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Press review | 02/09/2014

 

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Sanctions against Russia divide the EU

The British government has suggested disconnecting Russian banks from the Swift network. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

After the EU summit, the debate over further sanctions against Russia has intensified. In view of the Ukraine crisis the EU announced at the summit that it would work out additional proposals for sanctions within a week. The domestic interests of several member states are still weakening the EU, some commentators write in annoyance. For others sanctions are simply a necessary show of symbolic policymaking.

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Just necessary symbolic politics

The sanctions against Russia have failed to make any impact so far but are nonetheless indispensable, the conservative daily Lidové noviny observes: "The sanctions pursue three goals: to restore the old order in Crimea, force a proper investigation of the MH 17 plane crash and end Russia's cross-border support for the separatists. So far they have had zero impact. The sanctions serve above all as a face-saving instrument for the West, proof that it is at least doing something. By extending them we say: some things are simply unacceptable. And if we can't prevent them or reverse them, then at least we're capable of sanctioning them. Without doubt that's not enough for the hardliners. They're more a symbolic gesture. But let's not forget that symbolic gestures are part and parcel of politics." (02/09/2014)

Kaleva - Finland

Big EU states torpedo sanctions

The leading member states in particular are responsible for the EU's toothless sanction policy, the liberal daily Kaleva criticises: "The egoism of the major countries is taking the bite out of the sanctions. Germany is intent on securing its gas supplies from Russia and the UK is avoiding touching the Russian money reserves in London. If the EU really wants to hurt Russia, the sanctions will at least have to be extended to arms deliveries, financial transactions and energy - then they could have an impact. ... As long as the major members Germany, France and the UK continue to think only of their own interests, the EU is and will remain weak. For the sake of inner cohesion the major states must take the lead. This is more likely to happen if they manage to be a little less selfish." (02/09/2014)

Sme - Slovakia

Fico's attitutude shameful

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico has threatened to use his veto against new sanctions on Russia should they run counter to Slovakia's national interests. That's shameful, the liberal daily Sme believes: "There's no doubt that we risk incurring losses with the sanctions. But by clearly showing an aggressor that we're not ready to accept his aggression, we're defending the basic principles of European civilisation and the post-war world order. If on the other hand we silently accept the aggression because sanctions could also harm us, then we're betraying these basic principles. ... Incidentally, we've already been in a similar situation to the one in today's Ukraine. Hitler annexed the Sudetenland in the same way Putin annexed Crimea. Back then the world passively accepted the move and allowed Hitler to break up Czechoslovakia. How can someone who's country has been through something like that say that sanctions are harmful when that's just what we waited for so desperately back then?" (02/09/2014)

Financial Times - United Kingdom

Moscow can't afford gas war with Europe

Europe should not take Moscow's threat to cut off its gas supplies seriously, Matthew Bryza, director of the International Centre for Defence Studies, writes in the liberal daily Financial Times: "Russia would also be jeopardising its long-term position as Europe's principal gas supplier, by allowing the US, Australia and Mozambique to gain a foothold in this lucrative market. Moreover, Russia cannot cut off natural gas flows without doing permanent damage to its own natural gas reservoirs. In short, Europe can do without Russian gas; it is Moscow that cannot afford to carry through its threat. European leaders should not argue themselves out of tougher actions to stop Mr Putin's military adventurism in Europe's east." (01/09/2014)

POLITICS

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Eesti Päevaleht - Estonia

Estonia must push for Nato troops

US President Barack Obama will visit Estonia on Wednesday. According to the White House this is intended as a sign of the president's support for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the face of the Ukraine crisis. Promises of military assistance must be made during this visit and at the Nato summit which begins on Thursday, the liberal daily Eesti Päevaleht demands: "One question is how many units are to be stationed in Eastern Europe, and in what form. The agreement in the Nato-Russia Founding Act of 1997 [ruling out the 'permanent stationing of substantial combat forces'] to which Germany wants to adhere does not exclude the expansion of Nato activities in Eastern Europe, but could act as a mental barrier. Therefore during Obama's visit and at the Nato summit in Cardiff Estonia must push for the annulment of the treaty. There is a clear reason for this: the security situation in Europe is no longer what it was in 1997." (02/09/2014)

The Irish Times - Ireland

Tusk's appointment tilts EU eastwards

The election of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk as European Council president on Saturday could mark the beginning of a more eastern-oriented power axis for the Union, left-liberal daily The Irish Times comments: "But Tusk's accession also represents an undeniable tilt eastwards for the EU. The traditional Franco-German alliance that has been the fulcrum of the EU since its foundation may potentially give way to a new eastern-focused union clustered around Germany and Poland, particularly in light of France's increasingly weak standing in the EU under François Hollande. The threat of a British exit over the next few years may also galvanise a sense that the union's centre of gravity is moving east." (01/09/2014)

Der Standard - Austria

Germany will always supply weapons from now on

Speaking to parliament on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the planned weapons deliveries to Iraq by pointing among other reasons to the threat the IS terrorist militia poses to Germany. This decision runs roughshod over the iron principle in German foreign policy not to supply weapons to areas in crisis, the left-liberal daily Der Standard writes: "Pandora's box is being opened a further crack. Of course the government is not taking this lightly. Angela Merkel is the last person you could accuse of being a hothead ready to ship weapons off at a moment's notice. In the dilemma between not sullying yourself on the one hand and not wanting to ignore cries for help from the oppressed on the other, she decided in favour of delivering weapons. ... A couple of ministers take the decision, and parliament nods politely. That may be the legally correct way of going about things, but morally it's wrong. And these weapons for the Kurds won't be the last breach of taboo." (02/09/2014)

Cumhuriyet - Turkey

Erdoğan wants to abolish separation of powers

A third wave of arrests took place in Turkey on Monday, in which 32 police officers were detained on charges of having engaged in activities against the government. At the same time investigations against 696 suspects in the corruption scandal, including President Erdoğan's son Bilal, have been dropped. The Kemalist daily Cumhuriyet sees the separation of powers in Turkey in danger: "The decisions on search warrants, arrests and detentions were taken by judges who for the most part comply with the government's wishes. ... The government has always wanted to control the judiciary. But this time it's going further still. Now it doesn't just want control over the judiciary, it wants to be the judiciary. ... Erdoğan wants to gain enough power in the next elections to be able to change the constitution and bring the AKP government completely under his control. If he can, he won't even need the judiciary any more." (02/09/2014)

Evenimentul Zilei - Romania

Romania's government acts like Putin

Romania's social democratic government on Thursday approved an emergency decree allowing local politicians 45 days to switch parties if they wish to without losing their mandate. Critics accuse the government of trying to secure the support of mayors with good access to voters in the election campaign. The daily newspaper Evenimentul Zilei is beside itself with rage: "When such a decree is issued shortly before the elections clearly there's something fishy about it. ... The defectors are expected to switch allegiance to those who co-finance the local budgets. ... But for that they have to curry favour with the Social Democrats, register with the party and support its presidential candidate. Such interventionism testifies to an understanding of democracy that can only be found in Putin's Russia." (02/09/2014)

REFLECTIONS

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Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Andrzej Saramonowicz calls on Poland to boost military

To mark the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War on September 1 Polish film director Andrzej Saramonowicz draws parallels with Russia's suspected invasion in eastern Ukraine and calls for the Polish military to be rearmed in the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborza: "The Poles of those days seem so distant to us now. They seem totally different, and irritate us with their provocatively high-pitched voices and hasty movements in old black-and-white film footage. And they seem particularly alien when they push their fingers through their tussled Mullet haircuts. ... Yet they weren't that different from us. You could say they were like us but they lived in different times. They were constantly asking themselves: 'Is a war coming? Is it not coming?". ... Therefore whether we like it or not we must spend a huge amount on the army in the coming years. Naturally, I would prefer this money to be spent on culture and education. But now the time has come to arm ourselves." (02/09/2014)

ECONOMY

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Les Echos - France

Low interest rates don't help France

France issued government bonds with three and six month maturities to the tune of around eight billion euros for a negative interest rate on Monday. Good news that should however be treated with caution, the liberal business paper Les Echos writes: "It would be wrong to be content with these interest rates that have for all intents and purposes reached zero. First of all because we don't know how to take advantage of them. Investors have been indulgent with France for almost three years now. But we haven't been able to take advantage of that good will to accelerate reforms, bring competitiveness up to scratch or make wise public investments. And that at a time when some of our European neighbours like Spain and Ireland have reacted to the pressure from the markets and got themselves back in shape. And secondly, because we don't know how to interpret such low rates. All too often we take such extremely weak interest rates for a blank cheque from investors, whereas in reality they're above all a reflection of profoundly dysfunctional markets." (02/09/2014)

Politis - Cyprus

Europe's economy robust thanks to prostitution

The European System of Accounts which includes illegal activities in the calculation of a country's gross domestic product came into effect on Monday. This allows European economies to present themselves as even more successful, the liberal daily Politis comments, not without a touch of irony: "Wonderful Europe! You can only admire the way it manages its economic indicators. Prostitutes, pimps, drug bosses, smugglers - all of them are used to demonstrate that the economic terrorism of Ms Merkel, Mr Juncker, Mr Barroso and Mr Hollande delivers results. Even Nobel laureates have explained that Berlin's austerity policy is ruining countries. Banks and international profiteers are driving the people of Europe crazy, who can no longer defend themselves. Some are getting rich at the expense of others. And the only thing that matters for Europe is that it conveys a positive image of itself." (01/09/2014)

SOCIETY

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Trud - Bulgaria

Brussels should steer clear of vacuum cleaners

A new EU regulation banning vacuum cleaners that have motors powered by more than 1,600 watts came into effect on September 1. The daily Trud is annoyed at Brussels' arrogant directive: "If you please: we're part of the 'Europe of Nations' and not the 'Europe of Pencil Pushers'. Has any one of those lazybones in Brussels ever even used a vacuum cleaner? They prefer to pass that privilege on to their cleaning ladies from Eastern Europe. While the bureaucrat muses over the future of Europe and his wife goes out shopping, the question of how many watts the vacuum cleaner should have disappears into an EU directive. We Bulgarians should make it clear: we couldn't care less how curved a cucumber is, the most important thing is that it tastes good. And we don't care how strong a vacuum cleaner is as long as it cleans. After all, we're not lazy public servants but hard-working citizens who have to clean our homes ourselves - with as many watts as we please!" (01/09/2014)

El País - Spain

Protect child refugees but don't attract more

A growing number of minors unaccompanied by parents and without papers are among the refugees from Africa trying to emigrate illegally to Spain. Children need special protection but the country shouldn't attract more by treating them too well, the left-liberal daily El País warns: "The protocols stipulate that they are to be sent to youth centres and that children under seven are to be taken in by a foster family. Spanish society is demonstrating moral rectitude in that it has enough families willing to give these children affection and a home until their legal situation is clarified. But this shouldn't obscure the fact that this new phenomenon could cause a serious problem if it acquires larger proportions. More than 60,000 minors have arrived in the US from Central America and Mexico in less than a year. No one can ignore the fact that a permissive attitude could attract more refugees and aggravate the problem." (02/09/2014)

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