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Press review | 25/01/2013

 

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Cameron advocates EU reform

Cameron said in Davos that Britain is never likely to join the Eurozone. (© AP/dapd)

 

British Prime Minister David Cameron stressed on Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos that his country does not want to turn its back on the EU. At the same time he underscored his demand for a reform of the community. While some commentators support Cameron's call for a more competitive Europe, others believe that Germany and France won't agree to special terms for Britain.

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Europe needs several unions

Two questions dominated Cameron's statements in Davos: How much integration can the UK take, and how much can Europe take without losing even more global competitiveness? Cameron has hit the mark: the EU has reached a turning point, the liberal-conservative business paper Il Sole 24 Ore believes: "The euro is no longer a purely economic project; it has become a political one. … The reality [of the increasingly integrated Eurozone] shows that the times for a common European project have ended. The EU has long since split up into several different unions. This demands a change in strategy. We need a political 'pre-constitutional' agreement between the states of the Eurozone and the states that don't belong to the monetary union. An agreement that allows the former to create a political union while at the same time making it possible for the latter to renegotiate the terms of competition in the European single market. It won't be easy to create a more differentiated Europe. But Cameron's speech makes it clear that this is necessary." (25/01/2013)

El Mundo - Spain

Camerons wants negotiations, not Brexit

Several European leaders have criticised Cameron's calls for reform at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, for example, has excluded any special conditions for individual EU states together with his Dutch colleague Mark Rutte. The British prime minister has chosen a risky strategy, the conservative daily El Mundo concludes: "David Cameron tried to soothe his European partners yesterday in Davos telling them that the planned British referendum was not aimed at getting his country out of the EU. 'We're not turning our backs on Europe. On the contrary', he stressed. Cameron said that the UK wants a liberal Europe with greater flexibility, which is not compatible with some of the recent French and German initiatives. Everything indicates that Cameron is trying to renegotiate Britain's status in the EU to secure better conditions, which won't be easy because there are countries like France that won't play along. In any case we are facing a risky bet." (25/01/2013)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - Germany

Offended reactions confirm Cameron's stance

The fact that many European leaders were so brusque in rejecting Cameron's EU speech on Wednesday only goes to show that he hit the nail on the head, the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: "Cameron is right: the EU must become more flexible and competitive. It must clarify the relationship between the euro nations and the other countries of the EU. The repatriation of competences to the national level must be made possible. And finally, the EU must become fairer and more democratic. Those who react with accusations, like the current and former German foreign affairs ministers (Guido Westerwelle: 'cherry picking'; Joschka Fischer: 'reversal of EU development'), needn't be surprised when even more people turn their backs on the EU. ... Good riddance, many professional Europeans say, although they know that such an attitude weakens their argument for consolidation. Because if it's true that only a united Europe can have clout and garner respect in the world, it won't be successful without Britain's political, military and financial power." (25/01/2013)

Der Standard - Austria

Commonwealth can't replace EU

Britain's outstanding international status resulting from its integration in the Commonwealth can't replace its relations with the EU, British historian and journalist Timothy Garton Ash argues in an article published in the left-liberal daily Der Standard. Currently in India, Garton Ash writes that "watching Cameron in Mumbai has been a surreal experience. … One hears of a liking for London as a place to live and do business; of admiration for UK universities … of some attachment to British traditions of literature, good government and common law. … But there is absolutely no echo of the neo-Tory idea that a strategic special relationship between Britain and India, Britain and the whole Commonwealth, could be any substitute for Britain's place in Europe, and India's relationship with Europe as a whole. India, like Britain, will pursue its own national interest, starting in its own neighbourhood. If Cameron doesn't know that already, he will hear it again on his planned second official visit to India next month." (25/01/2013)

POLITICS

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Hospodárske noviny - Slovakia

Czechs face choice between love and lies

In a runoff vote taking place this Friday and Saturday the Czechs will decide who becomes their new president. They have the choice between the former centre-left prime minister Miloš Zeman and the conservative Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The two politicians stand for completely different traditions, the liberal business daily Hospodárske noviny writes: "The two camps are very different. … The citizens will decide with their vote whether the country will be represented according to the traditions and ethics [of the two former presidents] Masaryk und Havel, which Schwarzenberg stands for. Or whether it will be in the tradition of that vulgar prattler from the communist era who consequently embodies the mafia ethos of the current President Vaclav Klaus. That's what Zeman stands for. With Schwarzenberg there is the chance that [according to Havel's motto] the truth and love will win. If Zeman makes it into Prague Castle, Havel will have been wrong, because then lies and hatred will have won." (25/01/2013)

L'Express - France

France has a new president

Ever since France sent its troops to Mali, President François Hollande is suddenly coming across as determined and dynamic, writes essayist Jean-Marie Colombani in the left-liberal weekly L'Express: "The year 2013 kicked off on a note of change: and a change of president, no less! The 'media-political' atmosphere in the last six months of 2012 portrayed the president as irresolute, confused and unconcerned about fulfilling his campaign promises. In the space of a couple of days this image has changed dramatically. ... Current events have radically changed the public's perception of this man whose political career shows that he has been consistently under-estimated. Under his affable exterior we now see his firmness, under his conviviality we now get a glimpse of the dogged determination with which he pursues his goals. No doubt this image is nothing but a snap-shot. Nevertheless it brings about a much-needed correction of the previous image." (24/01/2013)

Elsevier - Netherlands

Israel's voters have everyday problems too

The current coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suffered serious losses in Israel's parliamentary election. The Israeli voters have punished him for his elitist arrogance, the right-wing conservative weekly Elsevier contends in its foreign affairs blog: "One analyst after another tried to find out what a shift to the right would mean for the peace process. But Israeli voters can sometimes be entirely normal people, moved by the same issues as European voters. Netanyahu is being punished for what many see as arrogance. … The surprise winner is the popular talk show presenter and thriller author Yair Lapid. He wants military service to be compulsory also for orthodox Jews, less money to go into building settlements and affordable homes for hard-working citizens. In short: he wants the middle class that pays for everything in Israel to stop being squeezed to pay for the privileges of others. This shows that Israel is an entirely normal country with normal voters and a recognisable democratic process." (25/01/2013)

Dagens Nyheter - Sweden

Egypt between democracy and Sharia

On the second anniversary of the uprising against the former leader Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian opposition called today, Friday, for protests against the ruling Islamists and the new constitution. The country is oscillating between democratisation and the consolidation of power by the Muslim Brotherhood, the liberal daily Dagens Nyheter writes: "While optimists saw Egypt on the road to a Western democracy, pessimists feared a new Iran with rock-hard Sharia laws. ... In fact the country is somewhere between the two. Democracy has become the reality to the extent that the power of the military has been curbed and free elections have taken place. At the same time the power of the Islamists has increased. The Muslim Brotherhood has weakened the opposition through clever tactical, judicial and parliamentary manoeuvring. ... The world has good reason to continue supporting the development of democracy in Egypt and other parts of the Arab world. But there are equally good reasons to be wary when basic human rights are violated - and that happens very often." (25/01/2013)

Kapital Daily - Bulgaria

Bulgaria's civil servants idle despite EU proceedings

The EU Commission decided on Thursday to file two charges against Bulgaria before the European Court of Justice. The grounds are that the country has failed to adequately liberalise its energy markets and committed irregularities in the procedure for selecting the businesses that will organise the digital broadcasting of radio and television programmes starting 2013. Bulgarian is facing fines of up to 16,000 euros per day. The daily Kapital Daily writes that the country's regulatory authorities stand to benefit from a court case, but that nevertheless "in the long term such measures tend to do more harm than good. They won't bring about a functioning administration, because despite its good will, Brussels is incapable of reacting to every problem that crops up. And the feeling is becoming increasingly prevalent among civil servants that they should be able to continue to make stupid and corrupt decisions and laze around undisturbed as long as they're not caught by the EU Commission." (24/01/2013)

REFLECTIONS

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ACUM - Romania

Ovidiu Ivancu claims democracy is just a fad in Romania

The public discourse of the Romanian elite is frequently xenophobic and anti-European, writes Ovidiu Iancu in the online paper Acum: "We should not succumb to the illusion that Romanian society is more tolerant or cleverer than it was in the past - for example at the beginning of the last century or during communist times. Here in Romania, political correctness and democracy are still regarded as passing fads that one must conform to because the times require it. But the internal thought-processes of the scholars and other representatives of the elite are quite different. For them, foreigners are responsible for all the problems we face. … The elite even say so in public. So we can well imagine that in private they make far more drastic statements. …With almost all the political talk shows and news magazines, not 15 minutes pass without us being bombarded with openly anti-democratic, xenophobic or nationalist views. It's as if we were living in the past. Only the context has changed." (25/01/2013)

ECONOMY

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Expansión - Spain

Lower salaries only way to keep jobs in Spain

Spain's statistics institute presented new record unemployment figures for 2012 on Thursday, showing that almost six million people are without work in the country. Further government reforms and renunciation of pay by employees are the only way out of the crisis, the conservative business paper Expansión argues: "The government must promote growth through structural reforms, and companies and employees must make the most of the flexibility the labour market reform has given them. At the negotiating table, keeping and creating jobs must always be the top priority, in exchange for more flexibility in the organisation of work, whether it means freezing and reducing salaries or modifying shifts, working times or work mobility. The fight against unemployment requires action from the government, the regions, the parties, the entrepreneurs and all society." (25/01/2013)

Daily Record - United Kingdom

Scotland's poor freeze after fuel price hike

The winter is playing havoc among the poor in Britain, because the energy giant Scottish and Southern Energy has tripled its prices in the past ten years. The left-liberal Scottish newspaper Daily Record is outraged: "Thousands of pensioners across Scotland will today sit freezing in their homes because they can't afford to pay crippling energy charges. As temperatures continue to plummet, some of society's neediest will be so cold that they will forego a meal just so they can run their radiators for an extra half-hour. It is a sickening situation that simply should not happen in a country as wealthy and blessed with oil as Scotland. A Scottish Government survey published at the end of last year revealed rocketing fuel prices have pushed more than 100,000 Scots into fuel poverty. That so many people are in such a dire situation is quite obscene." (24/01/2013)

Imerisia - Greece

Greece sees light at the end of the tunnel

The director of the Institute of International Finance, Charles Dallara, said on Tuesday that Greece could potentially return to the markets as soon as 2014. The business paper Imerisia also sees several indications that the economic climate is improving in Greece: "The markets and our partners are convinced of the government's determination to continue on the path of reform and fulfil all the obligations. The government and the country are passing the 'tests' to which they must submit on a daily basis. And the battle is showing the first positive results. So it's no coincidence that the yields on bonds are quickly going down. … The improvement in the economic situation also reflects the dynamic of our exports, which are expected to reach a record high this year. Cautious estimates reckon with an increase of four to five percent, while optimists are even expecting double-digit growth." (24/01/2013)

SOCIETY

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Lietuvos Žinios - Lithuania

The 'Soviet' sausage is tasteless

An advertising campaign for sausages of the 'Soviet' brand has caused an outrage in Lithuania. On January 13, the anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Vilnius in 1991, a supermarket chain cut its prices on all 'Soviet' sausages. Such a marketing campaign is totally inappropriate, political scientist Vytautas Dumbliauskas writes in the conservative daily Lietuvos žinios: "The use of the word 'Soviet' in product names is not just a matter for marketing strategists. During the Soviet era our country was occupied and many of our countrymen were killed. ... The sausage producers should stop and consider the fact that they are not only businessmen, but also Lithuanians. ... The [conservative] Seimas member Kęstutis Masiulis is right when he says it would be impossible to sell a 'Nazi' sausage in Germany. That's because the Germans have faced up to their past. Meanwhile we go on playing the 'Soviet' sausage game." (25/01/2013)

MEDIA

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

Media best controlled by the public sphere

In view of the media crisis in Europe, an expert committee set up by the EU Commission presented a report in Brussels on Monday calling among other things for stricter control of ethical standards in journalism by the EU. The liberal-conservative daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung sees no need for such additional supervision. "Of course the report stresses that the bodies set up to monitor such standards would act independently of political influence. There can be no denying that numerous problems exist in the communications sector. However bringing these to the public's attention - if necessary by creating a scandal - is the task of NGOs, foundations, think tanks and the media themselves. A multi-voiced public discourse is the best way to engage in quality control in the media sector. The EU and the individual states should confine themselves to creating the proper framework. And if the competition doesn't play along, the EU already has the possibility to intervene. It has no need for further instruments." (25/01/2013)

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