European Press Review: Karzai - A King Without a Land | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 01.04.2004
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European Press Review: Karzai - A King Without a Land

European newspapers on Thursday commented on the plight of Afghanistan, the U.N.’s compromise deal to reunify Cyprus and the radical reshuffle in the French cabinet.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai is a king without a land, said Moscow’s Kommersant. The biggest problem he and the international community face is that a majority of the country isn’t controlled by the Kabul government. Rather it’s the regional war lords with their own armies financed by opium fields that hold sway over the land. The paper pointed out that Hamid Karzai’s army is only 7500-strong, just enough to protect him and his government.

Germany’s Stuttgarter Zeitung said that after more than two decades of war, destruction, displacement, tyranny and repression, the people of Afghanistan lack any sense of belonging that could give rise to a new national identity. It

is the dependence on warlords that keeps Afghanistan divided, more so than the divisions between the ethnic groups. The country is being torn apart by inner conflict, something a donors' conference can’t solve, the paper pointed out.

Some papers reflected on the compromise deal struck by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to reunite Greek and Turkish Cyprus after a 30-year split.

Britain’s The Guardian though it’s a solution to suit all sides – in principle. But in practice, one side is going to end up with a five course meal with champagne and the other with a sandwich and a cup of coffee, it wrote. If Greek Cypriots reject the referendum on the plan, it will look like they are barring the poorer Turkish side from entry to the European Union. The paper wrote that that split could then sour relations between the EU and Turkey, who also wants to be a member.

Zurich’s Tages-Anzeiger said the way the wealthier Greek side of the island can show its strength is by how it deals with the weaker Turkish side. Agreements such as this come with painful compromises in the beginning. To accept this is a learning process, it wrote. The paper urged both communities to take advantage of this chance offered by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan during the referendum on April 24th.

Some papers also focused on French President Chirac's radical shake-up of his cabinet following a crushing defeat for his conservatives in regional elections last weekend.

Britain’s Financial Times wondered how much France would gain from Chirac's new government. It wrote that Chirac appeared to have his eye mainly on France's next presidential election in 2007 in reshuffling his cabinet. The paper added that the president's main maneuver seemed to be to build up his favorite, Dominique de Villepin, as insurance against his potential presidential rival, Nicholas Sarkozy, getting into the Elysee. Thus, Sarkozy goes to the finance ministry where incumbents' popularity tends to suffer, irrespective of their success or failure, while de Villepin moves from the foreign ministry to take Sarkozy's place at the interior ministry so that he can round out his diplomatic experience with some domestic exposure, the paper wrote.

Le Monde in Paris said President Chirac didn’t get the clear message voters were sending him. That they are unhappy with the government and are prepared to give their votes to the left even though it doesn’t have much to offer. And all Chirac does is continue pushing ahead with his agenda which is risky, the paper wrote.