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European press review

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Text by: Lorne Cook
5 min

In Russia people are going to the polls to elect a new president. Or is it an old president? Serbia gets good news. Bosnia gets a film. Are Dutch morals on the slide?


Europe's press think it's a foregone conclusion.

Vladimir Putin will return as president and could rule until 2024.

But campaigning was marked by strong opposition protests, and some think Putin's days could be numbered. The mood in Russia has changed radically in the past three months, writes the Italian daily La Stampa.

More and more people are talking about a future without Putin, something that would have been unimagineable until now. In the main, the protests focused on abuses of power and corruption. But, the centre-left paper, says Putin would only destroy the system that holds him in power if he tried to fight the phenomenon.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Russia's old ally Serbia received good news this week. It's future in the European Union now seems assured.

Europe's leaders have officially approved Belgrade's status as a candidate to join their club after Serbia made progress in talks with its breakaway territory of Kosovo on improving relations.

For Kosovo the price was to drop the word "republic" from its name. An analyst with the Kosovo daily Koha Ditore pays grudging respect to Belgrade, saying that in fact relations have remained bad since Kosovo declared independence four years ago. The two still do not even recognise each others legitimacy. Serbia has obtained EU candidate status without compromising. Five members don't even recognise Kosovo, and its future still has to be decided by the UN Security Council.

On the other hand, Kosovo's place in the EU is nowhere near being assured, the territory's most widely read paper laments.

Staying in the Balkans, a new film about Bosnia made by the US movie star Angelina Jolie is showing that tensions between Serbs and Bosnians are not going away.

In a week where the world's spotlight was on the Oscars in Hollywood, Jolie's movie In the Land of Blood and Honey, is perpetuating the myths of war in Bosnia in the early 90s, writes the daily Oslobodenje.

The film was hailed in Bosnia and criticised in Serbia. But the Bosnian paper's analyst regrets that it perpetuates the idea that all Bosnian Muslims were victims in the conflict and that they somehow still are.

It seems to say that two decades on the only difference between three years of fighting and 16 years of peace is that people are dying of natural causes rather than shooting each other, says the writer, who is a Croat. Serbs remain aggressors, Bosnians are victims. This suits Bosnia's patriotic political elite, because they can hold on to power as long as there are victims who need defending, the paper says.

To the small screen now, and some strange developments with reality TV in the Netherlands.

The Dutch public health authorities have launched an inquiry into the Free University medical centre in Amsterdam after it allowed more than 30 cameras to be hidden in its emergency ward.

Patients did not know they were being filmed and complained about lack of respect for their privacy.

The TV show the cameras were supplying with footage was cancelled after one episode, and the daily De Volkskrant says the case is proof of a decline in public morals.

Whatever brings in money and boosts ratings is good, the left-leaning newspaper says. Even hospitals are now businesses that have to compete on the market. It seems that the Free University clinic is ready to do anything to strengthen its brand in competition with other medical centres. Its directors have lost their moral compass and have no idea what limits should be set, the paper says.

And, finally this week, a tribute to French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy that has one paper cringing.

Bruni is to be the model for a bronze statue in honour of Italian workers who laboured at a factory producing goods using feathers east of Paris.

Portugal's Sol says the plan is absurd.

Carla has surely seen more ostrich feathers on catwalks than she's ever seen in a factory, the liberal weekly notes, respectfully of course. And tax payers are being asked to foot the bill.

If the project goes ahead, the statue could be in place in May, when Nicolas Sarkozy will have lost France's presidential elections, the paper predicts.

Hopefully the world will not come to an end and the Bruni bronze will survive. However future generations may believe that the singing first lady laboured day and night in a factory to feed her children.

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