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Press review | 20/02/2013

 

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More adoption rights for homosexuals

Under the German court's ruling, homosexuals can adopt their partner's adopted child. (© dapd)

 

The European Court of Human Rights and the German Constitutional Court strengthened the adoption rights of same-sex couples in Austria and Germany in two separate judgements delivered on Tuesday. Some commentators welcome these steps towards equal rights for same-sex partnerships. Others fear that children could suffer from the effects of this progressive course.

taz - Germany

Constitutional judges forge equal rights policy

Homosexuals are free to adopt a child previously adopted child by their partners in future, the German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe has ruled. The anti-gay stance of conservative politicians has made it necessary for the German Federal Constitutional Court to step in repeatedly to press ahead on equal rights policy, the left-leaning daily taz comments: "While the conservative sister parties, the CDU and CSU, have isolated themselves politically with their homophobic attitudes, all the other parties in the Bundestag have come out in support of equal rights for gays and lesbians. … As long as the CDU and CSU are in power, the German Constitutional Court will be the one to push the policy on equal rights forward. The next constitutional appeal against the ban on joint adoption rights for homosexual couples is already in preparation, while the judgement on equal tax treatment is expected in the current year. Nevertheless the fact that courts must force politicians to recognise the reality is unworthy of a democratic, progressive state. ... Instead of continuing to tinker away painstakingly at countless paragraphs, if would be far simpler to clear the way for same-sex marriage. Other countries like Spain and the Netherlands have already shown how it's done." (20/02/2013)

Der Standard - Austria

Austria only reluctantly progressive

The European Court of Human Rights admonished Austria for not granting homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual couples on the adoption of stepchildren. The Strasbourg ruling forces Austria to apply Western European values, the left-liberal daily Der Standard writes approvingly: "As far as equal rights for lesbians and gays go, Austria never was and still isn't really part of Western Europe. Opening the way for same-sex marriage and adoption rights have been measures that were discussed and pushed through at the political level there. The judges in Strasbourg have once again pointed to this difference - and stressed that Austria has some catching up to do in this respect. ... Looking at the overall picture, Strasbourg … still hasn't found a stable legal foundation for dealing with the big issues of marriage and joint adoption rights. But when it comes to individual rights it adheres firmly to the equality principle: that gays have the same right to a family life as heterosexuals. If this is really to be interpreted as narrowly as possible when it comes to the adoption of stepchildren, the same applies [for Austria] as before: if it must be part of Western Europe, then only with great reluctance." (20/02/2013)

Avvenire - Italy

Ruling detrimental to children

The judges in Strasbourg have ruled that the discrimination against the Austrian plaintiff vis-à-vis unmarried heterosexual couples, who are entitled to adopt stepchildren, was based on her sexual orientation. This is not about discrimination, the Catholic daily Avvenire counters: "The European Court of Human Rights reprimanded Austria for treating partners who have been declared fit for adoption differently, allegedly on the basis of their sexual orientation, which violates the ban on discrimination. … But by its very nature adoption is intended to replace the natural parents. In the Austrian case there is no missing parent, but rather a woman who complains that she is not being allowed to do what a man is allowed to do by law, namely be a father. This is based not on discrimination but rather a simple difference: namely the difference between a man and a woman. Sexual preferences are of no consequence here. The differences form the basis of an appropriate administration of justice as regards protecting the rights of the child. … The German ruling, even if it does not confer adoption rights on same-sex couples, serves as a warning that we must be on our guard in the face of a new [European] course." (20/02/2013)

POLITICS

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Turun Sanomat - Finland

Italy doesn't need empty promises

Italy's ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is wooing the voters with generous promises in the run-up to the parliamentary elections. The liberal daily Turun Sanomat points out that Italy urgently needs to fix its budget: "Berlusconi has promised to scrap the austerity packages and pay back land taxes that have already been collected. ... Outside Italy people are amazed at his popularity. The billionaire has skidded from one scandal to the next, led the country to the brink of bankruptcy and minimised Italy's influence in the EU. ... Italy must bring its huge public deficit under control through austerity measures, effective taxation and breaking up organised crime. However part of the problem is so deeply entrenched that it cannot be corrected within a single legislative period. ... Fixing the national budget is imperative. Hopefully, the sense of responsibility will prevail, regardless of which parties form the government after the election." (20/02/2013)

Corriere della Sera - Italy

No one rescuing Tunisia from crisis

Tunisia's Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali announced his resignation on Tuesday after failing to put together a government of technocrats. This puts paid to all hopes of the governmental crisis being resolved quickly, the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera fears: "One after another, the men who have tried to save Tunisia from chaos are falling. … Jebali has lost his impossible battle against the power-hungry leader of the Islamic Ennahda party, Rashid al-Ghannushi. Jebali, a co-founder of the Islamic movement, had realised that they wouldn't get very far with the 'prayer bump' on their foreheads alone and that a concept for reform was needed. But al-Ghannushi rejected the idea. Giving up power was out of the question for Ennahda. The Jasmin Revolution may, as Jebali says, not have failed, but it is bearing little fruit two years after the revolts." (20/02/2013)

Les Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace - France

France as keen on reforms as Greece

French President François Hollande visited Greece on Tuesday. But unlike the visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel last year, the event failed to attract much attention from the Greek public. That's above all because all he could bring was pretty words, the regional daily Les Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace comments: "As a mediocre student of the European economics class, France is not really qualified to coach Greece. In addition, Paris has some curious similarities with Athens. For example the inability to reform an extremely free-spending state. In Greece, this comes from the fear of attacking the generalised corruption, the Church and the shipping companies head-on. In France, by contrast, it's due to a paralysis in face of the many committees that are as wasteful as they are futile, the useless golden sinecures for both left- and right-wing courtesans, and the numerous public representatives at the national, regional, departmental or municipal level with cushy, well-paid jobs." (20/02/2013)

LRT - Lithuania

Politicial marriage of convenience in Lithuana

The two populist Lithuanian parties in the current government, the left-wing Labour Party and the liberal-democratic Order and Justice, on Monday announced their intention of joining forces. On the website of the public radio LRT, the chief editor of the online portal 15mni.lt, Rimvydas Valatka, outlines what the parties stand to gain from this marriage of convenience: "After the merger with Order and Justice under Rolandas Paksas, Viktoras Uspaskich and his Labour Party will no doubt escape the criminal proceedings for tax evasion and other offences, which seem like they have been going on for years now. And Order and Justice, meanwhile, will prolong its political vitality with the marriage. That's important for the 'custodians of order', whose political future is in the balance since it isn't even sure it will clear the five-percent hurdle and make it into parliament in the next elections. ... And if the wedding takes place soon, the dominance of the [co-governing] Social Democrats in the centre-left alliance will also shrink." (19/02/2013)

Diena - Latvia

Latvia needs new transport minister pronto

Latvia's Minister of Transport Aivis Ronis announced his resignation in mid-January, but a successor to the post has yet to be found. Given the tasks that urgently need to be addressed this must be done as quickly as possible, the daily Diena admonishes: "Any temporary solution will be problematic because the Ministry of Transport plays a key role in many issues. First of all there's the purchase of new wagons for the Latvian railway network. The minister's opinion is naturally a major factor in such decisions. Then the road construction workers are announcing protests, a problem that demands the special attention of the minister. The financing of road construction calls for transport minister who is capable of action, something that neither the outgoing minister nor a provisionally appointed boss can do." (20/02/2013)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

A new dialogue between Hungary and Slovakia

The presidents of Hungary and Slovakia met for the first time in nine years on Tuesday in Budapest. During their discussions János Áder and Ivan Gašparovič also addressed controversial issues such as the Beneš decrees. This was unusual since the two countries generally tend to focus on the points on which they agree, the conservative daily Lidové noviny writes: "This has to do with the fact that both strong men, prime ministers Viktor Orbán and Robert Fico, have avoided addressing problematic issues until now and concentrated on the feasible. This has allowed them to reach agreement on business projects like the construction of a motorway network. Orbán sees the Slovakian economy - one of the few that is growing in Europe  - as exemplary, and considers Fico, who like him rules his country autocratically, as a true partner. ... However many problems that have been swept under the carpet in this way are so big that they could endanger the friendly ties between Budapest and Bratislava. The presidents are also aware of this, and agreed that these contentious issues must also be defused." (20/02/2013)

REFLECTIONS

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El País - Spain

Jorge Urdánoz Ganuza believes Spain's two-party system promotes corruption

While in Germany two ministers, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and Annette Schavan, have been forced to step down for plagiarism in their doctoral theses, Spanish politicians cling to their posts despite serious accusations of corruption. Legal philosopher Jorge Urdánoz attributes this to differences between the party systems: "It was of course Guttenberg's party that forced him to resign. In Germany, the parties purge themselves. … What connects the two-party system and corruption? Everything. In such a system the voters are not the sovereign of the two major parties, but their subjects. Because both parties play the game knowing that the electoral system - or in this case the rules of the game - work to their advantage. They know that in the end the score will always add up in their favour. The [ruling conservative] PP can rely on attack being the best form of defence because they know that in the next election the millions of voters will have no option but to choose between them and the Socialists. So the conservatives know that all those who are to the right of the Socialists will give their votes to the PP." (20/02/2013)

Kathimerini - Greece

Nikos Xidakis on a Greece lacking fresh blood and backbone

Since the beginning of the crisis a growing number of young Greeks are leaving the country because they see no future for themselves there. At the same time the middle class is becoming impoverished as a result of higher taxes and salary cuts. But what will the country do without its young people and its middle class, columnist Nikos Xydankis asks worriedly in the conservative daily Kathimerini: "We are already confronting the problem of the 'lost generation', not only regarding the labour market and the economy but also in terms of demographics, history and our nation. The young people who are leaving and those who are unemployed are removed from the body of the people, on a long-term basis and under extremely unfavourable circumstances. And on top of that we have the problem of a middle class that is growing poorer under the same circumstances. How long can we imagine Greece as a Western European country when it is in such a state? … A society lacking fresh blood and backbone. We must start reflecting on this together, at a political level. Such reflection will then define the individual dimensions of this phenomenon. No one will be able to save themselves all on their own." (19/02/2013)

ECONOMY

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Tages-Anzeiger - Switzerland

Outrage forces boss to renounce millions

Responding to enormous public pressure, Daniel Vasella, the departing chairman of the Swiss pharmaceuticals company Novartis, has renounced an agreed final bonus of 72 million Swiss francs (58.3 million euros), it was announced on Tuesday. Outrage can be effective after all, the liberal daily Tages-Anzeiger writes in approval: "The worst thing is that Vasella can't simply admit he was ready to receive such a bonus without drifting off on philosophical discourses about greed, envy and charity. ... Two insights flow from this: first, it wasn't Vasella's reasonableness that led to him renouncing the bonus, but a veritable shitstorm - to use the new German word for 'public outrage'. ... And the second positive thing about this is that the principle of a 'public sphere' works very well indeed. The more companies and their managers try to hush up such deals, the more scandal is evoked by their revelation, and the greater the outrage in the country. And if these deals continue, the outrage could even spill over into political action." (20/02/2013)

SOCIETY

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Jyllands-Posten - Denmark

Too many welfare spongers in Denmark

Female immigrants account for around a quarter of those living on long-term social benefits in Denmark, according to information recently published by the country's Labour Ministry. But the social welfare mentality is widespread across many sections of the population, the liberal conservative daily Jyllands-Posten points out and calls for change: "In all the social classes it has apparently become quite natural to believe that one is free to decide whether to work or to let the state take care of you. … People simply take it for granted that they can say no to work they don't want to do and leave it to the industrious workers from Eastern Europe. The politicians, who must now reform the social welfare system, face not just the challenge posed by the tough economic data but must also deal with a sick culture that they themselves have helped create over the years." (20/02/2013)

De Volkskrant - Netherlands

Ban on prostitution the wrong way to go

The Dutch parliament plans to curtail prostitution along Swedish lines by punishing those who purchase sexual services. The left-liberal daily De Volkskrant doubts the wisdom of the proposal: "A ban can limit the tacit acceptance of visits to prostitutes, but it can't prevent them. There will always be prostitutes, and paying customers as well. The experts in Scandinavian countries are still at odds over the effectiveness of a ban. And there are just as many problems with this sector there as there are here in the Netherlands, where exactly the opposite strategy has been in effect since the turn of the century. Here the ban on brothels was lifted in the hope that working conditions could be controlled more effectively. The idea was to tackle problems like the trafficking in women, which is where the real political challenge lies. ... By maintaining contact with endangered women and monitoring their working conditions, at least they will not be abandoned entirely to their fate." (20/02/2013)

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