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Press review | 24/04/2014

 

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Russia and US sharpen their tone

Lavrov called for Ukrainian troops to withdraw from the east of the country. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov threatened with military intervention should the "interests of Russians" be hurt in Ukraine. The US is in the process of sending around 600 infantry soldiers to Poland and the Baltic states. Commentators see this deployment of troops as a symbol of the renewal of Nato, and accuse Moscow of provoking the failure of the peace plan for geopolitical reasons.

Kaleva - Finland

Moscow fuelling conflict in eastern Ukraine

Russia is responsible for the failure of the agreement on disarming the separatists in eastern Ukraine, the liberal daily Kaleva writes: "Who benefits from the peace plan not being observed and the situation escalating once more? The answer: Russia, which wants an unstable Ukraine ahead of the presidential elections in May. Without properly organised free elections, Ukraine can't move ahead politically. So Russian can continue to put pressure on the transition government and make demands. Over Easter the US government, according to The New York Times, received proof of the presence of Russian units in eastern Ukraine. The 'green men' already familiar to us from Crimea know how armed violence can be fomented." (24/04/2014)

Rzeczpospolita - Poland

Putin breathes new life into Nato

150 US soldiers arrived at a military base near the western Polish city of Szczecin on Wednesday. Russia has reactivated Nato, the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita writes in thanks: "Can anything positive be found at such a difficult time in Europe's history? Of course, because every crisis offers the ideal opportunity to bring something new and better to life: Nato has not only been mobilised because of it, but it has rediscovered its true purpose, the reason why it was founded in the first place. This we can rejoice about. The alliance has emerged from a deep depression and is forging new plans and digging up old concepts. The Nato states are increasing their defence budgets and considering how to modernise their armies. And the neighbours of the alliance are talking ever louder about at least cooperating with the alliance, if not actually joining it. ... For this, we sincerely thank Putin." (24/04/2014)

Delfi - Lithuania

Russian Spring may soon spread to the Baltics

Russian acts of aggression like those taking place in eastern Ukraine could soon menace the Baltic states, journalist Romas Sadauskas-Kvietkevičius fears in the online portal Delfi: "'Russian Spring' is the term being used by pro-Kremlin media in Russia to describe the insurrection by separatists in eastern Ukraine and the surge in Russian nationalism that started with the occupation of Crimea. ... The ideologists of the Russian Spring are convinced of the distinctiveness of Russian culture and their divinely ordained mission, and are already planning to export the movement to the Baltic countries. ... For that reason a particularly watchful eye must be kept on the activities of the terrorists in eastern Ukraine." (23/04/2014)

POLITICS

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - Germany

Moscow co-determines Eastern Partnership

The foreign ministers of Germany and France,  Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Laurent Fabius, announced on Monday in the Republic of Moldova that they will sign an association agreement with the country as early as this summer. But the strategy of using such agreements to bind countries like Moldova, Georgia or Ukraine to the EU has not panned out, the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: "Putin evidently wants to prevent European values from exerting their powers of attraction in Russia's 'near abroad'. Consequently what happened yesterday in Ukraine could happen tomorrow in Moldova. No wonder politicians in states in which Russia has used secessionist movements to establish military bases only view the EU's offer as a consolation prize that won't be of much use if the worst comes to worst. ... Ultimately the question of whether the Eastern Partnership has a future and what could replace it won't be decided in Brussels, but in Moscow." (24/04/2014)

The Guardian - United Kingdom

Accusing Ukip of racism is counterproductive

EU election posters for the anti-European Ukip party claim that 26 million unemployed Europeans want nothing more than to steal jobs from the British. Media and political opponents have called the campaign racist. But that only helps Ukip, because most British people believe what the party is saying, political scientists Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin argue in the left-liberal daily The Guardian: "Dismissing seven out of every 10 voters as racist is not a clever way of fighting a radical right populist. On the contrary it risks reinforcing the perception that a London-based, university-educated and financially secure elite has no understanding of the lives of ordinary, struggling voters, and dismisses their anxieties as bigotry. ... Those levelling these charges should remember that their London-focused worldview - confidently cosmopolitan and pro-migration - is the minority one in Britain." (23/04/2014)

Radikal - Turkey

Erdoğan holds out hope of peace with Armenians

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan offered his condolences to the families of the Armenians killed in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 in a statement made on the eve of the anniversary of the massacre, celebrated today, Thursday. He however avoided using the term "genocide". For the liberal daily Radikal this is still a significant step: "This is the first time self-criticism has been exercised at this level regarding 1915. And it is also the first time condolences have been offered to the grandchildren of those who died in the First World War and during the deportations. The statement refers at two points not to the past, but to a joint future, and this too is new. ... Would it be so bad if something came of it? Is peace not better than fighting each other?" (24/04/2014)

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Weakened Hamas ready for reconciliation

The Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas announced on Wednesday their reconciliation and plans to form a joint government. This step was only possible because radical Hamas is weakened, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore comments: "The details of the agreement are not yet known. But the compromise can't have excluded either the question of new elections or that of negotiations with Israel. On these points all attempts at reconciliation so far had failed. The new factor in the situation is Hamas' position. ... In the name of Sunni solidarity it broke with the Syrian regime and the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, which gives Hamas military, economic and political support. It has also lost its ally in Egypt, the government of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood under Mohammed Morsi. A more flexible Hamas may be able to accept the less radical positions of Fatah and the Palestinian government in Ramallah, and finally be ready to negotiate with Israel." (24/04/2014)

ECONOMY

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Les Echos - France

France's austerity plans are illusory

Prime Minister Manual Valls' austerity programme was approved by the French cabinet on Wednesday. The liberal business paper Les Echos praises the plan's objectives but doubts they will be met: "Above all, the finance ministry's stated goal of having public expenditure rise slower than inflation in 2015 leaves room for doubt: even under the austerity plans introduced by [former prime ministers] Fillon and Ayrault, expenditure continued to rise significantly faster than prices in 2012 and 2013. So although commendable, the goal seems unattainable in view of the measures introduced so far. Particularly as the parliamentary majority is already demanding that they be watered down. The goal is to reduce the deficit to three percent in 2015, but conditions are such that in all probability this will remain no more than wishful thinking. So the list of stability programmes that France has failed to adhere to in the past 15 years will grow a little longer. Unless the European Commission puts its foot down and demands that Paris go the extra mile." (24/04/2014)

El Mundo - Spain

Spain's recovery must create new jobs

According to a prognosis issued by Spain's Minister for Economic Affairs Luis de Guindos on Wednesday, the Spanish economy will grow by an average of 1.5 percent in 2014 and 2015. Reforms and tax reductions must now ensure that the recovery also creates new jobs, the conservative daily El Mundo demands: "The positive trend in the export sector, the record figures in the tourism branch and the nascent recovery in domestic demand are signs that we can take a different view of the future now, thanks also to the ECB's support for the debtor states. Now the government is called on to continue with the reforms aimed at tackling unemployment. The most urgent of these are those at the administrative level which can reduce public spending, as well as tax cuts to facilitate consumption and investments in the private sector." (24/04/2014)

Público - Portugal

Portuguese deserve credit for market return

Portugal issued ten-year government bonds for the first time in three years on Wednesday. This return to the bonds market secured 750 million euros for the state coffers. This is a major success for the Portuguese, the liberal daily Público writes: "The yield was just under 3.6 percent. We must bear in mind that in similar auctions before the application for financial assistance, it was at 6.72 percent. ... Claims that investor confidence has returned only thanks to the ECB and the current liquidity on the markets downplay the role of the major sacrifices the Portuguese have had to make in the last three years." (24/04/2014)

SOCIETY

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Haniotika Nea - Greece

Greeks living a nightmare for four years

On the fourth anniversary of the day when then Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou announced that Greece would need international assistance, the liberal regional daily Haniotika Nea delivers a devastating assessment of the results: "For the Greeks, a journey into the unknown began, whereby the average citizen had no idea how rough the seas would be. ... The Greeks lost not only their labour rights but also saw their salaries and pensions shrink. Then there were the drastic cuts in the healthcare and education sectors. At the same time we watched friends and neighbours sink into depression, become homeless or even commit suicide. Greece is battling to end this trip to hell. The citizens still hope to find their Ithaca, but this island still doesn't appear on any map." (23/04/2014)

Népszava - Hungary

Occupation monument arbitrary act by Orbán

In Budapest, construction work has begun on a highly controversial monument to commemorate Hungary's occupation by Nazi Germany, which began on 19 March 1944. In the left-leaning daily Népszava, journalist Karl Pfeifer criticises Viktor Orbán's conservative government for making the decision on the monument without any regard for opposing views: "Outside Hungary too, people are talking about the hypocritical monument, which uses a distorting symbolism to suggest that Hungary was a victim of the German occupation in 1944. We remember well Orbán's promise to the Jewish federation Mazsihisz in February that after Easter he would listen to the opinions of the Hungarian Holocaust survivors. Instead, the construction of the monument began straight after Orbán's party won the elections. ... Orbán apparently doesn't care about breaking his promise and pursuing a policy that presents people with a fait accompli." (24/04/2014)

Aftonbladet - Sweden

Sweden leaves caregivers in the lurch

More than a million Swedes care for a family member at home. According to a study put out on Wednesday by the Swedish National Audit Office, the people in this situation receive far too little help from the state. They are simply being left in the lurch, the left-liberal daily Aftonbladet admonishes: "The worst hit are those who care for the seriously ill. It's women who do the brunt of the work here. In the end, some even end up in a worse state than the family members they care for. The support of the municipality must adapt to a situation in which many family members also have a job outside the home. Society can't simply take these carers for granted. The National Audit Office believes that the government must do more to regulate care provided by family members through the municipal and provincial administrations. These carers have the right to be family members, and not just service staff." (24/04/2014)

MEDIA

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Wiener Zeitung - Austria

Ukraine crisis becoming media routine

In view of the increasingly similar news stories from eastern Ukraine and on the mutual threats on the part of the West and Russia, the state-run liberal daily Wiener Zeitung warns that the crisis must not become just a habitual story that media and their audiences tick off before going on to the next topic: "The headlines and breaking news flashes have become routine - for those who work in the media and for those who consume them. The reports increasingly resemble each other, repetitions crop up more and more often. ... Somehow everything seems to have been explained, analysed and commented on. 'Journalism is repetition', according to an old but true aphorism in the media. Nevertheless the pressure for new stories is all-powerful. However this structural inability to doggedly cover an issue is a luxury which, at most, the entertainment industry can allow itself, but not the critical news media." (24/04/2014)

LOCAL COLOURS

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Tages-Anzeiger - Switzerland

Dock crane is Zurich's new centre

A disused dock crane from the German port city of Rostock has arched over the Limmat River in Zurich since the start of April, and has become the city's newest tourist attraction. The artwork costing half a million euros is highly controversial among residents, but the daily Tages-Anzeiger is thrilled: "Art? Who cares. This dock crane is simply beautiful. ... Use alone has created a sculpture. The internal forms between the girders and the curved pillars are captivating. The mast emphasises verticality and uprightness, the eye is inspired by its firm standing. Too bad you can't climb up on it. ... The crane's appeal comes from its location and its height. Now we know where the centre of Zurich lies. And more importantly: The Limmat's banks, once deserted, are finally graced by an object of worthy stature. For once the measure suits its mark. In short: the dock crane needs no rubber stamp from the department for interpretations and ocean floors. Dock crane is enough. It is beautiful, period." (24/04/2014)

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