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European Press Review 25.03.2005

Papers across Europe have detailed analysis on the uprising in Kyrgyzstan. In Germany, the release of some of the secret Stasi files on former Chancellor Helmut Kohl also elicits comment.


The French paper Liberation says the uprising in Kyrgyzstan really spells the end of the post-Soviet era. Referring to Georgia and Ukraine as well as Kyrgyzstan, the paper says events in these countries offer hope for the return of genuine independence, which was lost during the tsarist expansion of 19th century. These peaceful revolutions succeed because they attack exhausted regimes, unable to resort to the bloodshed and repression of true dictatorships. Russia no longer has the means to supply such dictatorships with arms. These flowers of democracy, the French paper says, planted and watered by the West, need to be tended with care. The new regime will need help so that it does not fall back into the old ways.

Germany's Westfälischer Nachrichten says the United States and China will not be left unmoved by events in Kyrgyzstan. The carefully orchestrated equilibrium in the region appears to be at risk. Neighbouring Kazakhstan in particular will regard the uprising with mixed feelings. President Nazarbayev is a political ally of toppled Kyrgyz leader Akayev. Who will fall next from the pedestal? This is a nightmare for Moscow.

Britain's The Guardian says the Kremlin has not committed the blunders and experienced the humiliation it did in Ukraine. Nonetheless the turn of events in Bishkek demonstrates Vladimir Putin's weakness. He has managed to manoeuvre himself into the unenviable position of being identified as a not very effective protector and supporter of unsavoury regimes. He has a problem of his own making - everywhere he looks in the post-Soviet world, democracy's gains are perceived as Russia's losses.

Legal battles

The German authorities have released some of the secret files on former Chancellor Helmut Kohl that were compiled by the Stasi, former East Germany's Ministry for State Security. Kohl reunited Germany, but his reputation was later tarnished by a party funding scandal.

The Lübecker Nachrichten says the tenacity with which Mr Kohl litigated to keep his files locked away from public view encouraged people to suspect that he must have plenty to hide. The ex-chancellor, who was suspended from his position as honorary chairman of the Christian Democrat Party, has, by and large, won his legal battles. A court ruled last summer that only very restricted access should be granted to secret service files about him. This is what has now happened. Those restrictions are justified, the Lübecker Nachrichten believes. If the storage of data about mobile phone calls or bank accounts is an infringement of personal liberty, then so is the publication of surveillance material. The huge jumble of Stasi files is being archived so that the system of totalitarian surveillance can be researched and analysed. Clearly, though, the reason for the interest in Kohl's files lies elsewhere. Some people hope that material collected illegally by the Stasi will contain racy details of Mr Kohl's political and personal life. But even politicians, the Lübecker Nachricten says, have basic rights.