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Europe

European Press Review: The Challenge of Enlargement

Papers across Europe on Monday weighed in on the weekend's enlargement of the European Union -- the big bang of modern European politics.

The French daily Liberation, views European expansion as an opportunity to expand the debate about Europe as a whole. The purpose, so far, the paper says, seems to be to give EU members access to an unfettered market and to create a political space no longer under threat. But those who still believe in the true spirit of European unity will have to keep pace with Europe’s accelerated growth. Can they keep up, the paper asks?

Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung agrees and comments that the European Union promises a peaceful future because Europeans agree there should never again be soldier’s graves in Europe. But, the paper warns, a technocratic super state is not what the people want. That’s why the individual paragraphs of the new European constitution are not as important as the spirit in which their intended.

The Bulgarian daily Sega writes that even if the most optimistic predictions for a peaceful and unified Europe are fulfilled with expansion, it still portends tremendous changes for the entire continent. In the past, change in Europe was always met with resistance. Even now, there are forces that wish to maintain the status quo, including the advantages the old Europeans have over the New Europeans.

Turning to the Middle East, Italy’s Corriere della Sera comments on Israel’s Likud Party rejecting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s proposed withdrawal from Gaza. This is now an extremely difficult phase for the entire Middle East problem, the paper says, with the road map in ruins, the ineffectiveness of the Palestinian government and the rising threat of new suicide attacks. Can the prime minister still govern after this defeat? Sharon may have to seek a nation-wide referendum to find out, the paper says.

France’s Le Figaro thinks Sharon will continue with his plan to pull out of Gaza, despite his party refusing to follow him. Gaza is not part of biblical Israel, the paper notes, and supported by the majority of Israelis and even the Palestinians, he has nothing to fear.

Spain’s El Mundo thinks differently and argues that Sharon has failed. He is now the leader of a divided party. But the paper predicts that he will neither step down nor go through with his Gaza plan.

Britain’s Independent looks at Iraq and the allegations of torture by U.S. and British troops. Is the photographic evidence proof that barbarism has returned to Iraq’s prisons? Doubts over the authenticity of the photos remain,

the paper says. It seems unusual for front-line troops to take their wartime snaps in high-resolution black and white film. But even if it turns out to be a hoax, that will have little credibility in a region where conspiracy theories are part of everyday political discourse.

The Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad agrees and comments that the reports of mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners is more damaging than all the anti-coalition attacks put together. Bush and Blair once had a moral justification for the war. Iraqis were willing to accept occupation to be freed from a horrible dictator. Now, that attitude could change.