German Press Review: A Deepened Division | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 26.04.2004
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German Press Review: A Deepened Division

German papers on Monday commented on Sunday's presidential elections in Austria as well as the failed attempt to unify Cyprus before EU accession this coming Saturday.

The real loser of the Austrian vote is not the conservative candidate Benita Ferrero-Waldner, it is rather Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel himself, wrote the Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten: It was he who chose her first for his cabinet and then as a presidential candidate. But he made a clear mistake by underestimating just how much the electorate would see the beautiful Benita simply as a puppet of Schüssel himself, the daily concluded.

The General-Anzeiger in Bonn agreed and spoke of yet another warning signal for Schüssel, following backlashes in several regional elections which also reduced his coalition partner beyond recognition. The voter turnout of under 70 percent is a clear message, wrote the paper: Even supporters of the conservative ruling party are disgruntled over Schüssel’s reform policies – and this latest defeat is sure to trigger a heated debate over what it should mean

for the future of the government in Vienna.

The Südkurier in Konstanz drew a parallel to the situation in Germany, where, it pointed out, the chancellor and the ruling party were also punished by voters, who’ve lost faith in the chancellor’s ability to deal with the economic realities.

The Austrian vote proves that across Europe opposition parties stand a good chance in elections these days, wrote the Saarbrücker Zeitung. Whether it is in regional elections like the ones in France or a national vote like that in Austria: The opposition can cash in on the people’s disappointment over perceived injustice of social reforms.

Other German papers looked at the impact of the weekend’s failed referendum in Cyprus. The failure of UN secretary general Kofi Annan’s plan for reunification will deepen the division of the island, feared the Frankfurter Rundschau. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül has already spoken of a permanent partition. But although the Greek Cypriots have slammed the door to the European Union shut for the Turkish part of the island, the European Union must not allow the Turkish Cypriots to be held hostage by the Greek south, the paper warned and urges the EU to put an end to the economic isolation of Northern Cyprus.

The Leipziger Volkszeitung, however noted that while the anger of EU leaders over the outcome of the vote is understandable, one must also note that there were good reasons for a rejection of the plan. The proposed solution on the issue of land ownership for example would have left many Greek Cypriots who were evicted from their homes without an option to return. The Annan initiative would mean a sanctioning of a policy of eviction and displacement of ethnic minorities and set a bad precedent for other European regions with similar problems, like Kosovo, the paper wrote. Die Welt in Berlin warned that Germans should not be too quick to condemn the Greek Cypriots. They should ask themselves how many Germans would have said yes to such a plan for reunification for Germany. The paper pointed to the vague provisions for repatriation but also the continued presence of Turkish troops on the island. A removal of those troops would now be a good will gesture that would go a long way, the daily concluded.