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Press review | 30/01/2015

 

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Athens and Brussels negotiate on debt

Schulz (right) was the first top-level EU representative to meet Prime Minister Tsipras after the elections. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

The EU and the new Greek government have started discussions about the country's debt. After a meeting with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday in Athens, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said he sees a willingness to negotiate. The EU has the upper hand, some commentators write. Others say the Union must compromise if it wants to take the wind out of the sails of Eurosceptics.

Der Standard - Austria

Tsipras's costly gamble

By announcing an end to privatisations and other economic policy measures Alexis Tsipras has already gone too far just a few days after taking office, the left-liberal daily Der Standard complains: "Tsipras is acting is if Europe needs Greece and must do everything to prevent it from leaving the Eurozone. But the reaction of the financial markets demonstrates the contrary: Greek shares are plummeting but the other stock markets are calm. The EU partners can afford to let Tsipras do his worst. After all, it's the Greeks that want to stay in the Eurozone. As understandable as the plans of the government in Athens may be from a social point of view, the fact is that it wants to hand out money it doesn't have, and that neither private investors nor other states will lend it. Tsipras will soon fact the choice of either backing down or risking the Grexit. Whatever he decides, his gamble certainly won't encourage a constructive debate about the austerity policy in the Eurozone." (30/01/2015)

Le Jeudi - Luxembourg

Compromise could thwart Eurosceptics

By seeking dialogue with the new Greek government the EU can also send a signal to other Eurosceptic states, the left-liberal weekly Le Jeudi writes: "Yes, the going will be tough. Nonetheless, in this community of people and interests that is the European Union we must not forget to listen to the voice of the Greeks. ... Listening to, and still better understanding the Greeks also means finding a response to the nationalist, separatist and Eurosceptic menaces that are seeing the light in many places - especially given that this year Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Spain and Portugal are all preparing to vote." (29/01/2015)

Ethnos - Greece

Athens has lost touch with economic reality

Euro Group chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem is visiting Athens today, Friday, to advise the new government on its plans for dealing with the debt crisis. Journalist Nikos Meletis hopes in the left-liberal daily Ethnos that Finance Minister Giannis Varoufakis will present an alternative to the debt cut Syriza demands: "Dijsselbloem is not coming to hear a lecture on economic theory. If he wanted to do that he would go to Harvard, not the Greek parliament. ... Varoufakis probably hasn't realised yet that he's no longer sitting in his office at the University of Texas. ... He hasn't yet understood that his partners for dialogue are [Germany's Finance Minister] Schäuble, Dijsselbloem and [ECB chief] Draghi, for whom pretty academic terms are not enough. Because we're talking about money here, a whole lot of money. I wish Varoufakis had a secret plan up his sleeve. … Because what's really worrying is that he refuses to accept the reality of the situation." (29/01/2015)

The Economist - United Kingdom

Debt cut as reward for reforms

The debt negotiations between Athens and its creditors hold out the prospect of an acceptable compromise that could serve as a model for other crisis states, the liberal business magazine The Economist believes: "Hence this newspaper's solution: get Mr Tsipras to junk his crazy socialism and to stick to structural reforms in exchange for debt forgiveness - either by pushing the maturity of Greek debt out even further or, better still, by reducing its face value. Mr Tspiras could vent his leftist urges by breaking up Greece's cosy protected oligopolies and tackling corruption. The combination of macroeconomic easing with microeconomic structural reform might even provide a model for other countries, like Italy and even France." (29/01/2015)

POLITICS

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Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

Up to Kremlin to decide when sanctions end

The EU foreign ministers decided on Thursday to extend the sanctions against Russia until September 2015. The left-liberal Süddeutsche Zeitung commends the consensus reached by the 28 ministers, noting that the sanctions "raise the price Moscow pays for stirring up the civil war. ... Vladimir Putin is stoking up the conflict in eastern Ukraine as much as ever. But to conclude from this that the economic sanctions were a mistake and that the West should lift them and - as some demand - finally start talking with Moscow is risky. Because for one thing the German government has been talking to Russia the whole time. It's the Kremlin that has gone back on all the promises made during these talks. And for another it would be absurd to reward Russia's continued aggression by easing the economic pressure. The decision to put an end to the punitive measures lies with Russia." (30/01/2015)

Rzeczpospolita - Poland

Polish army needs urgent upgrading

Poland's Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said on Thursday that in view of the latest escalation in the Ukraine crisis there was no prospect of a peaceful solution to the conflict and that therefore increasing Poland's military spending to 70 billion euros as of 2016 was a crucial step. The conservative daily Rzeczpospolita agrees: "In February 2009, shortly after the outbreak of the Russian-Georgian war, the prime minister at the time Donald Tusk gave his defence minister an ultimatum: either he found an area where 2.5 billion euros in spending cuts could be made or he would get the sack. Fortunately this kind of politics is now a thing of the past in Poland. ... The rise in military expenditures and the number of reservists as well as additional Nato troops in Poland will make the level of security in our country higher than it has been for years." (30/01/2015)

Ziare - Romania

Romania needs EU monitoring

The EU Commission's report on progress in Romania, published together on Wednesday with that on Bulgaria, certifies significant progress in the area of justice. Unfortunately this progress is all too often undermined by corrupt politicians, journalist Iona Ene Dogioiu writes in the news portal Ziare: "The politician still represents a huge threat to the judicial system in that he either sets obstacles in the way or thwarts the system with appointments to political posts. ... [Prime Minister] Ponta, however, seems to live in a parallel world: viewing himself as a non-partisan head of government rather than the leader of the biggest group in parliament - which is against an anti-corruption campaign. ... But for that very reason Romania should not try to get rid of the progress reports. Even if they are annoying and humiliating, they are also a guarantee that corruption is kept within bounds." (30/01/2015)

Basler Zeitung - Switzerland

A superhero president for Italy

The first round of the election to find a successor for President Giorgio Napolitano ended on Thursday without result. The crisis-stricken country needs nothing less than a hero as its new head of state, the right-wing conservative daily Basler Zeitung comments: "Because it will take almost inhuman powers to mediate between the belligerent parties, advise the head of government properly and prevent the country from sinking into chaos. ... Prime Minister Renzi is doing his best to defuse the situation. For just under a year now he has been pushing through one reform after another, and has had his first successes with the labour market and electoral law. Others may follow. But for that he needs the support of a strong, not too dominant head of state. A conductor who knows how to lead the orchestra without excessive gesticulating. Another Giorgio Napolitano." (30/01/2015)

REFLECTIONS

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Al Jazeera - Qatar

Global perspectives: Srećko Horvat on the small revolutions of the left

Europe's left is pinning its hopes on parties like Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain, but in view of the huge social changes taking place even relatively small measures in social policy would be a radical achievement, the Croatian philosopher Srećko Horvat argues in the blog of the Qatari news channel Al Jazeera: "We know that social democracy and the social welfare state cannot be equated with socialism. They were the result of a historical compromise between the workers and capital aimed at eradicating the spectre of communism. But the social circumstances in almost every European state are so catastrophic that even simply preserving or reforming the social welfare state would be a radical step. These measures are not really radical, but the same applies to them as to the recent proposal by [leftist economist] Thomas Piketty in his bestseller Capital in the Twenty-First Century: We are aware that high property taxes won't bring communism, particularly not if they aren't levied on a global basis. But given the current radical inequality even this measure, implemented only on a national basis, already seems radical." (29/01/2015)

ECONOMY

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Világgazdaság - Hungary

Orbán's bread price plans absurd

Hungary's right-wing conservative government wants to lower the price of bread and other bakery products. Business daily Világgazdaság finds that absurd: "Fidesz is seriously considering lowering bread prices. We can't help seeing this as a bad joke in the context of a market economy. But Antal Rogán repeated yesterday very clearly: this is not a joke! Fidesz's parliamentary party leader said that bread prices must go down along with fuel prices. ... But bread prices refuse to budge. The government calculated that bread prices rose by 58 percent between 2006 and 2013, as did the price of gas oil, but that last year bread prices dropped by just five percent while gas oil prices dropped by eleven percent. Well, for the record, bread is not made of gas oil." (29/01/2015)

Turun Sanomat - Finland

Nokia's successful development continues

The Nokia Corporation announced on Thursday that it ended the fourth quarter of 2014 with net sales of 3.8 billion euros, exceeding the expectations of analysts. The former mobile phone manufacturer is once more at a turning point, the liberal daily Turun Sanomat is convinced: "The dividend proposal (which is considered prudent), the company coffers filled with five billion euros and the 5 billion euro capital structure optimisation programme show that Nokia is arming itself for acquisitions. ... In its more than 150-year history, the company has undergone many changes, developing from a pulp manufacturer to a technology firm. Now yet another change is in the pipeline. The success of the N1 tablet developed by Nokia for the manufacturer Foxconn shows that in future Nokia will be able to earn money merely by allowing its good name to be used for a product." (30/01/2015)

SOCIETY

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Novi List - Croatia

Auschwitz misused by revisionists

The Auschwitz commemoration ceremony was turned into a revanchist battlefield as a result of the Ukraine conflict, the left-liberal daily Novi List criticises: "In contrast to Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko received a personal invitation from the Polish prime minister when she visited Kiev. There she made the incredible assertion that Auschwitz was freed by Ukrainian soldiers. For his part the Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk affirmed on a visit to Germany that the Soviets invaded Germany and Ukraine in the Second World War. This is where the revanchist circle comes to a close. But in view of the fact that Ukraine is the sole European country with a neo-Nazi party in government, it's not surprising. ... As soon as people in the West mention the neo-Nazis in Ukraine, it's taken for Putin's propaganda. ... But as long as neo-Nazis parade on the streets of Kiev, Poroshenko has no business in Auschwitz." (30/01/2015)

La Stampa - Italy

French police using Sharia methods

An eight-year-old Muslim boy was questioned by the French police on Wednesday in Nice, after making radical comments and refusing to take part in a minute's silence to honour the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks. The liberal daily La Stampa criticises this approach: "The police officers who so eagerly led the precocious 'terrorist' to the police station are ignoring the fact that they have precursors. They don't realise that the fuse of the Syrian revolution that led to civil war and created a fertile breeding ground for the Islamists spectre was ignited by the arrest of a few youths by the secret services of the Assad regime. ... The question is what makes us different from them, the mercenaries of the caliphate, the fanatical murderers, the guardians of Islamist and also secular totalitarianism? ... The difference lies in a noun and a verb: the ability to distinguish. Between a terrorist and a child, for example; between victims and attackers. And between the application of the law as a measure of reason rather than the Sharia law of collective guilt." (30/01/2015)

MEDIA

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Libération - France

Macron law not a threat to press freedom

In an open letter published on Tuesday, French journalists opposed an article in the law on free-market deregulation currently being discussed in parliament. The article stipulates drastic punishment for violations of trade secrets, which the journalists consider a "gag". But that's an exaggeration, lawyer Thibault Du Manoir de Juaye writes in the left-liberal daily Libération: "The legislation of several states, including the US and some European countries, contains texts on trade secrets which are formulated in a similar way. ... And these countries have not developed into dictatorships where freedom of opinion is gagged. We can rest assured that after a few modifications the text will no longer run counter to the interests of freedom. The freedom of expression for which four million French citizens demonstrated will not be jeopardised by 550 parliamentarians. In adopting the corrected version of [Economy Minister] Macron's text on the protection of trade secrets, they will protect jobs. So they have every reason to vote for it." (29/01/2015)

De Telegraaf - Netherlands

Police must boost security for journalists

A man brandishing a toy pistol forced his way into the studios of the Dutch national broadcaster on Thursday night. He appeared to be in a state of mental confusion. After 15 minutes he was arrested without putting up any resistance. The right-leaning daily De Telegraaf calls for action to be taken: "The open character of our society, which is so typical of our Dutch culture, is in great danger. Although this hostage-taking ended without serious consequences, the bitter lesson of this cowardly deed is that the responsible authorities need to offer journalists better protection as quickly as possible. ... Journalists must be able to go about their work in a democratic state based on the rule of law. But even after the attacks in Paris it seems there is no high state of alert to protect journalists." (30/01/2015)

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