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Europe

European Press Review: Go Where No one Else has Gone

European editorials reflected on the long-term implications of the Parmalat food group scandal in Italy and lamented Europe’s failure to contact its lost Mars probe, Beagle 2.

"The scandal involving the Italian food group Parmalat is fast becoming the biggest one in Europe’s corporate history," wrote Germany’s business-oriented Handelsblatt newspaper. It noted that the company’s crisis was not entirely home-made but that international banks played a major role. "The list of those involved reads like a who’s who list of the financial world," the paper reported, listing a few choice culprits like Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase and Deutsche Bank. The paper also blamed the banks for Parmalat’s downfall because they helped the company develop a complex web of barely legal accounting practices.

Italy’s La Repubblica said that the exact extent of the damage resulting from the Parmalat scandal is still difficult to gauge. However, it’s likely that taxpayers will be facing a bill far exceeding the estimated 10 billion shortfall. The paper suggested that rating agencies might even have to extend their function as monitors to the Italian finance ministry and also keep a watchful eye on the country’s budget deficit. "If Italy’s rating is to be downgraded, it would have serious implications," the paper argued, saying that it would be the first time a vote of no confidence by global investors targets a country belonging to the euro zone.

In France, the Paris-based La Croix newspaper criticized the tacit agreement between major global companies and governments that tolerate financial loopholes, lax guidelines and allow for the existence of remote tax havens. "All of these offer those pursuing dubious financial transactions a hiding place," the paper argued. "And as long as such possibilities exist, be they on the Cayman Islands or closer to Europe, the cry of outrage over Parmalat from many countries is nothing but hypocrisy," the paper concluded.

Two British newspapers trained their sites on Europe’s mission to Mars and the continued absence of life signs from the Beagle 2 space probe, which supposedly landed on the Red Planet on Christmas day but has failed to transmit a signal since then. The Financial Times blamed the failure on the attempt to say costs. "Beagle 2," the paper explained, "was given a very weak communications capacity and lacked the technology to help its landing on Mars, in stark contrast to the American effort which has been successful. The paper admonished Britain and Europe to commit themselves to better planning the next time they attempt to send a space craft to Mars. "After all, the exploration of Mars is a rewarding research enterprise in its own right," the paper added.

The Independent, meanwhile, praised the European plan to put Beagle on Mars. "While it’s sad to think that the craft is stranded somewhere on the Red planet unable to call home, it’s not dispiriting," the paper wrote. It called the plan to land on Mars "bold," and said the aim was "worthy." And although the paper acknowledged that "failure was not entirely unexpected," it encouraged Europe to continue its space exploration efforts, but pointed out that these should not copy NASA’s plans. Instead it said, "Europe should go where no one else has dared to go."

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