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Press review | 19/12/2014

 

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Putin denies responsibility for rouble crisis

The economic crisis will last two years, Putin said at his annual press conference. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday blamed the fall in oil prices and the West's sanctions for his country's economic problems. Putin is distorting reality like a Soviet-style leader, commentators write, and pin the blame for the current crisis on his misguided economic and foreign policy.

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

Putin puts pathos over problem-solving

Putin hasn't presented a new concept for getting his country out of the economic crisis, the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung comments: "That's not his priority, because patriotic pathos and the tale of the Russian bear that can't be tamed have always done the job and united the Russians with their president. And Putin could well survive quite a few hard years with such rhetoric. Granted, those years won't see the urgently needed diversification of the economy any more than the years of plenty did. ... The question for Russia's neighbours and for the West is whether Putin will also react to the current problems by stepping up aggression against the outside world. Or whether he can accept the compromises offered to him to secure improvements at home. But here too it seems the decision has yet to be taken." (19/12/2014)

Rzeczpospolita - Poland

Soviet-style leader distorts reality

President Putin's denial of Russia's economic problems at the press conference was like a satire of Soviet leadership, the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita comments: "The USSR has risen from the ashes. Its leader is considerably younger than his predecessor, true, and his suit looks a lot better. But as far as content goes the message is the same. This press conference was like travelling through time: less a meeting between journalists and the president than a sort of homage to the czar. ... Yes, he talked about the economy, but his message was simple: the West and its sanctions are entirely to blame for the problems. But Russia won't give in, he said, because it cherishes its independence. And, he added: crisis? What crisis? Putin's continued faith in his country's economic power is like a satire. And we had no shortage of satires like that in the past." (19/12/2014)

La Stampa - Italy

Even crisis leaves president unscathed

Russian President Putin announced that in view of the "unfavourable world conditions" the crisis could last for two years. Even that won't bring him down, the liberal daily La Stampa comments: "Part last czar, part last general secretary of the communist party, Vladimir Putin admitted yesterday - at times with a crimson face and at times with a note of sarcasm - that the rouble and the homeland are in crisis. This is new. Like a 'good father' who cares about his son he promised that everything would be fine. The West was to blame and wanted to 'put the Russian bear in chains', he said. But that doesn't change the situation: the crisis exists and will last two years. ... Now is the time for a rival to emerge in Russia who could run against Putin in 2018. For now, however, Vladimir Vladimirovich's post-democratic regime has eliminated all competition. The ex-oligarch Khodorkovsky has lost all his sparkle after ten years in Siberia. The Moscovite blogger Navalny is under house arrest." (19/12/2014)

The New York Times - U.S.

Global perspectives: Russians paying for Putin's disastrous policies

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a press conference on Thursday that the fall in oil prices was mainly responsible for his country's financial crisis. The left-liberal daily The New York Times contradicts this view and urges him to radically change his course in economic and foreign policy: "The blame for this [crisis] rests largely with the disastrous policies of President Vladimir Putin, who has consistently put his ego, his territorial ambitions and the financial interests of his cronies ahead of the needs of his country. ... The sensible thing for Mr. Putin to do would be to withdraw from Ukraine. This would bring immediate relief from sanctions, and that would ease the current crisis and give officials room to start fixing the country's economic problems. The question is whether this reckless leader has been sufficiently chastened to change course." (18/12/2014)

POLITICS

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Delo - Slovenia

Juncker's investment plan very hazy

The EU's heads of government approved European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's investment programme at their summit on Thursday. The left-liberal daily Delo is very dubious about the plan: "Jean-Claude Juncker, who has been struggling with the 'Lux leaks' affair ever since he took office, put this investment programme together in a rush. Not only is it uncertain how the scheme is supposed to work in practice, it's also unclear how much financial alchemy is needed to turn the 21 billion euros in EU capital into the desired 315 billion euros in investments. Moreover the EU member states haven't reached a consensus on what exactly should be financed. They've sent Brussels a list of all different kinds of projects for which they don't have enough money. But Juncker's goals and the profitability of these projects were of secondary importance." (19/12/2014)

Le Monde - France

Internet and Western Union better than embago

Obama's decision to end the frozen relations between Cuba and the US after more than 50 years is historic, the left-liberal daily Le Monde believes: "The White House's initiative replaces the strategy aimed at a change of regime with the more subtle one of supporting civil society and the forces of change within the population. This policy which has proved its worth under other communist regimes will rely notably on American IT companies. Because one important aspect of the measures announced by presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro involves these firms being allowed to start operating in Cuba. And once it's lost its best enemy, the Castro government will see that the Internet and Western Union are far more powerful weapons than all the embargoes in the world." (19/12/2014)

Pohjalainen - Finland

Cubans want change

The change of course in the US's Cuba policy is a step in the right direction in the eyes of the liberal daily Pohjalainen: "The US knows how difficult it is to export democracy. It's always a lengthy process. But the chances of achieving this goal are highest when there is a strong desire for democracy and civil rights. In Cuba the desire for democracy is without doubt very strong. Fidel and the communist ideology no longer enjoy the support they would need to prevent the full opening of the country. Obama's and Castro's initiative is a step in the right direction. There are no sensible alternatives. The main thing now is to put Cuba on the right course. It won't be able to do it on its own." (19/12/2014)

Le Jeudi - Luxembourg

CIA methods destroy democracy

The CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques in the fight against terror are not only inefficient but also hurt our democracies, the left-liberal weekly magazine le Jeudi warns: "Everything that constitutes the vitality of our democracies has been flouted in the name of a political fight over values: human rights instead of religious obscurantism. Waging this war at all costs is disastrous because it undermines the very foundations of our society. Nevertheless it is to be feared that nothing will change in this regard. The Obama administration is holding to the course set by Bush. The jail in Guantánamo where 136 prisoners are languishing continues in operation despite the president's promises, and, according to [French newspaper] Libération, the 'targeted' attacks carried out by drones result in an average of 28 unidentified victims per strike. Have we got to the stage where it is simply naive to believe in democracy and its values?" (18/12/2014)

Dagens Nyheter - Sweden

Finally a debate about immigration in Sweden

With an eye to the new elections slated for next March in Sweden the leader of the Christian Democratic Party, Göran Hägglund, has called for changes in the country's immigration policy. He wants the introduction of fixed-term residency permits and quicker processing of asylum applications. The liberal daily Dagens Nyheter hopes this will trigger a long overdue debate on a sensitive topic: "Unsurprisingly one of the first reactions was talk of a flirt with the [right-wing populist] Sweden Democrats. ... But whatever Hägglund's critics may say, the main problem with Sweden's immigration policy is not what is said or how. Rather it's all the things that are not said and not done. The integration debate needs impetus and participants. In future the focus should be on concrete policies rather than labels." (19/12/2014)

REFLECTIONS

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ProjektN - Slovakia

Robert Žitňanský misses Václav Havel

On the third anniversary of his death on Thursday the former Czechoslovakian and Czech president Václav Havel was commemorated with hours of remembrance and a mass in Prague. In his blog on the online portal ProjektN journalist Robert Žitňanský mourns his passing: "For many people who experienced November 1989 Václav Havel was a hero, a symbol and a role model. No, Havel was by no means a perfect human being, but he was a perfect president. ... He was a thoughtful person with a conscience and an artist's soul who reflected inimitably on people, society and politics with visions, fears, irony and self-irony. Appealingly shy and plagued by doubt, he nonetheless had a talent for also saying unpopular things and making the right gestures. ... His actions and his strength stood in contrast not only to the greyness of communism, but also to those who have succeeded him. Today we lack a person like Havel. More and more, as far as I can tell." (19/12/2014)

ECONOMY

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De Tijd - Belgium

Belgium's confused energy policy continues

The Belgian government has extended the operating life of two nuclear plants by ten years. The plants were originally to be shut down in 2015. This is just a stop-gap solution, the business paper De Tijd warns: "The decision can be defended on the grounds that it guarantees the country's energy needs in the short term. But on the other hand it only perpetuates the confused energy policy of the past decade. Once again, uncertainty reigns over the planned nuclear phase-out. This scares away investors and prevents money from being put into other forms of power generation. Because it's not easy to compete with the cheap electricity produced by nuclear power plants. ... It's the government's task to clarify the situation quickly so that investors take the risk of investing in the Belgian energy market and offer a solution for the uncertain power supply." (19/12/2014)

Finanz und Wirtschaft - Switzerland

Swiss National Bank follows ECB's lead

Switzerland's National Bank (SNB) announced on Thursday that it is introducing negative interest rates in a bid to prevent the Swiss franc from rising further in value. This step shows how dependent the central bank in Bern is on the euro, the business weekly Finanz und Wirtschaft comments: "The law guarantees the institutional autonomy [of the SNB]. But in its monetary policy it doesn't act freely and is forced to react to events abroad. It has been doing this for years, often following the lead of the European Central Bank, which in June introduced negative interest rates on the central bank deposits of commercial banks and is now preparing bond purchases to further weaken the euro. The SNB let itself be forced into a radical monetary course with the cap on the franc's value against the euro. Given the current situation in Switzerland with its overheated real estate market this is less than optimal. But its hands are tied." (18/12/2014)

SOCIETY

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Phileleftheros - Cyprus

Politicians providing Pegida with fertile ground

The protests of the movement "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident" (Pegida) in Germany are gaining momentum. Their advance is also down to the fact that the politicians have ignored the topic of immigration for too long, contends the liberal daily Phileleftheros: "Some parties rashly claimed Pegida was flirting with nationalism and racism. However most of those who participate in the protests are not right-wing extremists or nationalists. ... The politicians aren't taking the citizens seriously. It's as if they can't understand their fears. And this is precisely why the calls of movements like Pegida find fertile ground. ... Until the parties start addressing the issue of immigration movements like Pegida will continue to flourish. Solutions for the open questions are needed, no matter how difficult or painful they may be." (18/12/2014)

MEDIA

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De Volkskrant - Netherlands

Sony hack heralds cyber war

Following a cyber attack presumably by North Korea, the US entertainment company Sony Pictures has decided not to release its new comedy The Interview about dictator Kim Jong Un. A cyber war is in the offing, the left-liberal daily De Volkskrant warns: "The past two months have seen cyber attacks on the White House and the US State Department, and word has it that Russia is pulling the strings. ... The defeat that America has now suffered in the Sony case will only exacerbate feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability. The country is full of lovers of worst case scenarios, and they've long been worrying that enemies could paralyse the power network with viruses. That would be far more disastrous than the withdrawal of a film. ... The Internet is a fast and highly efficient communication and data network. But what will happen if it becomes a digital ballistic curve?" (19/12/2014)

Latvijas Sabiedriskie mediji - Latvia

Russian media in Latvia too loyal to Moscow

A third of Latvia's inhabitants speak Russian, which is why many Russian-language media are popular there. Media expert Anda Rožkalne criticises their pro-Moscow coverage on the web portal of the public broadcaster LSM: "The hopes that the Russian media in Latvia would finally wake up at the end of the year have not been fulfilled. They should really know by now that Russian media tell lies, falsify information and use unreliable sources. This is why the Russian-language media in Latvia can't be professional. ... Unfortunately this won't change much in the future either. They will continue to do this and provide their shrinking audiences with information they describe as credible. But the only credible alternative would by a strong and more diverse TV channel in Russian." (18/12/2014)

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