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Press review | 28/01/2013

 

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Zeman to be new Czech president

In the Czech Republic's first presidential election decided by a direct vote, winner Miloš Zeman performed strongly above all in rural areas. (© AP/dapd)

 

The left-leaning ex-prime minister Miloš Zeman has won the presidential election in the Czech Republic. In the second round held on Friday and Saturday he claimed victory over the conservative Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Commentators attribute Schwarzenberg's defeat to his opponent's nationalist campaign and are hopeful that the future leader will at least do a better job than current president Václav Klaus.

Sme - Slovakia

Social security and fear of the Germans

The reasons for Miloš Zeman's victory in the Czech presidential election can be summed up in two points, the liberal daily Sme recapitulates: "The majority of Czech society still lives under the illusion that it's possible to preserve the social security of days gone by. The social security that was based on an ineffectual state, an ineffectual social policy and an ineffectual pension system, on a life lived on credit. ... The other significant section of those who voted for Zeman is nationalist and xenophobic. During Soviet times one in three Czech families was able to buy a little house for next to nothing, particularly in the border area, which the Germans were forced to leave after the war. Zeman won their votes because he cast himself as the guy who would protect those little houses - unlike his opponent, who allegedly wanted to give these houses back to the Germans. The masses believed Zeman even though the supposed threat of the houses being returned was absolute nonsense." (28/01/2013)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Anti-German sentiment always works

The outgoing Czech President Václav Klaus played a key role in helping the former left-wing prime minister Miloš Zeman beat the conservative Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg by making populist use of Schwarzenberg's criticism of the Beneš decrees, the conservative daily Lidové noviny concludes: "Klaus knows the Czechs inside out. Distrust of foreigners, and particularly anti-German sentiment, function as well as the nerve in a bad tooth. The spectre of the Beneš decrees and linking a non-existent Sudeten German problem with the office of president and the Treaty of Lisbon in any way at all will never fail to have the desired effect. Of course, anyone can play the general after the battle. Karel Schwarzenberg's team should have been aware of the danger. It should have dissuaded him from saying in a debate that from today's perspective Beneš would belong before a tribunal in The Hague. Perhaps the election would still have had the same outcome, but not with such a clear victory for Zeman." (28/01/2013)

Die Presse - Austria

Zeman used nation's ghosts as campaign workers

Miloš Zeman's challenger Karel Schwarzenberg was openly critical of the Beneš decrees in the run-up to the elections, which Zeman exploited in a populist way. He denied Schwarzenberg the right to be the Czech head of state on the grounds that he talks like a "sudeták", as the Sudeten Germans are disparagingly known. The liberal-conservative daily Die Presse is dismayed at what it sees as a mudslinging campaign: "Driven out of Prague as a boy in 1948, Schwarzenberg has served the country as few others have done, first as a supporter of the opposition from exile, then as an advisor to Havel after the fall of communism, and still later as a highly respected Czech foreign minister. One may take comfort in how many votes the courageous, cosmopolitan 75-year-old received even though he was the target of such consistent mudslinging. Nevertheless it remains staggering how easy it is to take old national ghosts out of the closet and use them so successfully as campaign workers." (27/01/2013)

Jyllands-Posten - Denmark

Zeman still better than Klaus

From a European point of view Miloš Zeman is not the best choice, but at least he's better than his predecessor, the right-wing liberal daily Jyllands-Posten writes: "The people have spoken, and now it's time to look ahead. The good thing about the change of power is that the current President Václav Klaus will soon be gone. Klaus attracted attention with eccentric statements about the EU, the climate problem and homosexuals. He was against the Union even though as Czech prime minister he was the one who brought the Czech Republic into the EU in the first place. He considered the issue of climate change nothing more than hysteria, and believed homosexuals should not have equal legal rights. His positions were legitimate in a democracy, but as president he made more enemies for himself than friends, which cannot be the job of a head of state. Abroad he was considered so uncouth that much time elapsed between foreign invitations." (28/01/2013)

POLITICS

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Mladina - Slovenia

High time for alternative party in Slovenia

After the withdrawal of the liberal Civic List party, the centre-right government of Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša has lost its majority in parliament. Janša, however, insists on remaining in his post despite the growing calls for early elections. The left-leaning weekly Mladina puts its hopes in the founding of a new party: "The creation of an alternative, competent party is a more important topic than all the current strategising of the established parties. We believe that despite the current difficulties of the political class, such a party would gain support after eventual early elections. In the civil society out of which this party would grow there are plenty of clever and committed people with good intentions. And what's more, the citizens' plight and anger is increasing. ... The fact that time is running out could serve as extra motivation here, because when we have plenty of time we tend to put off the unpleasant tasks for later." (28/01/2013)

ABC - Spain

Berlusconi's shameful praise for Mussolini

On the sidelines of a ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday, ex-Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi made positive remarks about the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. The conservative daily ABC is outraged at such a blunder: "To say at a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Holocaust that Mussolini did some good things too is completely out of place. Thousands of Italian Jews were deported to the extermination camps. Although it was the Nazis who did this when they occupied Italy after the Duce's fall, they used the concentration camps the latter had built to please Hitler. The fact that Mussolini also built roads and bridges doesn't diminish his complicity." (28/01/2013)

Corriere della Sera - Italy

Europe a pathetic hanger-on in Mali

Malian and French troops have reported that they gained control over access to the desert city of Timbuktu on Sunday. Europe has degraded itself in the role of a hanger-on in the Mali conflict, the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera complains: "Europe decided to leave France on its own, meaning that France's military operation has come across like a neo-colonial action aimed at protecting French interests. We had an alternative: we should have recognised that it was important for Europe to stop the advance of radical Islamism. We should have realised that it is the task of the 'political community' to confront this danger together and Europeanise the military operation in Mali. This way we would perhaps have created the conditions for more solidarity in Europe. For sure, that solidarity wouldn't have been enough to create a consolidated Europe, but at least we would have begun to reflect on it like a people who share a common destiny. But instead we opted for the hanger-on strategy. It's more convenient because it doesn't require a unifying force." (28/01/2013)

Irish Examiner - Ireland

Brexit would be a nightmare for Ireland

After the Eurosceptic speech by British Prime Minister David Cameron last week, 57 percent of his compatriots are in favour of exiting the EU in the event that Britain does not regain competences from Brussels. That was the result of a survey published in the newspapers Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror. For neighbouring Ireland a "Brexit" would be nothing short of a catastrophe, the left-liberal daily Irish Examiner warns: "Britain's exit from the EU would potentially be a nightmare for Ireland, not just for economic reasons but because of border controls too. Our membership of the euro makes our exit almost impossible. ... Meanwhile, disregard any Irish politicians who tell you a British exit is impossible. Those will be the same Irish politicians who said it was inevitable that Britain would join the euro after we did, that it would be impossible for the UK to stay out. Well stay out it did, and damn glad the British are about it. The UK will do what it thinks suits it best. Cutting off the nose to spite the face happens, even at this level." (27/01/2013)

Novinar - Bulgaria

Nuclear plant not an issue for Bulgarians

A referendum on a new nuclear power plant in Bulgaria failed on Sunday owing to the low voter turnout of just 21 percent. The referendum fell so far short of the prescribed minimum turnout of 60 percent because the Bulgarians are preoccupied with more urgent concerns than the future of nuclear energy right now, the daily newspaper Novinar points out: "When the Bulgarians prefer to stay at home on the couch rather than taking part in a referendum it's because either they didn't understand the question to be decided or it's not on their agenda. ... 'Should nuclear energy be further developed in Bulgaria with the construction of a new nuclear plant?' This question has been left hanging in the air for now like a nasty but distant threat. ... In a nutshell: Bulgaria's next referendum should be on an issue that affects us here and now. Then there will be no lack of queues at the polling stations." (27/01/2013)

REFLECTIONS

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The Daily Telegraph - United Kingdom

Janet Daley on Cameron's and Obama's understanding of democracy

The Eurosceptic speech by the British Prime Minister David Cameron and the inaugural address by US President Barack Obama on beginning his second term in office garnered plenty of attention across the globe last week. Columnist Janet Daley reflects in the conservative newspaper The Daily Telegraph on the two politicians' understanding of democracy: "Was Mr Cameron making the EU an offer he knew it could not accept? Or was he trying to appeal to the restive, disempowered peoples of Europe over the heads of their leaders? Mr Obama was speaking from what is, for us, a discredited past in which the will of government is always seen as just and merciful. And Mr Cameron seemed to be offering an impossibly perfect future, in which the power of distant governing institutions is once more made to answer to the people. Between them, they drew the outlines of a discussion that will certainly dominate our politics for a generation. What does it mean to be a democratic country? Does economic equality, or international stability, trump everything? Maybe this debate suggests that Western democracy is entering a new, more mature phase. Then again, perhaps it means that it is finished." (27/01/2013)

ECONOMY

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Corriere del Ticino - Switzerland

Austerity promotes growth after all

Leading financial and economic experts took an optimistic view of the future upon the conclusion of the World Economic Forum in Davos on the weekend. At the same time IMF head Christine Lagarde called on all governments to stick to their efforts at balancing their budgets. Finally a major misperception according to which fiscal discipline and growth are mutually exclusive has been clarified, the liberal daily Corriere del Ticino comments with delight: "'Economising for growth' could be the title of the final chapter in Davos. ... The best speeches on the question of whether the austerity drive should be continued or stopped to promote growth were given by German Chancellor Merkel and ECB President Draghi. Both want to combine austerity and growth, both said clearly that in many countries the austerity measures are still too cautious and consequently need to be not just continued, but intensified. The Merkel-Draghi alliance may have its detractors, but it's indisputable that it is this alliance we have to thank for the ray of hope that has kept the Eurozone alive and ensured prospects of growth at least for the foreseeable future." (28/01/2013)

SOCIETY

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Polityka Online - Poland

Backwards Poland rejects same-sex marriage

The Polish parliament rejected a new law on registered partnerships for homosexuals on Friday. Prime Minister Donald Tusk was outvoted by the conservative wing of his own party on the issue. The vote highlights Poland's backwardness, the left-liberal news website Polityka Online stresses: "And once again, the ritualistic incantation of an attack on the traditional family and moral order of society has won the day. ... Yet in the civilised world the regulation of same-sex relationships has become standard. At present gays and lesbians can get married in seven European countries (Holland, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Portugal). In other states of Western Europe excepting Italy this issue was regulated by a law on partnerships under civil law. ... Nothing is likely to change any more in this legislative period because not even Prime Minister Tusk's intervention achieved anything. Poland remains a white stain on the map of civilised countries in this respect." (28/01/2013)

Les Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace - France

Children used in same-sex marriage conflict

Over 100,000 people demonstrated in Paris on Sunday in favour of the government's plan to introduce same-sex marriage. Two weeks earlier an even larger crowd turned out to protest against the measure. The regional daily Les Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace is unhappy that children are being instrumentalised in the campaign: "The demonstrations of yesterday and January 13th are among the largest in the past decades. They stand for two different visions of an important issue: the structure of the family. ... Luckily homosexuality is no longer viewed as a crime or a sickness. The result, however, has been to focus on children. Boys and girls are now being shamelessly invited to say whether they're traumatised or thrilled by the idea of being raised by two women or two men. This instrumentalisation of children is shocking: whatever the issue to be defended, children should never be held hostage by - and above all not be made the mouthpieces of - adults. This should be the guiding principle of our parliamentarians, whose backs are now to the wall." (28/01/2013)

Blog Antje Schrupp - Germany

Sexist attacks are not a trifling matter

An article about the suggestive remarks to a young journalist made by Rainer Brüderle, the liberal Free Democratic Party's leading candidate in this year's German parliamentary election, has provoked a debate about everyday sexism. Only recently another young female journalist had reported on hostility towards women in the Pirate Party. Finally a subject that has long been swept under the carpet as too trivial is being discussed, writes political expert Antje Schrupp in her blog: "It's the breaking of a taboo because up to now it was not the done thing to make a big fuss about such experiences. A woman who has made it to the upper ranks of journalism was to be grateful that her male colleagues had let her play the game at all - and keep quiet about any such trifling matters. ... The strong response to the hashtag #Aufschrei (outcry) on Twitter just goes to show how much anger has been accumulating. Women are recounting their experiences regarding such 'trifling matters' under this tag and making it clear that the sheer number of such incidents means this can't be written off as a 'trifling matter'." (27/01/2013)

Expressen - Sweden

Racism rife not just in Hungary

To mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday, the liberal daily Expressen stresses that racism and xenophobia are still rife in Europe: "Today's renaissance of racism does not merely concern Hungary, even if that's the European country where the situation is the worst. In these times of crisis xenophobia is on the rise everywhere. In Italy, special identification laws for Roma have been introduced, and in 2010 bulldozers destroyed a Roma camp on the orders of the state in revenge for the murder of an Italian woman. Here in Sweden this newspaper revealed on November 20th that the Sweden Democrats secretly tried to find out from the scientific service of parliament which parliamentarians had two passports. ... Today we are commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. But racism is not an old black and white photo which we can be content to observe solemnly once every year. It exists here and now." (27/01/2013)

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