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European Press Review: Who's to Blame for Cyprus?

The Greek vote against reunifying Cyprus troubled European editorialists on Monday. They also took a look at Austrian politics, analyzing the victory of the Social Democratic candidate in Sunday's presidential election.

European papers largely frowned upon Greek Cypriots for having rejected reunification, and suggested that international sympathy in the conflict has suddenly switched to the side of the Turks. The Tages-Anzeiger of Zurich said the "Greeks have isolated themselves in terms of foreign policy" because "one week before they are to enter the European Union, they have made clear that they don't understand, or don't want to understand, what the EU stands for." The paper chided them for not having "mustered up the solidarity that they themselves expect from Europe."

The French regional paper L'Alsace awarded the victory in Cyprus to the Turkish Cypriots, not the Greeks, because the Greeks voted "egoistically insofar as they have rejected the reunification that the international community wanted." The paper predicted that "Europe will receive Greek Cyprus frostily and help the northern [Turkish] part of the island."

Madrid's El Pais labeled the Greeks since division in 1974 as "the perceived victims in the conflict," but now they have suddenly become the "bad guys in the film."

The Politiken from Copenhagen suspected that "many in Brussels are regretting the fact that EU members did not make Cyprus' reunification a condition for entrance."

But despite all the sympathy for the Turkish part of Cyprus, Der Tagesspiegel from Berlin warned that there is "no reason to recognize it" diplomatically. Just because the Turks voted for reunification, doesn't make the Turkish occupation legitimate, nor the presence of 30,000 Turkish soldiers there; nor is the structure of government suddenly "democratic," the paper said. It stressed that reunification of Cyprus is still something that should remain "on the agenda."

The victory of Social Democratic presidential candidate Heinz Fischer in Austria, despite a conservative government, is "typical for the region," according to the Lidove noviny from Prague. Central Europe "prefers not to risk anything, or let a single party get too much influence," it wrote.

Il Messaggero from Rome saw the conservative-far right coalition now as "getting nervous" because the Austrian president can exercise quite wide-ranging constitutional powers if he wants to. Despite the fact that since the end of the war no president has really "exploited his influence," the paper reminded its readers that he is the commander-in-chief, "and can have direct political influence by vetoing the nomination of the chancellor and ministers."

Der Standard from the Austrian capital of Vienna numerated the reasons for Fischer's win. First, "for more conventional people, he was more acceptable than his competitor," Benita Ferrero-Waldner who is "sometimes rather fashionably shrill," it wrote; second, "Fischer was closer to the well-heeled;" and third, "for the giant army of government employees Fischer is a guarantee of correct leadership." But Fischer's trump card, the paper observed, was his "quite clear commitment to neutrality" in international affairs.

And the Corriera della Sera from Milan interpreted the victory as a "new low point" for the conservative Austrian People's Party following losses in regional elections in early March -- including Salzburg, the birthplace of presidential hopeful Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

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