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Europe

European Press Review: Poland Enters EU with Head Held High

The Polish referendum on EU membership and continuing violence in the Middle East and Afghanistan were the top stories in Europe's papers on Monday.

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Focusing on the latest violence in Afghanistan, The Guardian in Britain argued that Afghanistan needs more help from the West. After the September 11, 2001, attacks on America, President Hamid Karzai is one of the world’s most important heads of government, the paper maintained. After all the turbulence of recent decades he’s trying to build democracy in his country. It has to be asked why the West isn’t doing more practical things to help him, the paper queried Especially affluent countries like the United States should do more, the paper concluded.

Moscow’s Kommersant turned its attention to Iraq, commenting on a string of American defeats. For two months the U.S. hasn’t had a win in Iraq, at least none that could be seen, the paper stated. A big win would, of course, have been the discovery of weapons of mass destruction hidden by Saddam Hussein. That would have answered many questions, the paper noted. And now, George W. Bush even has to allow the unloved weapons inspectors back into the country, which strictly speaking is a diplomatic defeat, Kommersant noted.

Nesawissimaja Gaseta, also in Moscow, pondered whether Washington is now setting its sights on Saudi Arabia. The paper advised the Russian government to stick closely to the United States in Middle East politics. The sharp American tone in dealing with Iran may be a smokescreen created by the Bush government to detract attention away from an active intervention on the Arabian Peninsula, possibly even in Saudi Arabia itself, the paper theorized. If that is the case, wrote Nesawissimaja Gaseta, Russia should support these plans for tactical reasons and for its long-term interests.

La Repubblica in Rome was not surprised at the latest bloodshed between Palestinians and Israelis. That’s the way it has always been in response to every attempt to revive negotiations the paper lamented. Extremists on both sides have killed to break the dialogue and get the violence spiraling again.

Italy’s Corriere della Sera commented that if the Polish referendum on EU membership had failed, it would have caused a government crisis. The insecurity would have been a heavy blow to the economy, the stock exchange would have collapsed and unemployment would have skyrocketed. And Poland’s friends from Washington to Brussels would have had to rush to its sick-bed, the paper concluded.

Rzeczpospolita in Warsaw regarded the weekend referendum as the most important decision Poles have had to make since the first democratic elections in 1989. "It’s only up to us what we make of our future," wrote the paper. "It’s up to our activity, wisdom and courage - the qualities that enabled us to break out of the night of communism and start building an independent Poland. Membership in the EU should be the fulfillment and crowning of that building."

Mlada fronta Dnes in Prague was of the opinion that Poland is finally getting a new look. The appointment of a Polish pope was the start of a miraculous rise of Poland into a self-confident country, the Czech paper stated and praised the Poles for going into the Union heads held high.

The Times in London underlined why Europe needs Poland. Poles see the United States as a partner, not a rival. At least the British government should assure Poland of its solidarity, the paper concluded.