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European Press Review: Trouble for Serbia

Editorialists from Madrid to Moscow agreed on Tuesday that the success of a nationalist hard-liner in Serbia's abortive presidential election over the weekend spelled trouble for the country.

"Three years after the collapse of the Milosevic regime, democrats have suffered a disastrous defeat," Russia's Nezavisimaya Gazeta commented the Serbian election. "The success of the hard-liners is the biggest nightmare imaginable for investors and a trump card for Serbia's opponents on the Balkans. Those opponents are to be found in Bosnia and Croatia as well as in Kosovo. After this election, Kosovo Albanian leaders will have yet another reason to clamor for independence."

The Spanish paper ABC claimed that this third failed attempt to elect a president "is a sign of the instability permeating former Yugoslavia since nationalist madness drove the Serbs into war, subsequent ruin and collective frustration."

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung paper from Switzerland pondered when the forces for reform would finally wake up in Serbia. "There is not much time left before parliamentary elections in December. A return to the nationalism of former times would have fatal consequences for the whole region. Without stability in Serbia, there can be no guarantee of lasting peace in the western Balkans."

In Britain the focus was on U.S. President George Bush's impending visit. "Make no mistake," The Independent wrote, "this first ever formal state visit to Britain by a U.S. President may not be the absolute no-win occasion for George Bush that it promises to be for Tony Blair. But there is scant doubt that for the White House too, it has not exactly come at the ideal moment."

Der Standard in Austria devoted attention to the three-day German Social Democratic Party congress. "The real test for [German Chancellor] Schröder has yet to come," it said. "His assertion that cuts would be even more dramatic under a Christian Democrat-led government is highly dubious. By applying pressure of this sort and threatening to resign, Mr Schröder has been able to rally the party behind him. But 2004 is a year of elections in Germany and Germans will be going to polls 14 times in various parts of the country. That will be the true test of the support Mr Schröder enjoys," the paper said.