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European Press Review: Problems Rising in the East

The European newspapers on Thursday tackled issues including the state of affairs in Sri Lanka, the situation in Iraq and the progress reports of the candidate countries preparing to join the European Union.

With EU enlargement looming, progress reports from the ten Eastern European countries looking forward to accession in 2004, plus those of the three long-term potential candidates -- Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania -- were published in Brussels on Wednesday.

Italian paper La Repubblica opened its editorial by saying that the situation for Poland, the most important candidate, is critical. Poland accounts for more than half of the population and gross economic product of all new members but its alarming condition leaves European leaders increasingly irritated, the paper said. Warsaw’s poor attempt to adopt the structures and rules of the European Union, together with the often arrogant attitude of Polish ministers, has raised concern amongst current member states, the paper wrote.

The German Süddeutsche Zeitung also focused on one specific candidate -- Turkey. The paper wrote that Turkey’s case was proof that the EU is not only a “prosperity project” but also a “democratization project”. The European Commission has noted the impressive changes made by Turkey in the last few years, the paper stated but added that the Commission’s latest report also exposed the bitter truths, specifically the case of the still-divided island of Cyprus. If Turkey wants to be treated like an EU country, it has to act like one, argued the paper. That means it has to give in to international pressure and to contribute to solving this conflict.

The Financial Times in London dedicated its editorial to a subject further afield -- Iraq. The paper took time to re-examine the situation after last Sunday’s attack of a US-helicopter which left 16 American soldiers dead. The paper argued that the latest violence showed “how weakly the US-led occupation forces have got to grips with those who are fighting them.” The paper saw Washington’s move to rely more on Iraqis for the country’s security, as a step in the right direction. But still the best way, it added, would be to seek the legitimacy of a UN-mandate and to incorporate all Iraqis in the process.

In much the same vein, the French paper La Croix argued that Washington should now turn to the United Nations. But in order for that to happen, the paper wrote, the international community would have to forget American arrogance, which, it claimed, is still in evidence. La Croix also called on the Americans to refrain from calling those arrogant who earlier dismissed war as the means to create peace.

The British broadsheet, The Independent, moved further east to Asia, where the Sri Lankan President has suspended Parliament, sacked three ministers and declared a state of emergency. This was a “foolish act that brings the prospect of chaos and civil war a step closer”, wrote the paper. This was done, in the president’s own words, to “prevent further deterioration of the security situation”, but, according to The Independent, the effect of her action is likely to be quite the reverse.