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European Press Review: Is Spain Bowing To Terrorists?

Papers are still commenting on the decision by Spain’s new government to pull out its troops out of Iraq. Others comment on British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision to hold an EU constitution referendum.

Minutes after Spain’s new head of government, Prime Minister José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero, was sworn in, he made pulling out all of Spain’s troops from Iraq his first priority, noted Oslo’s Aftenpost. "The move has added to the enormous and growing pressure on the Bush administration, both in Iraq and at home, to show it’s willing to hand over some responsibility to the United Nations." But the paper's editors wondered how the United Nations could possibly take over the growing chaos in the country when nobody’s security can be guaranteed?

Il Messaggero in Rome warned that Prime Minister Zapatero’s decision to withdraw troops from Iraq could cause a possible seismic event within the European Union.

The paper added that even though it’s too early to know the full consequences of his decision, it will also probably reshape European-American relations. The daily isn’t so sure though, that it will weaken the EU. It might even revive Europe’s political initiative that it lost when the bloc was divided into old and new Europe.

Germany’s Financial Times Deutschland was critical of Spain's move because the timing makes the prime minister look like he’s bowing to terrorists. The paper said that Zapatero could have waited until the danger of this misinterpretation had lessened, even if the situation were made more complicated by more kidnappings in Iraq.

Other European editorials turn their attention to British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s expected decision to hold a referendum on the draft European Union constitution.

Britain’s Independent agreed with the prime minister in that the time is right that the public was treated to a proper debate about Britain’s place in Europe. The enlargement of the union from 15 to 25 members next month should be the occasion for looking toward the future. However, the paper added, "the new constitution might not be the best reason for a referendum or even the proper occasion for debating the future."

Another British daily, the Guardian noted that even though a referendum is unlikely to happen before the next election, that doesn’t leave much time to persuade a largely skeptical public. It lamented that "one of the great penalties of the politics of the euro is that the pro-European argument has gone largely unmade. Over the past seven years, the government has allowed the European case to drift for so long that public opinion, misled by the europhobic press, has become less and less enthusiastic about any new European project of any kind." The paper urged the government to start the case for Europe today.

On the other hand, De Volkskrant in The Hague wrote that this referendum was all about Blair trying to end the debate about his country’s role in Europe. "That’s why it won’t be about the content of the draft constitution but rather about to what level Britain participates in the bloc," the editors wrote.