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Press review | 30/04/2015

 

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Juncker criticises Fortress Europe

"Open the door", Juncker said. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has severely criticised the reaction of the EU heads of state and government to the refugee tragedies in the Mediterranean. Addressing the EU Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, he called for refugees to be given legal access to Europe and the introduction of country quotas. The press praises Juncker's initiative and encourages the public to put pressure on politicians in the migration crisis.

Der Standard - Austria

At last frank words in the migration crisis

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has criticised the EU leaders for not doing enough to solve the refugee crisis. The left-liberal daily Der Standard praises Juncker's clear words: "In practical terms, all the tripling of the funding for the border security programme Triton will accomplish is a return to Italy's national Mare Nostrum programme. It saved thousands of lives, but was stopped at Germany's insistence. Juncker's call for a quota system for asylum seekers is also right. The Union must follow this path if it wants to avoid destroying its own reputation as a humane society. The heads of state and government plan to distribute 5,000 refugees 'fairly' in an EU-wide pilot project. That cannot be the answer. The EU has a population of 507 million. That would mean one refugee per 100,000 inhabitants. Austria would have to take in 80 'EU refugees', and Vienna - with a population of 1.8 million - 18: just enough people to fill a small bus. Have we got a screw loose somewhere?" (30/04/2015)

Deutschlandfunk - Germany

Juncker shows the will to reform

In his capacity as chief of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker is finally standing up to national leaders with his initiative, the public service broadcaster Deutschlandfunk notes approvingly: "He has reminded the heads of government and state of their obligations; he has publicly criticised the meagre results of the special summit and the shocked rhetoric. And he has announced a new initiative aimed at establishing a quota system. Naturally, in the end it's the member states who must bear the consequences of migration policy - both social and economic. But it's precisely these member states that have so far blocked all ideas for reform. Now the pressure is growing - not just because of the tragedies off Europe's coast, but also because the European Commission and Parliament are clearly demonstrating the will to reform that is so sorely lacking among the heads of state and government at present." (29/04/2015)

La Stampa - Italy

Commitment an alien concept in Europe

There are no signs of society mobilising in reaction to the refugee tragedies on the Mediterranean, the liberal daily La Stampa laments: "Where are Jean-Paul Sartre and Raymond Aron today? … On a yellowing photo from 1979 we see the most radical and unpredictable representative of the left-wing intelligentsia hand in hand with the most liberal representative of the republican French right in front of the Elysée Palace. The universal and humanistic belief in 'commitment', in undertaking an obligation, brought Aron and Sartre together in the face of the tragedy of the Vietnamese and Cambodian boat people. This commitment on the part of the most unlikely of all couples - Sartre and Aron - mobilised an initially hesitant [French president] Giscard d'Estaing and then all France. … Where are today's Sartres and Arons? None of today's politicians are capable of campaigning for a policy that foresees even the most minimal opening to foreigners, no matter how noble its humanist cause." (30/04/2015)

POLITICS

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Kıbrıs - Cyprus

Independent Northern Cyprus can negotiate better

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday rejected the call by Northern Cyprus's new President Mustafa Akinci for equitable relations with Turkey. Akinci didn't know what he was saying and Turkey remains the fatherland, Erdoğan stated. But Akinci was merely voicing what most Turkish Cypriots believe, the daily Kibris writes: "The Turkish Cypriots don't want any tensions with Ankara. But they don't want to be humiliated either. ... Turkey's leaders are highly sensitive on the topics of rule and equal status, but all that does is weaken the Turkish-Cypriot side at the negotiating table. Because if Ankara sees the Turkish Cypriots as its children - and says so too - the Greek side won't want to sit opposite the Turkish Cypriots, but opposite Ankara." (30/04/2015)

MediaPart - France

France's spy bill flaunts democracy

France's new spy bill is set to be passed by the National Assembly on May 5. Approved by cabinet at the end of March, the bill has met with strong opposition from human rights organisations. It's a slap in the face for democracy, the leftist online paper Mediapart writes: "The draft spying law not only marks an unprecedented rupture in the political history of the left in the last half a century, it also endangers the future of our democracy - regardless of what governments we have in the years to come. … The indifference, disdain even, of those in power in the face of the protests attest to more than blind stubbornness. They confirm the profound lack of democratic understanding on the part of our socialist government, its fear of pluralism and debate, its taste for secrecy and authoritarian leanings. … Fighting the spying law isn't just the rejection of blanket surveillance. It means saving the republic as a bastion of democratic hope and standards." (29/04/2015)

Financial Times - United Kingdom

House of Commons stalemate no big deal

Despite British election laws which favour a clear majority in parliament, according to the opinion polls there will be no clear winner in the British general elections next Thursday. That reflects a historic development and is no cause for alarm, the conservative daily Financial Times believes: "The most likely consequence of an inconclusive election next month is another one within a year or so later. But at some point the politicians will have to admit that the old system no longer works. They will then discover that countries elsewhere in the world are routinely well governed by coalition or minority administrations. Finally, they will be dragged kicking and screaming to accept the inexorable logic of proportional voting." (29/04/2015)

Népszabadság - Hungary

Death penalty options in Hungary

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán publicly reflected on reintroducing the death penalty on Tuesday. The EU, where the death penalty is banned, reacted with harsh criticism. The left-liberal daily Népszabadság asks Orbán provocatively how the state would kill the condemned: "Would doctors be forced to break their oath and actively help in extinguishing human lives? Or should we leave the act of execution to laymen, who inject the poison into veins? Because the medications that can be used for executions can no longer be sold by pharmaceutical companies Hungary would have to develop its own medication. Perhaps through animal testing? Or should we follow the Americans' example and use gas chambers or electric chairs? Or are there people in this country who would be willing to shoot their fellow countrymen? Or should we return to hangings?" (29/04/2015)

Lapin Kansa - Finland

Finland's navy gets tongues wagging

Finland's navy has announced that on Monday night it detected an underwater object and drove it out of Finnish waters using warning depth charges. So far there is no information about the nature or origin of the object. The liberal daily Lapin Kansa tries to interpret the incident: "The navy did what was necessary. It showed a potential intruder that its border surveillance works. … But normally the navy doesn't report on its underwater observations or other activities. We can only speculate as to why it has done so now. Perhaps the armed forces want to reassure the people in a tense global situation in which many feel insecure. Or perhaps the soldiers wanted to remind the future government of the importance of the army so that it boosts the military budget rather than cutting it." (30/04/2015)

ECONOMY

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Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Minimum wage to keep Germany's rivals away

Germany's dispute with Poland over the minimum wage to be paid to lorry drivers using German roads is the result of egotism, Artur Kiełbasiński of the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza believes, accusing the EU of double standards: "If a German invests in the EU it's a good thing. But if a Pole provides services there, it's bad. This hypocritical stance has nothing to do with protecting Polish workers' interests. It's just the standard policy of defending one's own market against competitors. … It's a shame this is happening within the EU framework of all places. That's why the conflict doesn't just affect German-Polish relations but effectively deals a blow to fundamental EU principles." (30/04/2015)

Blog Adevărul - Romania

Ponta imitating Ceauşescu with tip tax

According to a government decree passed on Tuesday, tips will be subject to a 16 percent tax as of May 1. Journalist Liviu Avram writes that the move is reminiscent of dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu, who wanted to force citizens to address each other as "comrade": "Ceauşescu was an idiotic illiterate who thought he could control everything in the country, even the most delicate interpersonal relations. … Prime Minister Victor Ponta is no illiterate, but only a psychologist could explain what he was thinking when he passed this decree. … Tips are an interpersonal affair, not a matter between citizen and state. … The decree is also a sign of powerlessness. As things stood up to now the tax collectors couldn't prove tax fraud if the business owners claimed that the untaxed money was tips from their customers. Instead of finding a solution, the government is invading an area in which the state has no business: human relations." (29/04/2015)

SOCIETY

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El Periódico de Catalunya - Spain

Blood from heterosexuals can also pose a risk

Gays can continue to be banned from donating blood under certain circumstances, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled on Wednesday with regard to a French case. The ban must only apply to risky sexual practices and not homosexuality as such, the left-liberal daily El Periódico de Catalunya demands: "The judges' decision forces a review of the necessary safety protocols regarding blood donations. Both to avoid the risk of infection of the recipient and to protect the private sphere of the donor. Banning homosexual donors from giving blood should never be based on their sexual orientation but only on risky sexual practices. So it must apply equally to heterosexuals." (30/04/2015)

Público - Portugal

France makes a fool of itself with skirt ban

A Muslim pupil was banned from attending classes for wearing a long black skirt in northern France. The 15-year-old was told to come to class in "neutral clothing", the school authorities explained. France has strange ideas about democracy and secularism, the liberal daily Público writes and finds the case embarrassing: "After the debate over the controversial head scarf law of 2004 this incident can only be described as absurd. The skirt is deemed too long and therefore a violation of this very law, which bans the wearing of religiously motivated clothing in schools. What if the pupil wasn't a Muslim but a Catholic or atheist - and the black skirt came from a famous fashion designer? Would the reaction have been the same? Or if it had been about a pupil wearing the black clothing of Goths? It's not a good sign when a society that is constantly baying for freedom becomes so shaky." (30/04/2015)

24 Chasa - Bulgaria

High expectations leave Bulgarians saddened

In the United Nation's World Happiness Report, Bulgaria ranked 123 out of a total of 158 countries, lower than many developing states and crisis regions. This is mainly due to the Bulgarians' excessive expectations, the daily Trud believes: "We're unhappy because we have a much higher basis for comparison than people in Cameroon, for example. Older people yearn for the bygone times when they had it better, and the young compare their lives with those of the rich people in the West. From an objective point of view, Bulgarians live better than they did 25 years ago. But they refuse to admit it because their expectations of a good life have developed faster than the possibilities for leading one. That is the sad truth." (29/04/2015)

De Standaard - Belgium

Work must continue to be worthwhile

International Workers' Day will be celebrated for the 125th time in Belgium on Friday. The value of work will change in the future, the liberal daily De Standaard comments, warning: "On the one hand the ageing of the workforce will soon result in a shortage of manpower for the first time in many years. ... At the same time, technological developments have made many middle-class jobs superfluous. That too can destabilise a society. If labour no longer plays a central role in the creation and equitable distribution of wealth, we need new systems to maintain social cohesion and counteract inequality. A society in which the energy you put into something is no longer worth the effort won't survive for long. But a society in which wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few will slip into anarchy and violence." (30/04/2015)

Expressen - Sweden

Women, stand up for yourselves in the subway!

An initiative last week called for men to be banned from sitting with their legs wide apart on Stockholm's underground on the grounds that this leaves women with too little space. The liberal tabloid Expressen writes that women shouldn't behave like princesses but stand up for themselves instead: "If you don't say anything and think it's better to just listen and nod your head in admiration, that's entirely understandable. That's how women are brought up. But in the end it's up to women to change their behaviour. To expect men to take responsibility and give up space isn't progress. … Is it really a victory if men are replaced by women as the sexist enforcers of the norms? Because what we really want is equality, not a pink version of patriarchy." (30/04/2015)

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