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Europe

European Press Reviews: Suicide Mission in the African Bush

Newspapers across Europe on Wednesday examined the European Union's mission to the Congo and Britain's reticence to adopt the euro.

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Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung took a look at plans by Berlin to send German troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of an EU mission to restore peace in the violence-wracked country. After the bomb attack on ISAF troops in Afghanistan killed four German soldiers this weekend, the paper said there is a sense of uncertainty. Before troops enter a crisis zone, a few simple questions need to be answered: How are the troops getting there? What are they supposed to do there? And how and when will they be getting out again? The Munich paper concluded that when it comes to the mission in the Congo, there are no answers to these questions.

Austria’s Die Presse entitled its editorial on the Congo: "Suicide mission in the African Bush." The paper referred to the EU mission as historic, but warned that it’s a high-risk undertaking with many unknowns. A contingent of a few thousand troops in a jungle with desolate roads and countless hidden airstrips will be utterly overwhelmed, the paper maintained.

Russia’s Nezavissmaya Gazeta called the EU Congo mission a "trial by fire." The EU is trying to prove it has military might. With the war in Iraq the EU has lost influence in the Middle East, so the confrontation between the French and the Americans is being continued in Africa, the paper theorized.

As to Britain’s decision to hold off before joining the common European currency zone, the Dutch daily De Volkskrant noted that the anxieties about being too closely bound to the continent and its strange customs is apparently so great in Britain that Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government has deemed it necessary to hide behind a smoke screen of ‘economic tests.’ The tests have very little to do with solid economic policy, the paper wrote.

Denmark’s Berlingske Tidende thought it was a bad idea to promise a national referendum on the euro, as Blair had done, while knowing that such an initiative would be defeated. For that reason alone, the paper noted, it was a wise and realistic decision to claim that the British economy was not yet ripe for the euro. London, although it wants the euro, will just have to wait.

Germany’s Tagesspiegel commented wryly that Britain and the euro was like ‘Waiting for Godot’. The anxieties about introducing something new and the secret fear of perhaps missing out on something hold the balance in Britain, the paper stated. It added that the falling pound currently benefits British industry, making it even harder to converge interest rates with the euro level. Of course the economic problems in Germany only stiffen the anti-euro mood in Britain, the paper argued.

Britain’s Independent agreed, but added there are two other reasons for London’s reticence to adopt the euro: the need for (economic and social) reform in the euro zone and the need for "a fully effective partnership between Europe and the United States." It’s not so much a question of whether the UK is flexible enough to join the euro zone; it’s more a question of whether the euro zone is flexible enough to have Britain as a member, the paper concluded.

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