Press review | 29/07/2014



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Russia ordered to pay 50 billion over Yukos

Yukos was one of Russia's largest oil companies until its dismantling in the 2000s. (© picture-alliance/dpa)


Russia must pay former shareholders of oil giant Yukos 50 billion dollars in damages. It was announced on Monday that The Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration had already handed down this ruling in mid-July. Moscow has said it will appeal the decision. The ruling takes on particular significance in the midst of the Ukraine crisis, commentators write, stressing that Russian taxpayers will have to foot the bill.

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Judgement comes in the midst of Ukraine crisis

Coming as it does right in the middle of the Ukraine crisis the ruling also has a political dimension, the liberal business paper Il Sole 24 Ore comments: "Apart from its economic repercussions, which in view of the amount in question are painful even for a giant like Russia, the sentence also has a political dimension. It underscores with unprecedented clarity the illegality of the Russian state and the subservience of the judiciary to the will of the government. And it is doing this at a time in which the flames in Ukraine and the downing of a Malaysian passenger jet coming from Amsterdam have spread fears that Russian imperialism is once more on the rise. There is no connection between the events, nevertheless they bespeak a striking geographic and temporal coincidence in which the Netherlands - involuntarily - plays the leading role." (29/07/2014)

De Volkskrant - Netherlands

Russian people will foot the bill

The ruling in the Yukos case is a bitter pill for Russian taxpayers, the left-liberal daily De Volkskrant fears: "This judgement is a hard and clear signal to the Russian state that violating property rights is a mortal sin. However the sentence comes at a bad time: at the moment the Kremlin can easily divert attention from its own cut-throat capitalism and present it as part of a Western campaign against Russia. The Russian people already see the billions flowing away, and wonder how often they will be robbed of the same money. Because for many Russians [former Yukos boss] Khodorkovsky is a thief who was then robbed by Vladimir Putin and his KGB chum Igor Sechin [chairman of Rosneft, Yukos's former competitor ]. ... A joke by a member of the Russian opposition neatly sums up the fact that the Russian state - meaning the taxpayers - now have to foot the bill: 'Dad, will you drink less now that the price for vodka has gone up? - 'No, my boy. You'll all eat less.'" (29/07/2014)

Der Standard - Austria

Yukos ruling symptomatic of Moscow's despotism

The decision of the international arbitration court in The Hague underlines Russia's despotic policy regarding trade and industry, the left-liberal daily Der Standard comments: "The unpredictability of Russian justice, especially when politics is in play, is a factor that has deterred investors in Russia for years. ... The big state or state-affiliated companies were able to secure more and more of Russia's national income while the smaller and medium-sized companies have had a hard time. Companies see progress in reducing corruption and bureaucracy, but these are still enormously present - as are the powers of the 'competent organs' to interfere with everything. Insecurity and a dirigiste economic policy have been spurring capital flight for years. Experts also hold this policy responsible for the country's weak economic growth despite stably high oil prices." (29/07/2014)


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Jeune Afrique - France

Israel too aggressive in Gaza conflict

Israel is being disproportionately aggressive in the Gaza conflict, the pan-African weekly magazine Jeune Afrique writes, and criticises the indifference of Western states: "Does Israel have the right to defend itself? Of course. But it is committing a massacre. There is no other word for the military operation currently taking place in Gaza. Elsewhere it would be met with much more vehement protests and considerably more sympathy. But Palestinian lives seem to be less valuable than others, and it seems Israel stands above everything - including international law. Worse: this butchery is going completely unpunished. And all we hear from Western governments are cautious calls for more moderation or 'restraint', as Angela Merkel put it. What should be done? A ceasefire is of course necessary, but not sufficient. However one thing is clear: Israel will never live in peace if the Palestinians do not live in freedom." (28/07/2014)

Reflex - Czech Republic

Defence against Hamas is legitimate

Hamas is manipulating global opinion on the war in the Middle East with a flood of images of its dead, the liberal weekly Reflex complains on its webpage: "With every Palestinian who dies, the international pressure on Israel to end its military operation in the Gaza Strip grows. But the Palestinians are overdoing it now by grossly exaggerating the death toll. Among 'Israel's victims' are people who died a natural death and even those who have been killed by fellow Muslims because they were suspected of collaborating with Israel. And naturally also those who Hamas didn't allow to flee, despite Israel's warnings of an attack. ... But of course there are also genuine victims of Israel, and it's a tragedy that they exist. The typical Central European left-winger who feels sorry for the Palestinian civilian victims doesn't understand that Israel is fighting for its very survival, surrounded by Arabs who want to wipe out the country. What choice does Israel have but to defend itself?" (29/07/2014)

Karjalainen - Finland

Only Russia can end Ukraine crisis

Following the crash of a Malaysian passenger jet over eastern Ukraine, hopes have repeatedly been voiced that the disaster could pave the way for peace. The liberal daily Karjalainen does not share this optimism: "This incident was not made use of. On the contrary: the rebels and Russia have further fanned the conflict. The war in eastern Ukraine has intensified, and Russia's participation is becoming increasingly clear. ... A quick ceasefire in eastern Ukraine is a miracle that no one believes in any more. The country has come no closer to peace with the change of president, and now all hopes rest on electing a new prime minister and parliament. Unfortunately, however, it seems that nothing can help unless Russia stops supporting the separatists. If eastern Ukraine continues to be ruled by an administration that couldn't care less about parliamentary democracy, any efforts on Ukraine's part will be in vain." (29/07/2014)

Magyar Hírlap - Hungary

Ignorant left demonising Orbán again

Hungary's right-wing conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivered an address on the weekend in Romania. In his speech, which was sharply criticised by leftist media, Orbán voiced the opinion that the liberal state is on its last legs. The left is convinced that Orbán will dismantle democracy any day now, blogger B. Bookieman jokes on the website of the conservative daily Magyar Hírlap: "I solemnly declare that democracy in Hungary has been buried. ... Once again they're obsessed with the Orbánic-Putinic purgatory. ... Those on the left insist that they are the only ones who really know what democracy means. For them, liberalism and democracy are synonyms, and everything that doesn't fit into their model must be exorcised because it is evil incarnate. ... When a conservative prime minister refers to the 'non-liberal state' they start self-righteously brandishing the moral cudgel." (28/07/2014)

The Times - United Kingdom

West must not give up on Libya

A fuel-storage depot near Tripoli's international airport was set on fire by a rocket during fighting between militia groups in the Libyan capital on Monday. Western diplomats are now leaving the country. The conservative daily The Times argues that Libya must not be left to its fate: "The Arab Spring [in Libya] began with great hope and optimism. There is no need for its outcome to be the restoration of authoritarian rule; there are more nuanced choices than that between military dictatorship and civil war. Above all, Libyans have to address the question of the role of Islam in politics; driving Islamists underground will further polarise society. The United Nations must help engineer a ceasefire together with the Libyan government and all aggrieved parties." (29/07/2014)


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Svenska Dagbladet - Sweden

Fracking makes Europe more free

The British government began receiving tenders for fracking licences for the first time in six years on Monday. Sweden and the rest of Europe should also set aside their doubts about this controversial method for mining oil and gas, the conservative daily Svenska Dagbladet believes: "Certainly fracking entails risks. ... But Sweden won't be able to cover its energy demands with renewable energies alone. And for other European countries this is doubly true. Sweden doesn't need Russian gas exports, but countries like Finland, Lithuania, Bulgaria and above all Germany and Poland depend on Putin's gas. Shale gas and in the long term shale oil can make Europe more independent. This also goes for our oil imports from the Gulf states, where our money directly benefits undemocratic regimes." (29/07/2014)

Corriere del Ticino - Switzerland

Italy stalling on reforms

Italy's national debt has hit a new high. In the middle of July the Italian central bank announced that it had risen to 2.166 trillion euros. Italy must finally launch its long overdue reforms, the liberal daily Corriere del Ticino warns: "Little can be seen to date of the major cuts in public spending promised by the Italian government. And according to many investors, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's call for more flexibility in Europe's fiscal policy instead is not having a positive effect for the government either. Italian government bonds haven't been targeted by investors yet because the European Central Bank is shielding them. But the danger is there. The concerns of many investors can already be felt at the stock exchanges in Milan and the rest of the Eurozone. The financial markets are still waiting for Italy to make a true change of course." (29/07/2014)

Jornal de Negócios - Portugal

Moody's too optimistic about Portugal

The US rating agency Moody's has raised Portugal's credit rating by one notch to "Ba1". The outlook for the country is stable, the institute announced on Friday. With the next upgrade the country will leave the so-called junk status level. A highly surprising decision, journalist Camilo Lourenço writes in the liberal business daily Jornal de Negócios: "This upgrade comes at a time when various forces in the country - in particular, but by no means only, the constitutional court - are trying to block the measures for consolidating public finances. ... It's clearly a very friendly decision, especially since it comes in the midst of all the fuss over the private BES bank - and at a time when the first warning lights are flashing as regards meeting the budget deficit target for 2014 (four percent). ... If I was in their shoes I wouldn't be so sure this was the right decision." (28/07/2014)


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Večernji List - Croatia

Gaza war divides Bosnia

The conflict in Gaza has divided Bosnia and Herzegovina into two national camps, the conservative daily Večernji List criticises: "The Serb politicians in Bosnia are siding with Israel more firmly than ever. Their support for the attacks on Gaza is so unconditional that the Israeli president even felt obliged to thank them officially. ... For years the Bosnian Serbs have been using their ties with Tel Aviv and trying to improve their negative global image through the Jewish lobby network. ... By contrast the Muslim Bosniaks, because of their painful experiences, have been sensitised to the suffering of Muslims worldwide. They openly criticise the Israelis and compare their attack on Gaza with the siege of Sarajevo by the Serbs [1992 to 1995]. The more the conflict in Gaza escalates, the more difficult the situation in Bosnia becomes." (29/07/2014)

Le Journal du Centre - France

Hollande making political hay of Mali plane crash

French President François Hollande has devoted much attention to the crash last week of an Air Algérie passenger plane in Mali. 118 people died in the accident, including 54 French nationals. After making several official speeches, Hollande declared three days of mourning on Monday. So much fuss is unjustified, the regional daily Le Journal du Centre believes: "Certainly, it is not the role of the head of state to take care of everything right down to the last details of repatriating the bodies, flying the flags at half mast and finding the black boxes. And just as certainly it was the best way to admit that he couldn't count on anyone else to do the job. Such a show of grief was not necessarily called for. ... And it was dangerous, because his enemies won't fail to remind him that the economy and the job market also demand unusual decisions." (29/07/2014)

Lietuvos rytas - Lithuania

Legalise gifts of cash to doctors

As in other parts of Eastern Europe, patients giving doctors gifts of money is a practice that still thrives in Lithuania despite efforts to eliminate it. In the liberal daily Lietuvos rytas columnist Andrius Užkalnis proposes simply legalising it: "Doctors are unhappy with their salaries. ... Patients are unhappy with the doctors. The state can't afford to pay the doctors more because people don't want to pay more taxes. So patients pay the doctors in cash because they want better service. ... The simplest solution would be to legalise this system that functions now. To just admit that for a minimal state salary a doctor will do what is absolutely necessary for a patient unable to pay more, and then earn extra income from solvent patients with whom he reaches a personal agreement on payment. ... Do you think that sounds radical? Well this is what is happening right now, in a hospital near you." (29/07/2014) - Romania

No voting rights for illiterate Romanians

According to official figures roughly 300,000 Romanians are illiterate. Given that such a high figure can have an impact on elections and hence politics it's time for a drastic change to voting rights, Ciprian Ciucu writes on the blog portal "We're captives of the general electoral law and the populism of politicians. Without census suffrage or minimum education prerequisites, we're held captive in a populist democracy. ... In such a system, politicians have no choice but to manipulate and lie. They'd be complete idiots not to. As long as there's someone to lie to, they will lie. And as long as there's someone to trick, they will trick them. Because why should they seek to convince and educate hundreds of people, to answer their questions and listen to their complaints when they can simply buy the votes of hundreds of thousands who don't have the vaguest idea what a politician's tasks are once the elections are over?" (29/07/2014)

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