitter irony of history if a no vote by the Greeks would fulfill the dreams of the arch enemy Turkish leader Rauf Denktash.

The Flemish paper De Standaard from Belgium regarded Russia's veto of the United Nations resolution on the reunification of Cyprus lessens the chance that the Greek Cypriot side will vote yes. According to the paper, the government in Moscow was not prepared to give London or Washington -- who both have military bases in Cyprus -- any advantages. The division of the island is a sticking point in relations between Turkey and Greece and threatens stability in the region for the NATO powers.

The Security Council veto reflects Russia's financial interests in Cyprus commented Moscow's Kommersant. "It wasn't just brotherly solidarity with Greece that prompted Russia to invoke its veto," commented the paper, "but perhaps it was intended as a snub against the Britains and Americans who ignore Moscow." The paper noted that Russia, which exports weapons to Cyprus, would suffer financially from a UN peacekeeping initiative and demilitarization of the island. Europe will ultimately blame Russia for the referendum's failure whatever the motives behind a 'no' vote are, argued the paper.

Turning to Iraq and the UN's Oil for Food program, London's The Independent said the bribery and corruption scandal surrounding the program couldn't have come at a worse time. "The UN's reputation is already tarnished among Iraqis, now its integrity as well as its competence is under fire." However, the paper suggested, "Not all the blame can be laid at the UN's door, the program, introduced to ameliorate the effects of sanctions on the Iraqis was a flawed one. By allowing Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime to choose the middlemen to whom it would sell oil and buy food, it allowed Saddam to reach agreements with a host of individuals and companies that could pay him kick backs for getting cheaper oil."

The Italian paper La Stampa saw the withdrawal of large international corporations from Iraq as a heavy blow for U.S. President George W. Bush. The German firm Siemens is evacuating its staff. The U.S. company General Electric is postponing several of its projects in the country in light of the worsening violence. This signals a major loss of faith by the corporations in the Bush administration's handling of the situation in Iraq and could lead to negative impacts on the world's financial markets, the paper commented.

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