EU leaders on Thursday decided to halt the ratification process of the proposed constitution to give the union time to reflect. European papers largely condemned the move, saying it was an expression of weakness.
"Keep smiling," is Chancellor Schröder's advice
Le Figaro in Paris described the delay as surrealistic. "Technically this means that the constitution will be put on ice for a year and a half in order to avoid burying it," the paper wrote. "Basically, British pragmatism has won: 'It's better to take a long break than widen the crisis.'"
Vienna's Kurier called the decision "politically irresponsible and dangerous. Europe cannot afford a standstill. It's also unwise to continue the ratifcation process -- that's like asking people to vote on a dead body."
Milan's Corriere della Sera saw Europe smashed to pieces: "The French and Dutch 'no' to the constitution have set off an avalanche and the conflict between French President Chirac and British Premier Blair over EU finances has added a further crisis. Under different circumstances, a compromise could have been found. But what would have been easy in a healthy EU is almost impossible now."
Rzeczpospolita in Warsaw thought that Europe's leaders were simply clueless about how to go on. "Six or 12 extra months won't change anything," the paper wrote. "We're certainly at the beginning of a long crisis for integration." But the daily added that the current situation might turn out to be a positive thing for the EU. "The union doesn't have a choice any more. It can deal with its problems, but only if it becomes a world power whose citizens completely identify with it."
The Cellesche Zeitung in northern Germany wrote that halting the ratification process was a wise move. "It certainly isn't a sign for integration when the shock is so big that the opinions of the other country get ignored," the paper wrote. "They have to feel like second-class EU members. New negotiations should only commence once all countries have voted. Not earlier."
And writing about Britain's refusal to give up a decade-old budget rebate and instead calling for an overall budget reform,
The Times of London said Germany's main opposition Christian Democrat leader Angela Merkel was a "useful ally," saying her support for reform had "shown more leadership than most of the prime ministers gathered around the table in Brussels."