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Press review | 31/08/2015

 

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Hungary seals off its border with Serbia

The new fence between Hungary and Serbia is 175 kilometres long. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

Hungary's border fence - intended to keep out refugees arriving from Serbia - was completed on Sunday according to government sources. The fence is nothing but a domestic policy manoeuvre by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, some commentators write. Others believe that Hungary is above all harming its own interests with its policy of seclusion.

Der Standard - Austria

Orbán exploiting refugee crisis

Hungary's head of government Viktor Orbán is using the refugee crisis to introduce a new legislative package, erect a border fence and justify even more right-wing authoritarian policies, writes the centre-left daily Der Standard: "For Orbán, the wave of refugees passing through his country is not a social, police or European problem but an all-out war. 'Mass immigrants attack Hungary' - that is the tenor of the official propaganda. This state of war calls for a state of emergency. But Orbán will not only use the 'mass immigration emergency ' - as it is described in the legislative package - to torment the defenceless migrants even more but above all to further curtail his own citizens' democratic rights. The EU, with its subdued reaction to Orbán's undermining of democracy so far, is also responsible for Orbán's spine-chilling behaviour. The lack of a refugee and migration policy is giving the Hungarian autocrat free rein to do as he chooses." (31/08/2015)

Szuverén - Hungary

Sealing itself off is bad for Hungary

Neurotic and self-absorbed Hungary has isolated itself even more from the rest of the world by building a border fence to fend off refugees, writes blogger Domonkos Sik on blog portal Szuverén: "Such an act of all-round defence is counter-productive in a globalised world. By sealing itself off Hungary has distorted its own identity, fuelled by historical injustices, a victim mentality, exploitation and insatiable demands. Then there is ignorance and a lack of understanding of the world beyond its own borders. Such a collective identity not only manifests itself in a social neurosis but also reduces the individual's political and economic room for manoeuvre: the politicians lose their ability to give the country goals that go beyond material reproduction. The economy, meanwhile, loses its potential for innovation." (28/08/2015)

Le Monde - France

Eastern Europe must learn to show solidarity

The tendency of Eastern European states like Hungary to want to seal themselves off rather than take in refugees derives from the history of the region, the centre-left daily Le Monde believes: "The violence of the immigrant crisis has revealed several hidden truths to the countries of Eastern Europe. From Nazism and then from Stalinism they inherited either an ethnic and religious homogeneity that is fundamentally different from Western European multiculturalism or a conflictual attitude to the minorities that were thrust upon them. ... And they still haven't been able to come to terms with this legacy. Although joining the EU gave them access to hundreds of billions of euros from the Cohesion Fund, they have yet to grasp that solidarity is never a one-way street. The time has come for them to show that they share Europe's values. Will this rude awakening be salutary? That is the real test Europe faces." (30/08/2015)

POLITICS

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La Libre Belgique - Belgium

Europe scarily incompetent on refugees

The ministers of the interior of France, Britain and Germany called for a common European asylum policy on Sunday in Paris. Among other measures they called for the establishment of reception centres in Italy and Greece and the introduction of Europe-wide rules that determine which countries can be considered safe countries of origin. But the EU still lacks a plan worth the name, the daily La Libre Belgique criticises: "Without question the current refugee crisis is the worst since the Second World War. Nevertheless one can't help but be taken aback by the combination of incompetence and ill will on the part of the large majority of European leaders. How else to explain that a democratic, economically developed entity home to 560 million inhabitants is completely at a loss and practically incapable of taking in 300,000 people, who - it can't be said often enough - are fleeing the violence in Syria and Iraq, the brutal dictatorship in Eritrea and the chaos in Afghanistan?" (30/08/2015)

Sme - Slovakia

Eastern Europe's bogus arguments re migrants

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico on the weekend called for an EU-Africa summit on migration, stating that the causes for migration must be addressed in the countries of origin. The liberal daily Sme finds this argument - which is also used in Eastern Europe - duplicitous. "It's used by those who haven't lifted a finger to help the refugees in their own countries. Even with all the money at his disposal not even Obama can do a thing to improve the situation in Syria, Libya or Iraq. The idea that Europe should seek to influence events in the Middle East is hair-raising. Those who say that one euro spent on problems in the countries of origin is better invested than ten euros spent to ease their repercussions here ignore the fact that billions in development aid have disappeared God knows where in Africa. Such arguments are nothing more than ideological shields used by Eastern Europeans against calls by Germany or Austria for basic solidarity with the refugees." (31/08/2015)

La Repubblica - Italy

London can push through its idea of EU now

The British government is demanding an end to the free movement of persons within the EU. It wants only those who already have work in the UK to be allowed to settle there, British Home Secretary Theresa May said on Sunday. London's demand may set a precedent, the British journalist John Lloyd comments in the centre-left daily La Repubblica: "The hostility towards migrants is growing. For the British government this represents the best opportunity to reach an agreement on the migrant issue and a change in the EU regulations. London is campaigning for changes that all the countries are now beginning to consider. Measures that don't just foresee intensified border controls but also put a stop to the far right. … For more than 40 years Britain has had a special status within the EU, namely that of the bad boy. But now it is almost taking the role of spokesman, demanding measures that the other countries see as unthinkable but which they may de facto be forced to consider." (31/08/2015)

Polityka - Poland

New discord between Germany and Poland

Polish President Andrzej Duda met with Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck on Friday during his inaugural visit to Berlin. The online edition of the centre-left news magazine Polityka sees hard times ahead for both countries: "The new Polish president wants to strengthen Nato's flank and include Poland and other countries in the talks on a solution to the Ukraine crisis. Berlin is only moderately enthusiastic about the idea, and is unwilling to make any compromises on basic questions regarding the Polish minority in Germany. Germany will certainly never give these people the status of a national minority. Merkel has also made it increasingly clear that countries like Poland should take in more refugees from Africa and the Middle East. Finally, there are considerably differences of opinion regarding energy policy. Germany is focussing on renewable energies and Russian gas and takes a dim view of Polish coal-fired power plants and the construction of a nuclear power station." (31/08/2015)

The Irish Times - Ireland

Northern Irish politicians divide instead of uniting

A dispute broke out within Northern Ireland's joint government of Unionists and Republicans last week over allegations that the underground organisation the Provisional IRA, which wants Britain to withdraw entirely from the country, still exists. The dispute brought the government to the verge of collapse. The parties are still focussed on those things that separate them rather than those they have in common, the centre-left daily The Irish Times complains: "The rapidity with which the Northern Ireland Executive has descended into a full-blown crisis reflects not just a loss of trust between the various parties but their persistent failure to provide any kind of unified, impartial leadership for their divided communities. The Executive was designed as a cooperative, power-sharing arrangement, not as a mechanism for blocking opponents and doling out political spoils. But tribal-based politics continues to flourish, driven by competing internal rivalries." (30/08/2015)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Barenboim performance acid test for Tehran

The Iranian Ministry of Culture cancelled a concert by the Berlin Staatkapelle Orchestra on the weekend on the grounds that its conductor Daniel Barenboim holds Israeli citizenship. The decision raises doubts about Tehran's trustworthiness, also regarding the nuclear agreement, writes the conservative daily Lidové noviny: "This is essentially good news because it is more intelligible than the dispute over nuclear technologies. Iran is facing the biggest change for which the West has been fighting since the Islamic revolution in 1979. Obama wants to normalise relations with Iran as well as Cuba. He has made concessions. One would expect Tehran to be really interested in these concessions; to somehow make Obama's fight for the nuclear agreement to go through US Congress easier. But Tehran doesn't care. … This is the risk when you negotiate with a country that rejects the existence of another state - Israel - and its citizens." (31/08/2015)

REFLECTIONS

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Cinco Días - Spain

EU is a weak brand, says Raúl Peralba

Unfortunately there is no clear vision for a "Europe" brand, marketing advisor Raúl Peralba comments in the business daily Cinco Días: "The strategic importance of the brand at the business, institutional, political, regional national and international levels is no longer questioned. But the European Union doesn't give the brand the attention it deserves. And there is no Europe brand with the corresponding attributes, values and clear advantages that distinguish it from other global powers and that unites the inhabitants of the individual member states in a group identity. There is only an indistinct notion of countries that appear to be united but each of which tries solve its problems in its own way without any regard for the side effects. Otto von Bismarck allegedly once said: 'Europe is only a geographical notion in which each state tries to have more canons than its neighbour.' Translated to the present one could say: 'Europe is an economic notion in which each state tries to gain more advantages than the other member states.'" (31/08/2015)

ECONOMY

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Handelsblatt - Germany

Save Greece without IMF

IMF chief Christine Lagarde considers debt restructuring measures to be adequate to ensure Greece's economic recovery. A debt write-down is not necessary, she said on Saturday. Europe should try to get by without IMF funding and replace IMF loans with other cheaper funding from the European Stability Mechanism or ESM, the liberal business daily Handelsblatt demands: "The ESM is de facto a European monetary fund. It doesn't have to take the interests of the US and the emerging economies China, Brazil, India or Indonesia into account. If the governments and parliaments of the euro countries are still convinced in 2015 that the problems of the member states, and above all Greece, can't be solved without the help of the IMF, the project of a politically integrated Europe must be deemed to have failed. … The upcoming third bailout programme is also more about reorienting Greece's regulatory policy than the previous ones. To call on the IMF to assist this process would testify to Europe's political failure." (31/08/2015)

SOCIETY

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Kettős Mérce - Hungary

Fears of IS migrants unjustified

EU security experts have stressed in the past weeks that it is unlikely that IS terrorists are among the refugees coming to Europe. Blogger Krisztián B. Simon also plays down the danger on blog portal Kettős Mérce: "Nothing can be ruled out, but it would be a pretty silly idea on the part of a terrorist organisation to send its fighters several thousand kilometres on foot and unarmed, while at the same time trying to find new recruits precisely in Europe. And it would be just as silly for a terrorist to allow himself to be fingerprinted by the authorities (which is obligatory for refugees arriving in Europe). Added to that, our intelligence services and asylum procedures help to apprehend people who are plotting terrorist attacks. And another thing is that we are by no means obliged to grant asylum to such people." (28/08/2015)

Tages-Anzeiger - Switzerland

Dialogue with refugee haters unrealistic

Germany will have to get used to the idea that dialogue with racist demonstrators outside refugee shelters isn't possible, writes the centre-left daily Tages-Anzeiger: "The xenophobics and enraged citizens don't want to talk or be listened to, they just want to be proven right. For their part the politicians can only insist that law and order also apply for xenophobics. And that those who disregard the principles of humanity put themselves outside society. … For the foreseeable future Germany's politicians will have to live with the fact that a certain section of the population hates them. The sense of powerlessness among xenophobics will grow until it is vented in increasingly violent acts or the radical minority becomes a political majority. The former scenario is more likely than the latter. Both put Germany in danger." (31/08/2015)

Sözcü - Turkey

Turkish family minister too conservative

The new Minister for the Family and Social Affairs in the transitional government, Ayşen Gürcan of the Islamic conservative AKP, is the first minister to wear a headscarf in the history of Turkey. The way she dresses should not matter but the attitude Gürcan is spreading on Twitter is more problematic, writes columnist Rahşan Gülşan in the Kemalist daily Sözcü: "For me, the strangest of her ideas is that it is necessary to resolve the question of women's rights within the family. … Her conservative stance on women, which is tantamount to love of Sharia law, has frightened me. … Because for two months she will represent us all. Whether they are transvestites, atheists, women with very different moral values or Alevis, she will represent all the women of this country. But as far as I can tell lifestyles beyond her religion-dominated horizon are very alien to her. That is the truly unpleasant aspect here." (31/08/2015)

MEDIA

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Infowar - Greece

Why media should show dead refugees

Greek columnist Aris Chazistefanou has come under fire for posting images of dead refugee children on Twitter on Saturday. Now Chazistefanou defends his position on the alternative web portal Infowar: "I've received dozens of threatening messages from people who call me inhuman and shameless. ... As a journalist I grew up with a quote by Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk: 'If we journalists had shown a true picture of war, there would no longer be any wars.' ... When corpses are washed up on your shores because the leaders of the political and monetary union that you support cling to the idea of Fortress Europe, you must be informed of the practical repercussions of this policy. If you don't want to know anything about it, then you can simply block me on Twitter and Facebook. And then you can also demand that no one show you images of the Holocaust." (29/08/2015)

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