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Europe

European Press Review: Why Italy Tolerates Berlusconi

Debate raged throughout Europe on Wednesday over Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose country has taken over the EU presidency for the next six months. Editors also pondered the surge in violence in Iraq.

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The Italians have to tolerate Silvio Berlusconi because they elected him, but Europe didn't.

The London Independent wrote: "Of course other EU states harbor corruption and tolerate sharp practices by politicians. But none combine these with the sort of politics that Mr. Berlusconi and his Forza Italia allies stand for. At the very least, the British paper continues, the Forza Italia represents a sharp contrast to the liberal democratic ideals enshrined in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights."

The Russian daily Kommersant offered no less scathing in its remarks. Its editors wrote that the Italians have to tolerate Berlusconi because they were the ones who elected him, but the rest of Europe didn’t ask him to be its leader. Even if the EU presidency is only a nominal function, the Moscow paper wrote, the bloc has never had an oligarch as its head.

Britain’s Financial Times opined on another issue that has been the subject of fierce debate in Germany during the past few days: the landmark defeat of the IG Metall engineering workers union in a month-long strike in eastern Germany. How the mighty have fallen, the daily wrote. IG Metall rose after the war to become arguably the most powerful industrial union in the world. In the 1980’s it successfully waged a six-year campaign in the then West Germany for a 35-hour working week. Its defeat in the east on a similar issue, the paper concludes, was a forceful reminder of how the world has changed.

Referring to the fresh upsurge of violence in Iraq, Italy’s La Repubblica surmised that Saddam Hussein is in the process of implementing a plan that could make life extremely difficult for the coalition forces. He may have been unable to resist America’s super army, the Rome-based daily wrote, but now he will seek to prevent it from creating peace.

Le Figaro in Paris noted that Washington is resigning itself to a lengthy stay in Iraq, with the aim of stabilizing the entire Middle East region and controlling oil supplies. But this is such a mammoth task, the paper concluded, and America is suddenly waking up to the fact that in spite of its power it cannot do everything on its own.