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Press review | 30/01/2013

 

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Funding for African mission in Mali

Two women in the city of Gao, which was liberated on the weekend. (© AP/dapd)

 

At a donor's conference in Addis Abeba, the international community has pledged roughly 456 million dollars for an African peace mission in Mali. France's President François Hollande then announced that he intends to withdraw his troops from the country as quickly as possible. Now politicians must take command, commentators urge, putting their hopes in a peace plan for the entire region.

Libération - France

Politics must take over now

The quick success attained by the French troops in Mali cannot hide the fact that the country and the entire region stand in need of a political solution, the left-liberal daily Libération writes: "The first phase of 'Operation Serval' is winding up like a blitzkrieg: after nineteen days the enemy has vanished without really trying to defend the fortresses that only yesterday it had subjected to the most barbarous of regimes. In this way François Hollande has countered the accusations of indecision and the threats of a protracted war with energy and efficiency. ... There can be no military solution to the Malian crisis - politicians must be quick to take up where armed conflict has left off. This is not just about rebuilding a state, its institutions and its army, but also about finding an answer to the issue of the [autonomy seeking] 'Tuareg', the precondition for isolating the terrorists. France and Europe may provide assistance, nevertheless this major task concerns first and foremost the African continent.” (30/01/2013)

Helsingin Sanomat - Finland

Peace in Mali good not just for France

France has been frequently accused of pursuing economic interests in the debate over its military mission in Mali. But it is Mali and its neighbours that stand to gain most from a politically stable Sahel region, the liberal daily Helsingin Sanomat points out: "The commentaries on Mali's mineral resources often fail to mention the fact that for example the uranium deposits have so far only been charted out. Mali mines gold, it's true, but for France gold doesn't have the same strategic value as uranium, not to mention cotton, Mali's most important raw material. Naturally a stable Sahel region would be in France's interest. A third of the uranium needed for French nuclear power plants is mined in neighbouring Nigeria, for instance. But if France's military operation stabilises the region this will help above all the countries situated in the region, first and foremost Mali. Naturally this can also help increase President François Hollande's waning popularity. But what good will a boost in popularity do him in the middle of his term? Would it be worth going to war for?" (30/01/2013)

Le Temps - Switzerland

Switzerland must help with its local expertise

Since 1977 Mali has been a focus of Swiss development aid - particularly in the regions of Sikasso, Mopti and Timbuktu. Switzerland must support France with its good contacts to help secure peace in Mali, the liberal daily Le Temps urges: "France believes that as a former colonial power in the region it plays a special role, and is all the more careful not to risk becoming bogged down in the conflict. For that reason it pretends not to know what awaits it. Nevertheless it will need all the help it can get - including the competence of Switzerland, whose contacts in the region are widely regarded as excellent. ... If Switzerland wants to continue being active, it will have to defend itself against the accusations of naive optimism while trying to push through its own perspective, above and beyond the reductionist views adopted by all of those who are looking for quick solutions, however inadequate they may be. France has its work cut out for it in ensuring that its war remains just right to the end. But Switzerland must also do what it can to ensure that its knowledge of the country serves this goal." (30/01/2013)

POLITICS

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Delo - Slovenia

New dictatorship born in Egypt

In the last few days more than 50 people have died in the violent protests against President Mohammed Mursi in Egypt. Mursi has therefore cut short his visit to Germany planned for this Wednesday and cancelled the visit to France scheduled for Friday. The president is now showing his true autocratic face, the left-liberal daily Delo concludes: "The second anniversary of the uprising in Egypt that moved the world and allowed the degraded masses to hope that it was possible to rebel against apparently indestructible totalitarian regimes has produced no good news. On the contrary. Mohammed Mursi is considerably stronger politically that Hosni Mubarak was in the last weeks of his rule. Mursi, who has manoeuvred to leave the secular opposition in an isolated position, has the backing of the huge machinery of the Muslim Brotherhood. The latter has been waiting for its 'historical opportunity' for almost 80 years in many parts of the Arab world. Now the opportunity has come and the Brothers won't let it pass by even if it costs many human lives." (30/01/2013)

Právo - Czech Republic

Zeman and Schwarzenberg must cooperate

In the Czech presidential election Miloš Zeman and Karel Schwarzenberg faced each other as rivals, but as president and foreign minister they must now jointly use the opportunity to create a new Europe policy for Prague, the left-leaning daily Právo urges: "The two politicians differ regarding their support for our active role in the Transatlantic structures - but only minimally. … Particularly when it comes to foreign policy, Schwarzenberg and Zeman could become pragmatic partners forming a front against the eurosceptic [conservative] Civic Democrats in the current President Klaus's camp. It would be unfortunate if Schwarzenberg started trying to settle scores from the election campaign and sabotage Zeman's foreign policy. He could succumb to this temptation because he knows that in this area he has a better overview than Zeman. And because particularly Zeman's abuse of the 'German trump' didn't go down very well in the German-speaking neighbouring countries." (30/01/2013)

Népszabadság - Hungary

Hungary's Left must bring down Orbán

With just a year to go before the parliamentary elections in Hungary the Hungarian Left must form a united front against the right-wing conservative Prime Minister Victor Orbán, the left-liberal daily Népszabadság demands, noting that otherwise the country is doomed: "No matter how devastating it sounds, the leitmotiv of the Hungarian Left must be to oppose Orbánism. ... Today the top priority is to put an end to the destructive policies of Viktor Orbán's government, policies that are ruining the future of countless socially disadvantaged families because they disregard the idea of equal opportunity. One thing has become clear: if Orbán remains at the helm in the long term, the country will go to the dogs. We are seeing the authoritarian way in which he leads the ruling party Fidesz. The Hungarian Left faces the crucial task of bringing down Orbán and his government at any cost." (29/01/2013)

REFLECTIONS

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Rzeczpospolita - Poland

For Adriano Bosoni Cameron is jeopardising the EU project

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced he would hold a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EU in 2017, provided he is re-elected in 2015. The Italian political scientist Adriano Bosoni of the think tank Stratfor voices his forebodings in the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita: "The United Kingdom's push to renegotiate its status in the European Union threatens the European project. In the past, the bloc granted special concessions to the British, such as allowing them to keep the pound sterling during Maastricht Treaty negotiations. ... However, this is the first time that London has openly demanded the return to a previous stage in the process of European integration. At no other time has a country tried to dissociate itself from the bloc in this way. The decision ... makes a compromise extremely difficult and risky between France and Germany and the United Kingdom. ... Cameron is framing his proposals not in terms of national sovereignty but in terms of social well-being. In doing so, he acknowledges the social implications of the European crisis. Cameron has even said that the European Union currently is hurting its citizens more than it is helping them." (30/01/2013)

La Repubblica - Italy

Barbara Spinelli warns against Berlusconi's Mussolini nostalgia

Former Italian head of government Silvio Berlusconi voiced praise for the policies of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini at a ceremony to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday. Berlusconi is playing with fire, political expert Barbara Spinelli writes in the left-liberal daily La Repubblica: "Berlusconi is not the first and he won't be the last to try and shake the anti-fascist foundations of the constitutions that moved Europe's democracies to form a confederation of states. Since this union expanded eastwards, many states that suffered under the Soviet Union have drawn similar conclusions: communism is the true enemy, not right-wing extremist dictatorship. … The proto-fascist regression of Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party in Hungary are a glaring example of this. … History is being distorted and the resentment the serious economic crises are generating among the people is being fomented. Berlusconi is deliberately mimicking Mussolini. … He knows very well that in difficult times the calls for a strong man, for a 'Duce', grow louder." (30/01/2013)

ECONOMY

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The Independent - United Kingdom

British government has guts for big projects

The British government on Monday presented its plans for the new high-speed rail link High Speed 2, which is to connect London with Northern England and Scotland by 2032. The left-liberal daily The Independent is delighted at the government's resolve: "The leap from apparent indifference to enthusiasm is not entirely contradictory. There is still a reluctance to invest enough in more immediate projects. The long grass is always the most comfortable political terrain for a government, and high-speed rail will not demand much money for now. The Government can work out how to pay for it when the time comes. But the renewed focus shows at least that the Coalition feels it has to be seen to be acting. Being seen to be acting on a distant project is only one stage removed from the real thing. For the 'Austerity Coalition', capital investment is almost becoming an acceptable form of spending, as it was meant to have been in the first place." (30/01/2013)

maltastar.com - Malta

Malta's government jeopardises credit rating

In the second quarter of 2012 Malta's public debt rose by five percentage points to 73.1 percent compared with the same period of the previous year, as Eurostat revealed last week. The social-democratic website maltastar.com sees Malta's credit rating at serious risk: "GonziPN [Prime Minister Gonzi of the nationalist PN party] - irresponsible as usual with people's money and taxes - has opted to engage the country into great financial commitments of a recurrent expenditure nature. This is no longer sustainable and the structural debt being experienced if not stopped forthwith will continue tarnishing Malta's reputation, no less its credit rating and the BBB+ awarded to Malta by Standard & Poor's can become worse. Thus Labour's proposal to plough back into the economy €77million in savings while addressing [power corporation] Enemalta's debt over the generation of electricity is a step in the right direction to help improve Malta's debt levels." (30/01/2013)

SOCIETY

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De Telegraaf - Netherlands

Stinginess inappropriate for royal succession

In view of the tight finances in the Netherlands there will be no major celebrations to mark the royal succession, Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced. The conservative daily De Telegraaf warns against taking thriftiness to extremes: "Our country is going through the biggest crisis since the 1930s. This has had drastic consequences for many Dutch people. ... Certainly, under such circumstances there can be no talk of lavish celebrations. Nevertheless we must be wary of too much frugality. Our country is still one of the wealthiest in the world. Even if it is small geographically, as a trading nation it still enjoys a high standing and our economy is one of the 15 strongest in the world. In view of this status it is only fitting that the inauguration of our new monarch should take place in fitting circumstances. The whole world will be looking to Amsterdam on April 30. This is a chance to present our country with fresh dynamism. That simply doesn't jive with a bargain basement bash." (30/01/2013)

El Mundo - Spain

Beatrix abdicates, Juan Carlos must stay king

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced on Monday that she will abdicate in April. She will celebrate her 75th birthday on Thursday. Although her Spanish counterpart Juan Carlos is of the same age there can be no question of his retiring yet, the conservative daily El Mundo contends: "Queen Beatrix's abdication may tempt us to compare the case of the Dutch royal family with that of the Spanish. ... But the two cases differ in many respects so that there can be no question of such a comparison. ... The Netherlands is not plagued by the territorial tensions Spain has to contend with. It would be useless to deny that as an institution the royal family has lost considerable prestige. But even so, Don Juan Carlos continues to draw legitimacy from his role in the transition to democracy and is still very active both in domestic and foreign policy. As long as the king's health allows him to exercise his office and no unusual circumstances arise that impede him from doing so, his continued rule is the best guarantee for the stability of the country." (29/01/2013)

e-vestnik - Bulgaria

Bulgaria reverts to the "wild 90s"

The drug boss Zlatomir Ivanov was shot and seriously injured in the centre of Sofia on Tuesday as he was on his way to court to face charges of contract killing and drug trafficking. His life is now hanging on a thread. The web portal e-vestnik feels transported back to the wild days of the 1990s, when shootouts were everyday occurrences in Bulgaria: "The only thing that has changed since the 1990s is that the criminal gangs have moved from the streets into politics and the economy. Our current prime minister, Boyko Borisov was also a member of the mafia that engaged in street battles back in the 90s. ... What else can we expect when such a man is in charge of the state? Despite his promises he has been unable to curb either the mafia or conventional crime. In the last three and a half years all the police has done is spread media propaganda and fear. ... Clearly the fight against organised crime in Bulgaria hasn't even begun yet." (29/01/2013)

MEDIA

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Spiegel Online - Germany

Sexism debate has changed web discourse

Over 60,000 tweets have been sent in the past couple of days under the hashtag #aufschrei (outcry) on sexism in daily life. The debate in Germany was sparked by a report about salacious remarks allegedly made by the liberal FDP top candidate Rainer Brüderle to a young female journalist. A new digital public sphere is being created with the Twitter discussion, columnist Sascha Lobo writes on the web portal Spiegel Online: "#aufschrei is the proof that for many people major social topics are too seldom or incorrectly dealt with in the traditional media. In other words, that the public sphere hasn't cottoned on to what many people think it should be concerned with. ... After #zensursurla [a campaign against blocking child porn sites] and #Acta,  #aufschrei was the first major digital demonstration in Germany that was not limited to topics related to the Internet. And so the hashtag has become part of social reality: a symbol for web discourse with real repercussions in the public sphere. It's just a small step, that's clear, but that's what democracy's all about, doing politics one tiny step at a time." (30/01/2013)

Kathimerini - Greece

Greek politicians make fools of themselves online

Greek politicians are increasingly using Facebook and Twitter. They only expose themselves by revealing such ambitions, the conservative daily Kathimerini believes: "Many of them are utterly mistaken in the belief that they are something between Heraclitus and Confucius and able to sum up great pieces of wisdom in 140 characters. ... Their lack of judgement prevents them from seeing that the Internet's most important feature is not the possibility of playing on words but its great data storage. This gives any halfway competent user the possibility to go back and re-examine the actions of a party leader, a would-be party leader or indeed any public figure. And if politicians get caught up in the cliché that their principles are 'unshakeable', people can mock them and point to quotes [still available online] in which politicians claim something different every time - always with the same passionate enthusiasm. ... This exposes the politicians for what they are: willing hostages of their own ambitions." (29/01/2013)

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