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European Press Review: Unity Eludes Berlin

The editors of newspapers in Europe’s capitals on Monday turned their attentions to trilateral effort in Berlin this weekend to find a common British-French-German position on Iraq.

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Jacques Chirac (from left) Gerhard Schröder and Tony Blair in Berlin

A meeting in Berlin on Saturday between French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and British Prime Minister Tony Blair was supposed to have explored whether these key figures in world politics, in dispute over Iraq, could agree on a common policy for its reconstruction, observed Moscow’s Kommersant. Though the three made great efforts to distract from the persisting differences, their joint declaration revealed that there can be no talk of a real coming together of positions, said the Russian paper.

The editors of the Paris-based Le Figaro described a chess game in which everyone’s out to secure influence in the Arab-Muslim world for the prize of access to oil resources and stability of the region. This is why, wrote the paper, Chirac will again prick the United States in the United Nations General Assembly by urging multilateral solutions to crises and calling for the United Nations to be made fit to deal with them. This is one way of showing that the peace camp is alive, the paper wrote.

In Denmark, Politiken commented that the security, economic development and a new political order the Iraqis need can’t be delivered on their own by the U.S. or Britain, the United Nations, the block of France, Germany and Russia or the Arab world. The U.S. and British have to realize that they need the UN and the big European countries to get out of Iraq without losing face, the paper wrote.

Across Europe, the triumph of the CSU party in Sunday’s state election in Bavaria, got big play in the editorials.

Chancellor Schröder is being punished sooner than expected for the decline in his budget and foreign policies, observed Madrid’s ABC. "Triumph for King Stoiber," is the headline in France’s La Presse de la Manche, and like many other foreign and German papers, de Volkskrant in Holland saw Stoiber still seeking the main prize -- namely the chancellery in Berlin.

The Financial Times in London called it Stoiber’s personal triumph, and in Switzerland the Basler Zeitung wrote that, at least in the back rooms, Stoiber can now play a bit at being chancellor. But, suggested Italy’s La Stampa, if he tries to have another crack at the real thing, he’s going to get a lot of resistance from the nationally operating sister conservative party, the CDU, notably its secretary general Angela Merkel, who only stood aside for Stoiber last year on condition that she’d be the front-runner in 2006.

Germany’s biggest selling daily, Bild, recalls that a year ago to the day Schröder kept the chancellery only by a whisker. Yesterday his then-challenger, Edmund Stoiber, got payback, with his CSU pulverizing Schröder’s Social Democrats in Bavaria. Since the national one, the Social Democrats are lurching from one election drama to the next. Bild argues that people just don’t understand the mix-up over reforms in Berlin and don’t trust the chancellor’s party to deal with the coming problems.

The nationally-read Süddeutsche Zeitung published in Munich noted that the CSU already had all the power in Bavaria and now holds it even more firmly. The CSU isn’t going to run amok with its power, wrote the paper, but Stoiber will be out to avenge last year’s national defeat.

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