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Europe

European Press Review: Shows of Strength

European editorials were a mixed bag on Tuesday, with some papers commenting on the Republican convention in the US while others focused on the Franco-German-Russian summit in Sochi, and the French hostages in Iraq.

On this side of the Atlantic, wrote Britain’s Daily Telegraph, American political conventions are often dismissed as ridiculous, made-for-television theatre. The paper seemed to labor its own point by including a cartoon of President George W. Bush as a hypnotist, standing in front of the American flag swinging a pendulum that read “four more years,” and repeating the mantra: “America is safer, America is stronger...” But, the paper explained, there is a very serious debate going on in New York this week about how America -- and its allies -- can be made safer from terrorist threats. By choosing New York for their party’s convention, the paper mused, and by assuming all the extra security requirements that that choice implied, Republicans have sent a clear signal to America’s enemies. The Telegraph concluded that the United States will do what it takes to defeat the terrorist threat.

Austria’s Kurier focused on the demonstrations against Bush, saying people came in their hundreds-of-thousands to show their president what they think of him which, it remarks, is nothing. They are united in their belief, the paper noted, that four more years of Bush would push the US into political and economic ruin. For the party, garnering the votes of the simple majority is the name of the game, the paper explained, so there won’t be any discussions of complicated matters at the Grand Old Party’s convention. It is easier to relay the caricature of a situation, the Austrian paper concluded, as in: “We are under attack, so we will defend ourselves, led by a strong leader.”

Other papers looked at the kidnapping of two French reporters in Iraq. The hostage-takers have issued a deadline for France to rescind a new ban on Islamic headscarves in schools. Libération in Paris pointed out that France cannot negotiate with the kidnappers, as they are connected to the al Qaeda network that has always regarded France as a possible target. But the paper pointed out that many Arab politicians have spoken up for the French hostages, which has never before happened to such an extent. And that, the French paper commented, shows how isolated the kidnappers are.

El Pais in Spain wrote that for the first time two people were kidnapped for reasons other than the stationing of troops in Iraq or the situation there. But, as a democratic state, France will not give in to blackmail, the paper added, pointing out that even the Muslim community in the country has condemned the kidnapping. The paper concluded that we have all become hostages of the situation in Iraq.

Gazeta Wyborcza from Poland commented on the German-Russian-French summit in Sochi, saying the three leaders seem to enjoy a real connection with one another, as this is their fourth meeting since last year. There will be hugs, smiles, and statements, the paper noted --but that is not what really counts. What is important, the paper noted, is the demonstration of common interests and opinions, which is proof that the world doesn’t have to be single-track, and that there is a counter-weight to the United States.