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Europe

European Press Review: The Gerhard, Jacques and Tony Show

European editorial writers are already looking ahead to Saturday’s Franco-German-British summit in Berlin, where leaders hope to smooth foreign policy differences and adopt a common stance on Iraq.

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Seeking a common ground: Tony Blair (left), Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder

"How nice that these three good friends will meet up on Saturday" in preparation for next week’s United Nations General Assembly, wrote the editors of Berlin’s Tageszeitung. "And how utterly predictable too – just like the outcome. They’ll come up with a framework for a new U.N. resolution on Iraq that allows all sides to save face while demonstrating new harmony. Those who are worried about the future of the European Union may find that comforting," the paper wrote. But, it added, "those who are worried that the world may be about to descend into a conflict on the scale of the Thirty Years War will see this as fresh grounds for concern."

For the left-leaning French daily Libération, France’s leadership role within the European Union is indisputable. It’s lead editorial declared that, with the exception of England, "our European partners basically agree with our view of the world and don’t question the Franco-German leadership." But the paper added that these same partners barely differentiate between Washington’s arrogant and unilateralist behavior and that of Paris and Berlin. Both countries, the editors wrote, "have to learn to give their European partners more of a share in their ideas, to convince them they’re not trying to rule the roost."

Meanwhile, the editors of Spain’s top newspapers expressed their irritation that Madrid wasn’t invited to the party.

In its leading editorial, El Mundo opined that "it’s obvious the leaders of Germany and France have deliberately excluded" Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar. Spain should definitely have been represented, the paper protested, reminding readers that in addition to having been one of the most high-profile supporters of the United States in Iraq crisis protests, Spain is also a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. "How long are Paris and Berlin going to punish Aznar for his pro-American stance?" the paper asked. But the paper also posed the even tougher question of what’s best for Spain’s long-term interests? Should it maintain excellent ties with the United States at the expense of its relations with the European Union’s central axis?

Though his country currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wasn’t invited, either. But the editors of Milan’s Corriere della Sera just shrugged their figurative shoulders. "It seems that, while there was some consideration over whether or not Spain should be included, no one even thought about Italy," the paper wrote. It then went on to make an optimistic prognosis for the summit, saying it could provide a good basis for a restoration of Europe’s image on the international stage if the three nations succeed in establishing a common standpoint.

Looking further afield, some papers couldn’t resist rubber-necking at the latest twist in the saga of the Californian gubernatorial elections.

Once again, machines have blocked the Terminator’s path, wrote Moscow’s Komersant. This time, though, it was outdated punch-card voting machines that have caused the poll to be postponed. "The ruling Republican party is afraid someone’s out to steal certain victory from their beloved Arnold Schwarzenegger," the paper commented. It concluded: "The run-up to the California election is beginning to show remarkable similarities with the ones we’re used to here in Russia."

American elections are always complicated, conceded Britain’s Guardian. But, the paper wrote, "for sheer, battiness, California’s recall poll takes the biscuit. It makes the rules of cricket look straightforward." It continued: "At the last count, the poll had attracted 135 candidates, give or take a lap-dancer, possibly producing the longest ballot paper in history." Amazingly, the paper remarked, "for what is arguably the nation’s most powerful governorship, a lack of political experience is deemed a distinct advantage. California’s judges say the world is watching." It is, the Guardian agreed -- "with astonishment."