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European Press Review: Rewarding Turkish Cypriots

European papers on Tuesday commented on the decision by the EU to pledge €259 million euros in aid to Turkish Cypriots and on the takeover of pharmaceutical giant Aventis by the French Sanofi concern.

Britain’s Financial Times wrote that the rejection by Greek Cypriots of the United Nations reunification plan for the island certainly looks like a fiasco. The result, it said, is also cock-eyed. The Greek Cypriots arguably stood to gain most from the deal, the paper commented, yet it was the Turkish Cypriots who voted decisively in favour. EU foreign ministers were determined to show their irritation with the Greek Cypriots on Monday when they pledged aid, trade and transport links for the Turkish Cypriot north, the paper noted. Now they can argue that this can be done without ever formally recognizing the Turkish Cypriots’ rebel state, the daily concluded.

Austria’s Kurier also considers it ironic that after years of unsuccessful attempts by hardline Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to gain international recognition for his tiny state, the project is finally taking shape thanks to, of all people, his Greek archenemies in the south. The paper said the EU now has a moral duty to support the Turkish Cypriots, commenting that it would be absurd to punish their "good behavior." EU plans to open an office in the north as well as easing trade restrictions and giving cash injections are not a recognition of national sovereignty, but they do represent an end to the total isolation of the north – and that, in the paper’s opinion, is a good thing.

The Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter said Cyprus lost a big chance with the rejection of the UN plan. But the paper also saw the result as a failure of the international community. Generous promises of aid were not enough, it wrote. The EU still has the means to move the process forward and it can’t leave things at the current status quo forever, the paper remarked.

But the French daily Le Monde spoke of a heavy defeat for the European Union: In other candidate countries, it managed to persuade various ethnic groups to agree to live alongside each other. The UN plan for Cyprus would of course have required the Greek Cypriots to make sacrifices, the paper wrote. They decided they preferred not to share their prosperity; but in doing so they risk cementing the division of the island.

Other French papers commented on the takeover of the Franco-German pharmaceutical concern Aventis by the smaller, more profitable French company Sanofi. The business daily Les Echos saw the creation of a French pharmaceutical giant as a good thing, not so much as an issue of national pride but in order to maintain strong industrial performance in a key field. But like many other European papers, it’s astounded at the way the takeover happened: It was clearly arranged by the French government, which constitutes interference in the affairs of private companies, the paper noted, adding that this has sent a negative signal to foreign investors.

You don’t normally see this kind of takeover in the global business world, wrote Germany’s Westdeutsche Zeitung, but in France such things are possible. The question is whether it really makes sense for the state to get so heavily involved in industrial politics. The new pharmaceutical giant is starting up with a debt of €19 billion ($22.5 billion), the paper pointed out, and this could increase once important medicines lose their exclusivity. Is bigger better, asked Britain’s The Guardian. The danger it sees is that big pharmaceuticals will spend more energy on creating new money-spinners like Viagra than in trying to cure unfashionable diseases like malaria. The paper was also concerned that the political clout these giants wield means they’ll be harder to regulate. Future pharmaceutical mega-mergers will demand closer scrutiny from governments wanting to aid good health – and healthy competition, the daily warned.