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Cablegate: Media Reaction Report - President Bush Press

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 006841

SIPDIS


DEPT FOR INR/R/MR; IIP/RW; IIP/RNY; BBG/VOA; IIP/WEU; AF/PA;
EUR/WE /P/SP; D/C (MCCOO); EUR/PA; INR/P; INR/EUC; PM; OSC ISA
FOR ILN; NEA; WHITE HOUSE FOR NSC/WEUROPE; DOC FOR ITA/EUR/FR
AND PASS USTR/PA; USINCEUR FOR PAO; NATO/PA; MOSCOW/PA;
ROME/PA; USVIENNA FOR USDEL OSCE.

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR FR
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION REPORT - President Bush Press
Conference European Issues - Turkey
PARIS - Wednesday, October 05, 2005

(A) SUBJECTS COVERED IN TODAY'S REPORT:

President Bush Press Conference
European Issues - Turkey

B) SUMMARY OF COVERAGE:

Catholic La Croix carries an op-ed signed by Ambassador
Stapleton on the Afghan elections, largely forgotten by the
French media, where Afghans quietly went about electing a
legislature and provincial councils, and women participated in
record numbers.

In unison, today's front pages and editorials are devoted to
the aftermath of yesterday's day of social protest, with
varying analyses, depending on the outlet. While the headlines
note the large following in the demonstrations, which included
the private sector, commentators ask what PM Villepin can do
in answer to the social demands. Left-of-center Liberation
contends that "the wide ranging social demands which lack
concreteness make it difficult for the government to respond."
Right-of-center Le Figaro notes that "Villepin, far from
ignoring the message, acknowledged having heard the appeal.
But the message is nevertheless ambiguous. The private sector
harps on a loss of consumer buying power, whereas statistics
show the opposite." Catholic La Croix shares this analysis in
a commentary titled: "Mental Disassociation." Financial La
Tribune in its editorial warns Villepin about a "too rigid
attitude. PM Raffarin could afford to stand firm because he
harbored no Presidential ambitions."

The opening of the negotiations in view of Turkey's EU
membership elicits a wide number of reports and analyses. Le
Figaro front pages: "Chirac Unbending on the Issue of Turkey."
(See Part C) His press conference yesterday is also
scrutinized, with commentators emphasizing his `combative'
attitude towards his own UMP party as well as the EU
Commission "in the framework of the HP lay off plans in
Europe." In this regard, Le Figaro Economie has a large spread
about HP repatriating 14.5 billion dollars in profits to the
U.S., "thanks to a temporary U.S. tax amnesty legislation."

Popular right-of-center France Soir interviews Didier Billion
of the IRIS think tank on France's role in the EU-Turkey run-
up discussions: "France did not weigh in very much in
Luxembourg. France and its politicians were not very vocal.
The U.S. has always supported Turkey's EU membership. But
having said this, their interference is somewhat discourteous
towards the EU."

President Bush's press conference is briefly mentioned in Le
Parisien. (See Part C)

(C) SUPPORTING TEXT/BLOCK QUOTES:

President Bush Press Conference

"President Bush's Problems"
Thomas Cantaloube in right-of-center Le Parisien (10/05):
"When a fire gets out of hand, it is always reassuring to see
the chief fireman speak before the cameras. This was the
strategy adopted by President Bush yesterday in his impromptu
press conference in order to splash some water on the flames
encircling the White House. With an approval rating of about
40 percent, the U.S. President has no choice but to be on the
defensive. He spent a major part of the conference justifying
his nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. But
avoiding the hard issues is not how President Bush will be
able to scatter the black clouds hanging over his second term.
For the umpteenth time President Bush spoke reassuringly - but
against all evidence - about `the situation in Iraq
progressing.' But he was hard-pressed when it came to getting
rid of the feelings that prevailed over the summer of being
trapped, and which General Casey indirectly confirmed before
Congress last week."

"Europe's Guardrails"
Jean-Christophe Ploquin in Catholic La Croix (10/05): "Europe
is sending a message of universal scope by accepting, at least
in principle, the idea of a Muslim member state. In this day
and age when Islam is torn by fundamentalism, this is good
news. But Turkey is not assured of joining the EU. Guardrails
have been raised and the possibility of failure in the
negotiations has been clearly included in the text. The EU
must be able to absorb a new member. and the final decision
will need to be ratified by all members. By signing with
Turkey, the EU has honored its commitment, but after having
implemented protective guardrails. The ball is now in Ankara's
hands. The Turks are facing a daunting task."

"Running Ahead of Itself"
Patrick Sabatier in left-of-center Liberation (10/05): "The
most surprising is that the reactions from both sides was:
`negotiations always end up with the country joining the EU.'
This in spite of the guardrails of protection inscribed in the
negotiations' criteria. Not surprising then if, in the face of
so much resignation, skepticism and mistrust towards Europe's
expansion are growing. It would have been nice to say that the
process followed a visionary strategy. Unfortunately it was
the result of bartering in favor of Croatia and the need to
avoid another EU failure. There was no room made for a debate
about Turkey. A much needed debate to keep the EU from
dissolving and becoming a vast free trade zone."

"Two Weddings and a Funeral"
Sylvie Goulard of Sciences Po in left-of-center Liberation
(10/05): "Austria's Ursula Plassnik was not strong enough to
resist. She finally had to cave in. Great Britain's presidency
comes out triumphant. Condoleezza Rice, who pulled the strings
from Washington, can be satisfied. The so-called `visionaries'
who are only trying to avoid a `clash between civilizations,'
the `modernists' and the `good guys' have won. The
`retrogrades' who favor a small-minded and necessarily
Christian Europe, `the bad guys' have lost. But Ursula
Plassnik did Europe a great favor. She was our minister, the
only spokesperson for about 230 million Europeans who are
hostile to Turkey's membership. Ten or one hundred years of
negotiations will not be enough to make Turkey a European
country without boundaries with Iran and Iraq. Many Europeans
legitimately oppose the idea of Europe going that far. Turkey
and Croatia will join a defunct EU." STAPLETON

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