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Press review | 22/02/2013

 

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Italy faces landmark election

According to the polls the centre-left alliance may win the most seats in parliament. (© dapd)

 

The uncertainty over the outcome of the parliamentary election in Italy contributed to losses on the European financial markets on Thursday. Record unemployment, huge debts and lacking competitiveness are taking their toll on the country. The markets have lost their patience, commentators conclude, and call on the new government to push through unpopular reforms to get Europe's patient back on its feet.

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Markets' patience with Italy exhausted

European stock markets suffered heavy losses on Thursday. This is hardly surprising given the uncertain outcome of the elections in crisis-stricken Italy, the liberal-conservative business paper Il Sole 24 Ore laments: "In addition to the chaos and the demagogy ahead of the elections, what people most fear is a phase of political paralysis in which reforms are put on ice. … The message of the markets is once again unmistakable: their patience has run out. … If the country doesn't immediately get serious about fixing the budget and introducing structural reforms and an industrial policy aimed at facilitating loans and investment, not even the euro bailout mechanism will be able to protect it from the mistrust of its partners and the doubts of the markets. Speculation is countered not with borrowed liquidity but with credible and reliable politics at an international level." (22/02/2013)

Aamulehti - Finland

Europe's patient must recover

Italy can no longer afford to put urgently needed reforms on the back burner, the liberal daily Aamulehti writes: "Italy now needs a strong leadership to bring it out of the long period of stagnation. It has postponed necessary but politically unpopular reforms for far too long. The Italian economy has been in decline for 18 months. One of Italy's main problems is its weak competitiveness. According to The Economist, since 2008 the unit costs have risen higher in Italy than in any other euro country - with the exception of Finland. It is in the interest of both Italy and the entire Eurozone that Italy gets back on its feet and stops being the sick man of Europe. But this won't be possible if money is spent thoughtlessly - no matter who is governing the country." (22/02/2013)

Berlingske - Denmark

Fear of Berlusconi making a comeback

The Italian parliamentary elections on Sunday will determine the fate of Italy and Europe, the liberal-conservative daily Berlingske believes: "The stakes will be high when the Italians cast their votes on Sunday. Not just for Italy, where frequent changes of government are nothing unusual, but for the rest of the world and above all Europe. There are fears that political chaos and paralysis will result if party animal Silvio Berlusconi ends up having anything to do with the country's political future again instead of being relegated to the past. … Unusually for this sector, even the world of bankers and stockbrokers is betting on the leftist [leader of the social democratic Partito Democratico] Pieruigi Bersani, who according to the polls has good chances of becoming Italy's next prime minister with his centre-left alliance." (21/02/2013)

Der Tagesspiegel - Germany

Europe fears Italian wake-up call

The elections that will take place in Italy on Sunday and Monday are in fact European, the liberal daily Tagesspiegel writes: "The North of the continent fears a South that seems to stand for nothing but debts and corruption; the South sees itself gagged by the North's demands for 'reforms'. Nowadays every child knows what that means: the dismantling of public welfare and infrastructure, higher taxes, fewer prospects in life. ... On Sunday and Monday our fellow Europeans in Italy could express their unease over the ruling policy that has no alternatives in Europe, and in so doing send a wake-up call to Northern Central Europe. Is there really any alternative to the impoverishment of the Greeks, to the fact that Italian middle-class families can't go out to restaurants any more, never mind buy a German middle-of-the-range car? The South is slowly turning from a sales market into an export area from which people without the prospect of a better future, or merely a dignified life, see no alternative but to move north." (22/02/2013)

POLITICS

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Mladá fronta Dnes - Czech Republic

Nečas promotes historical reconciliation

Petr Nečas became the first Czech prime minister to address the Bavarian state parliament on Thursday. He talked of the historic ties between the Czech and the Germans and expressed regret about the post-war expulsion of the Sudeten Germans, whom he referred to as "countrymen". The liberal daily Mladá fronta Dnes praises the openness of his speech: "The prime minister showed that not all Czech politicians think the same way as Miloš Zeman and Václav Klaus in the presidential election campaign. After the rudeness of this campaign, which was also directed against the Sudeten Germans, this is good news. ... A further step could now be taken by the new president, Mr Zeman. He could pay tribute to the victims of the random deportations. This random mass deportation [straight after the end of the war in 1945] has already been condemned in the Czech-German declaration which bears Václav Klaus' signature. This would be an appropriate step towards dismantling a historical complex [on the part of the Czechs]." (22/02/2013)

24 Chasa - Bulgaria

No one knows how to help Bulgaria

Bulgaria is in a state of political shock after the resignation of Boiko Borisov's government on Wednesday, and neither the people nor the opposition have a concept for the future, political scientist Dimitar Avramov writes in the daily 24 Chasa: "At the moment I can't see a single rationally-minded leader who's in a position to pull Bulgaria out of its current mess. To my great regret, this also holds for the Socialist opposition, which is now rubbing its hands in the belief that power will just fall into its lap. Think again! ... Because the protesters have made a very important statement: 'We don't know how to govern or exactly what we want, but we've definitely had enough of you!' That is a clear message to all the politicians who have led Bulgaria into economic ruin and put key sectors like the energy market into the hands of monopolists." (21/02/2013)

Phileleftheros - Cyprus

Cyprus's politicians silent on real problems

The Cypriots will decide who becomes their new president in the second round of the elections on Sunday. The Conservative Nikos Anastasiadis won the first round against the left-wing candidate Stavros Malas. Columnist Chrystalla Chatzidimitriou complains in the liberal daily Phileleftheros that the politicians are talking about the wrong issues in the election campaign: "If you listen to the two presidential candidates you get the impression that Cyprus's main problems are the privatisations of the partially state-owned telephone provider CYTA, the electricity company and the port authorities - not the Cyprus problem, not the economy, but the privatisations. The objects that Nikos Anastasiadis wants to privatise or whose shares he wants to sell and whose current ownership Stavros Malas wants to preserve. Meanwhile, as an average citizen I am watching my income shrink, my neighbour out of work, tens of thousands of pupils using coupons to get fed at school, thousands who are forced to shop in so-called social supermarkets, and thousands more who are living with the prospect of losing their homes." (21/02/2013)

Gândul - Romania

Will Romania have PM of German origin?

The Mayor of Sibiu, Klaus Iohannis, joined the Romanian National Liberal Party (PNL) on Wednesday. Since Iohannis, the representative of the German minority in Transylvania, has a good reputation in the country, this represents an image boost for party leader Crin Antonescu and a warning signal for the PNL's alliance partner, the social democratic PSD, the liberal online daily gandul.info writes: "As soon as Antonescu satisfies his obsession and becomes president in 2014, he should be ready for a bayonet war with the PSD. ... It won't take long for him to establish the tandem of himself as president and Iohannis as prime minister. And that's when things will become problematic for the social democrats. With Antonescu as head of state, the victory of the Transylvanian Saxon against [current prime minister] Ponta can hardly be doubted because Ponta will bear the stigma of having ruled the country during the crisis. And it also goes without saying that Iohannis will be able to secure the votes of the Transylvanians, all the minorities, as well as the much prized support of the Romanians living abroad." (22/02/2013)

REFLECTIONS

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Magyar Narancs - Hungary

Slomó Köves on Hungarians not confronting their past

Hungarian society is reluctant to subject the dark chapters of its history, particularly World War II and the Holocaust, to candid scrutiny, Rabbi Slomó Köves writes, arguing in the left-liberal weekly Magyar Narancs that it is just as important for a society to face the dark side of its past as it is for individuals: "Our internal, mental self-defence mechanisms often make our memory selective. Instinctively we try to remember only the good and to forget the bad or see it in a different way. This is the case not just with individual memory, but also with the collective memory of a society or nation. Human self-knowledge is doomed to failure if it avoids examining the dark stains in its personal history and uncovering the circumstances and the lessons of the past. The same is true for the collective self-knowledge of a nation. The horrors must be laid bare, the wounds must be cleaned, and in the end one must draw the right lessons from the past." (21/02/2013)

ECONOMY

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Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

Cyprus gamblers should be made to pay

The euro states want to involve foreign investors who invested money in Cyprus in the country's bailout programme, according to a report published in the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung on Friday. This would be a consistent step, the paper writes approvingly: "These investors played a role in creating the grotesque bubble in the Cypriot financial sector. It doesn't matter what their motives were - enticingly low taxes, conveniently lax banking supervision or the nice weather - they profited from the good but for Cyprus ultimately unhealthy conditions. … The question is how much Russian capital will remain on the accounts in Nicosia once the EU has completed its bailout negotiations with the island state in six, eight or ten weeks' time. To prevent the money from trickling away, capital control mechanisms should be put in place now. The argument that such control mechanisms are not allowed in Europe doesn't hold water: more important paragraphs in the EU treaties than this have been amended or reinterpreted in the course of the crisis." (22/02/2013)

Diário Económico - Portugal

Vinci snaps up bargain in Portugal

Portugal's government sold the state-owned airport administration authority Ana to the world's largest building group, the French company Vinci, for 3.1 billion euros on Thursday. The liberal business daily Diário Económico welcomes the privatisation but points out that not everything that glitters is gold: "In the midst of a particularly complex phase for the national budget, the government's ability to conclude such a deal deserves praise. It's true that it was the simplest object that has been sold. … There was no lack of admirers for this bride. … At first glance this seems to be a good deal. But was it really? In addition to Ana, Vinci has also obtained the exclusive right to build and administrate the new Lisbon airport. It will receive 3.7 billion euros from the state for the construction alone. … So the French have secured a future deal that will more than cover their current investment. Lisbon is repeating the mistakes of the past. … This only goes to confirm the rule that private companies are better at negotiating than the state." (22/02/2013)

The Herald - United Kingdom

Energy hyper-inflation torments Scots

The British government regulator for gas and energy (OFGEM) announced on Wednesday that Scottish energy prices would increase due to "a gas crunch". The left-liberal regional paper The Herald criticises the absurdity of the situation: "We produce the electricity and send it to England, then they send us subsidies to build more wind farms. Then the power companies charge us a price based on world market conditions, which have nothing to do with the cost of energy in Scotland or England. At this point people start talking about renewable obligations, contract for difference, feed-in tariffs and other interplanetary nonsense. Well, that may make sense to people in the energy business, but ... energy bills have been rising at an intolerable rate, leaving an ever-increasing number of Scots in fuel poverty: 900,000 according to Energy Action Scotland. There is hyper-inflation in fuel prices in the UK, and no-one seems able to do anything about it, least of all the Scottish Government." (21/02/2013)

SOCIETY

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Le Temps - Switzerland

Pistorius drama could prompt discussion on violence

The investigation against star sprinter Oscar Pistorius in South Africa has taken a surprising turn. Chief investigator Hilton Botha has been taken off the case since he himself is under investigation for attempted murder in another case. The liberal daily Le Temps writes that the drama surrounding Pistorius could encourage the country to finally take action against rampant violence: "South Africa continues to suffer from hyperviolence. Black or white, rich or poor, no one is exempt. The legacy, some say, of decades of terrible oppression. But the argument of the poisonous legacy of apartheid loses force with each year that passes. As in the US with the Newtown killing spree last December, the Pistorius affair has provided Africa's staggering colossus with a dramatic but valuable opportunity to look deep within itself. The authorities must seize this chance and look earnestly for solutions." (22/02/2013)

Die Furche - Austria

Church must distance itself from absolutism

After the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, many media have disappointmently concluded that the Catholic Church is becoming more secularised. This is misleading, the Christian weekly paper Die Furche writes, because in the Church, as in secular life, absolute monarchy no longer has a place: "Yet one still waits in vain for Church structures to reflect this development. ... To accentuate the spiritual leadership of the world's biggest community of faith, the 'secular' function should be stressed. But that doesn't work in the non-transparent, intrigue-provoking form in which the Vatican 'court' presents itself to this day. Modernity has long held expedient models at the ready - starting with the division of powers. ... It is hugely important for the future relevance of the office of the pope that progress be made on this front. Consequently the upcoming conclave will be faced with a landmark decision. ... Vatican insider dealings will resist any such trend with all their might. Fundamentally, however, Benedict XVI's stepping down already points in precisely this direction." (22/02/2013)

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