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European Press Review: The Road Map To Peace

Hopes for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians led the editorial pages at many of Europe's top newspapers on Monday.


In its leading editorial, the London-based Independent put the responsibility for the implementation of the new "road map" for Middle East peace firmly on the shoulders of U.S. President George W. Bush. The paper wrote that there are signs Bush is taking this responsibility seriously -- sending his secretary of state to meet the new Palestinian prime minister and his Israeli counterpart. But, the Independent opined, Bush himself should make a trip to the region very soon to encourage both parties to move on tough issues like preventing violence and ending Israeli settlements. According to the paper, this would be the only way Bush could prove his commitment to the current plan.

Switzerland's Basler Zeitung commented on the role incoming Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas will play in the latest round of negotiations. The paper said that both Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have realized that if they don't approach negotiations with a constructive attitude, and simply play a disguised politics of obstruction, plans for peace can never move forward. It is this fundamental political point, the paper noted, that PLO Chief Yassir Arafat has always failed to grasp.

In an editorial on the results of the Lithuanian referendum on membership in the European Union, the conservative Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita concluded that fears expressed before the vote were proven wrong. Turnout exceeded the required 50 percent of the voting population by a considerable amount, and 10 times more people voted in favor of Europe than against joining. The outcome, the paper said, boded well for the upcoming Polish referendum. It's editors called on Poles to, once again, follow the good example of their Lithuanian neighbors.

Editorialists at the Austrian newspaper Der Standard, meanwhile, speculated Monday on the career plans of German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was quoted on Saturday as saying he thought Fischer would make an excellent candidate for a likely new post of foreign minister for the European Union. Schröder, the paper said, would not have been able to stop Fischer from taking the position -- even if he had tried. On the paper's assessment, Fischer is ambitious by nature, and given that becoming chancellor is not an option for him, since he comes from the smaller party in the ruling coalition, it is obvious that he would head for the European level. By announcing his intentions, Fischer has played his cards very early, but he still has a good chance of getting the job, the paper concluded.