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Press review | 17/04/2014

 

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Nato boosts its presence in Eastern Europe

"Nato will protect every ally," said Secretary General Rasmussen on Wednesday. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

Nato on Wednesday announced plans to increase its military presence in Eastern Europe. Meanwhile the foreign ministers of Russia, the US and Ukraine are meeting with the EU foreign affairs chief in Geneva today, Thursday, for crisis talks. This dual strategy is the right way to deal with Russia, some commentators write approvingly. Others see little hope for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Blog EUROPP - United Kingdom

Use carrot and stick approach with Putin

Only by adopting a double strategy vis-à-vis Moscow can the West help de-escalate the Ukraine crisis, political analyst Borja Guijarro Usobiaga writes in the London School of Economics' EUROPP blog: "First, the US and the EU need to get Russia to the negotiation table and make sure that it is part of the solution, not the problem ... . At the same time, the West needs to tell Putin that not playing along will have severe economic and political costs for Russia. Finally, de-escalation will entail a huge diplomatic effort to make sure that Russia takes part and actively supports the Ukrainian elections of 25 May. After all, only a newly elected government can claim the legitimacy that the acting Ukrainian government lacks." (16/04/2014)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - Germany

Nato must make a stand

Nato announced plans to boost its presence in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday. This is the least it must do before the talks in Geneva, the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung comments: "Unlike Ukraine, the Baltic and Poland are Nato territory. The deployment of a few aircraft, ships and soldiers doesn't do much more than send this signal. This is the least the alliance must do to retain its credibility internally and externally. Anything less would be interpreted by the Kremlin as a sign of weakness and the lack of resolve for which it already despises the West. But Nato doesn't want to do anything more right now, because it doesn't want to give Moscow an excuse to cancel the painstakingly agreed talks. Because not just the EU but also Nato prefers talking a thousand times to shooting. The only problem is that Putin knows that too." (17/04/2014)

De Standaard - Belgium

Chaos will continue even after Geneva

Not much can be expected of today's talks on the Ukraine crisis in Geneva, the liberal daily De Standaard suspects: "The Russian proposals for federalisation don't really stand a chance. The Western leaders want to focus on the threatening Russian military presence on the border and the uncontrollable behaviour of the pro-Russian militia - both subjects that are taboo for the Russians. In short, there is little chance that the groundwork for a solution will be laid in Geneva. So what happens next? The European Union is threatening with the third stage of sanctions. ... But Europe is too divided for this. ... It's pretty much out of the question that Nato troops will intervene in Ukraine. After all, Ukraine is not a Nato member. ... Nothing will be done and the chaos will continue. This seems to be the most realistic scenario. Certainly until the presidential election on May 25." (17/04/2014)

Večernji List - Croatia

CIA and KGB playing evil games in Ukraine

CIA chief John Brennan paid a secret visit to Ukraine on the weekend. For the conservative daily Večernji List this is a sign that the country has become a plaything for the Americans and Russia, and in this game there is a clear loser: "Obama and Putin are up to their necks in the Ukrainian quicksand. The divided and impoverished country has become a playing field on which they are locking horns and battling for influence. The Americans have direct influence over the new Ukrainian government but the Russians have an effective agent network that spans the entire country. The two major powers can trigger a civil war whenever they choose to, but they can just as well set a peace process in motion any time. ... But if it comes to serious confrontations and tougher sanctions, the EU will suffer the most economic damage. Perhaps certain centres of power have deliberately brought the situation to a head in order to put a halt to the full political recognition of the EU - and its most important member Germany?" (17/04/2014)

POLITICS

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MediaPart - France

Valls' austerity plans lead to vicious circle

France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced cuts in the welfare and healthcare systems and at various authorities on Wednesday in a bid to save roughly 50 billion euros by 2017. The move is nonsense from the point of view of economic policy, the investigative news portal mediapart.fr believes: "It carries the risk of numerous deleterious effects. ... By reducing the buying power of the French, it risks plunging the country into a depression at a time when the signs of an upswing are still extremely faint. The government's decision to implement this plan and the way it has gone about it testify to a certain dogmatism. In many respects one recognises the troika's fingerprint: the austerity plan is highly reminiscent of the so-called structural reforms so loved by the IMF, Brussels and the ECB. So France is following a very similar path to the one taken by Spain. A sort of vicious circle: more austerity, leading to less growth, leading to higher deficits, leading to more austerity..." (16/04/2014)

Eleftheros Typos - Greece

Don't destroy Greece's success now

Following Greece's return to the capital markets the conservative daily Eleftheros Typos praises the policies of Antonis Samaras' government and warns the Greeks not to jeopardise this success in the European elections: "It's thanks to Samaras that Greece has made a successful comeback on the markets. The weakest economy in the EU - as the economic experts describe it - at least seems to enjoy the trust of the investors. The yield of 4.95 percent at which the Greek bonds are now trading is lower than the six percent we had before the austerity dictates were imposed. Samaras said it would be a mistake to believe we're out of the woods. He should rather insist that we don't destroy the fruits of our efforts now." (16/04/2014)

Der Standard - Austria

Rebellion against Assad has failed

In the past months the troops of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad have recaptured several areas on the Lebanese border from the rebels. For the left-liberal daily Der Standard this is the beginning of the end of the rebellion against the Syrian regime: "The Syria policy of the West and most Arab states, which was based on a rapid overthrow of Assad, has failed. The idea that in the foreseeable future the 'moderate' forces could gain enough strength to defeat both Assad and the Islamists seems naive. That's not to say that this regime will ever fully regain control of the entire Syrian territory. But three years after the start of the rebellion, Bashar al-Assad is not merely clinging on to power, he's preparing for presidential elections - laughable though they may be. The rebels' reputation is already so tarnished that even reports about the use of chemical weapons fail to elicit the hoped-for outcry against the regime." (17/04/2014)

Právo - Czech Republic

Klaus suffers new bout of Europhobia

Former Czech president Václav Klaus sees the tenth anniversary of his country's EU membership as nothing to celebrate. In an interview on Wednesday, he said the EU was completely dominated by the Germans and the French, and the pro-European policies of the current government in Prague were a defeat for all 10 million Czechs. This means Klaus sees the Czech Republic as a partner of Moscow, the left-leaning daily Právo comments: "This is not a new Klaus we're seeing. He's been suffering from Europhobia for years now. ... But so far he'd never answered the logical question of where our country belongs if not in the EU. Now he's given an answer by firmly siding with President Putin in the conflict between Europe and Russia. His reason? Because Europe could be more united in the conflict. Oh, how dreadful." (17/04/2014)

REFLECTIONS

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El Huffington Post - Spain

Slavoj Žižek on what Ukraine can teach Europe

The confrontation over Ukraine holds up a mirror to Europe, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek comments in the left-liberal online newspaper El Huffington Post: "Europe can't be reduced to a single vision: the spectrum reaches from nationalist (or even fascist) views to ideas that Étienne Balibar calls 'égaliberté' (equal freedom) - the only thing Europe has to offer the world in terms of political ideas, even if the European institutions are increasingly betraying this ideal. ... What Europe should recognise looking at the Ukrainians' protests is the best and the worst of itself. ... It's true that the demonstrators on Kiev's Independence Square were heroes. But the true battle is only starting now: the battle to define the new Ukraine. This confrontation will be far tougher than the struggle against Putin's intervention. The question here is not whether Ukraine deserves Europe, whether it is good enough to join the EU. The real question is whether the current Europe deserves the profound hopes of the Ukrainians." (17/04/2014)

ECONOMY

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Irish Examiner - Ireland

Ireland must continue to budget despite upturn

Unemployment in Ireland fell to 11.8 percent in March, the lowest rate in five years. Nevertheless the government is right to stick to its course of budget consolidation, the liberal daily Irish Examiner believes: "How cheering it would be to anticipate a budget that, if not expansionary, at least does not impose yet another round of disheartening cuts to incomes and public services. It is unfortunate, though, that - still - the stronger argument lies with the bad cop, in this instance Finance Minister Michael Noonan. … It seems irresponsible, too, to risk undoing everything - every miserable cutback, tax rise and reduction in services - endured over the last few years by relaxing too soon, by making short-term decisions that squander the prospect of long-term independence." (16/04/2014)

Tages-Anzeiger - Switzerland

Switzerland faces new tax trouble

The Swiss financial authorities have put out a report about the country's bonded, or duty-suspended, warehouses, pointing out that valuable objects such as artworks have been stored there for many years. That fuels suspicions that such facilities are less geared toward the quick turnover of goods than tax optimisation. After the row over banking secrecy Switzerland is once again facing big trouble, the daily Tages-Anzeiger writes anxiously: "The main target was clearly the bonded warehouse in Geneva, which has grown very rapidly. Thousands of gems, paintings by great masters and almost priceless wines are stored there. ... The Swiss financial authorities believe that the obscure value of these goods as well as the undisclosed identity of certain owners pose a risk to our country. This grey area could make Switzerland the target of accusations from other countries. ... Somehow this is all strangely reminiscent of the banking sector before the storm there broke." (17/04/2014)

SOCIETY

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Dagens Nyheter - Sweden

Jokes about Christians also offensive

The Swedish supermarket chain ICA has stopped airing a pre-Easter commercial in which a group of people gathered around a table make tasteless jokes about the Last Supper. Writing in the liberal daily Dagens Nyheter columnist Erik Helmerson wishes his countrymen were more sensitive to the feelings of Christians: "It makes me a little sad to see how carelessly some people - in this case one of our best-known companies - offend Sweden's Christians. ... When it comes to Islam or the Jewish faith, a little more thought is put into whether one really wants to offend religious feelings just for the sake of selling a few more lamb steaks. I wish a similar discussion took place when it comes to using Christian themes for marketing. Jokes about offended Christians aren't that much funnier than jokes about offended Muslims or Jews." (17/04/2014)

Jyllands-Posten - Denmark

Summer home provision shows Danish duplicity

In view of the stagnating Danish real estate market, several mayors are calling for a special provision that prevents non-Danish EU citizens from purchasing summer homes in the country to be abolished. The liberal business paper Jyllands-Posten is annoyed that the initiative is being resisted by self-interested citizens: "Are there no bounds to the duplicity? ... What next? Will foreigners have to sell their houses when the crisis ends and the Danes once more want to buy a holiday home? The Danes must show once and for all that they are true EU citizens, and say goodbye to all special rules and exemptions. If they don't want to, the logical consequence is for us to leave the EU, from which a duplicitous Denmark clearly only wants to reap benefits." (17/04/2014)

De Volkskrant - Netherlands

Social benefits only after language test

Those who can't speak any Dutch after spending a year in the Netherlands may see their social benefits reduced under draft legislation presented in the Dutch parliament on Wednesday. The law will turn into a farce, columnist Bert Wagendorp comments derisively in the left-liberal daily De Volkskrant: "The local authorities are supposed to monitor the linguistic progress made by social benefit claimants who speak broken Dutch? It looks like we're in for a few laughs. Already the local authorities are supposed to make sure such claimants don't mess up their chances of getting a job by wearing crazy clothes, using bad language, behaving inappropriately and the like. ... If the law goes into effect on 1 January 2015, the already impenetrable bureaucracy will only grow and lead to enormous arbitrariness. This appears to be another of those laws with which the ruling parties are trying to keep [right-wing populist] Wilders at arm's length." (17/04/2014)

LOCAL COLOURS

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Adevărul - Romania

Poor taste is disfiguring Romania's cities

Large, kitschy Easter bunnies have been set up in several Romanian cities in recent weeks. The liberal-conservative daily Adevărul suspects this is the result of a combination of local officials distributing lucrative contracts among their friends and simple bad taste: "Yes, we have corruption and vested interests, but ignorance also plays a role. Those places where uneducated city officials with no sense of taste call the shots are subject to changes according to their whims. They lack the common sense to call in an expert; after all, they were elected by the people and therefore know everything. And if they see something they like in a Western city they automatically want to do the same at home. ... The problem is that they are allowed to get away with it. The citizens have no say - and if they do speak out, no one listens." (17/04/2014)

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