Press review | 23/12/2014



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Tunisia becomes a model for the Arab world

Essebsi had already won the first round of the election at the end of November. (© picture-alliance/dpa)


The leader of the moderate Nidaa Tounes party, Béji Caid Essebi, has won the runoff election for the office of president. According to the preliminary results from Monday the 88-year-old garnered around 55 percent of the vote. Commentators praise the losers of the election for accepting the rules of democracy and urge Essebi to integrate the defeated Islamists into the country's politics.

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Losers also accept democratic rules

On the evening of the election the leader of the Islamist Ennahda party, Rachid Ghannouchi, urged the party's defeated candidate Marzouki to accept the results of the vote. This sensible conduct is the real miracle of Tunisia, the liberal daily Il Sole 24 Ore comments: "As the Economist recently explained, Tunisia is indeed the country of the year - the Arab world's political lab. Not only did it elect ex-prime minister Béji Caïd Essebsi of the heterogeneous secularist Nidaa Tounes party as its president in free, democratic elections, but in the person of Rachid Ghannouchi it can also pride itself on having a sensible Islamist leader. ... The secular forces have succeeded. But political Islam, which won the first free elections in 2011, also comes out a winner. Ennahda, the party of religious inspiration, has accepted the democratic rules of change and is respecting them by paving the way for a potential government compromise." (23/12/2014)

Der Standard - Austria

Essebi's double victory also entails risks

Tunisia's new President Beji Caid Essebsi should reach out to the defeated Islamists, the left-liberal daily Der Standard recommends: "Essebsi has scored a double victory: his party Nidaa Tounes has also won the parliamentary election. But the fact that supporters of Ben-Ali [the ousted president] have taken refuge in it holds the danger that those who see themselves as revolutionary forces - including the Islamists of the Ennahda party - now feel like victims of an ongoing counter-revolution. This is not about an ideological division but a geographical one: the Islamists remain strong in certain areas, particularly in the south. To hold out a hand to them now and integrate them would be a politically astute step on Essebsi's part. Equally important are social, economic and constitutional reforms that instil trust in the new system." (23/12/2014)

Die Welt - Germany

Tunisia must not fail

Tunisia can be proud of its first freely elected president but it faces huge challenges, the conservative daily Die Welt comments: "Essebsi must not make the mistake of excluding the Islamists from all political participation. That already didn't work out in Iraq where the Shiite leadership drove the Sunnis into the arms of the terrorist Islamic State through ignorance. ... Tunisia is not out of the woods yet. Its problems are too big for that. Four years of pragmatic reforms can't replace a clever economic and labour market policy. Mass unemployment, economic decline, corruption, an unhealthy subsidies policy - all this means the president faces great challenges. But Tunisia has a good opportunity now, the opportunity to show the free world that democracy is worthwhile. Tunisia must not fail. It must be successful with the West's help. Only then will others follow its example." (23/12/2014)


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The Irish Times - Ireland

US intelligence agencies the worst hackers

In the controversy over the hacking attack on film studio Sony Pictures US President Barack Obama has threatened to put North Korea back on the list of terrorist states. But in the eyes of the left-liberal daily The Irish Times the worst criminals are the US intelligence services: "The world is in a new era of hacking that stretches from government agencies spying on the public to celebrities' naked photos being posted on message boards. ... Who are the biggest hackers in the world? Who are behind the largest breaches of privacy and public trust? Who are the hackers who have engaged in the type of behaviour that at the very least is morally dubious and at most is illegal and dangerous? Well, that would be US government agencies, primarily the NSA." (22/12/2014)

Avgi - Greece

Samaras wants presidential election at any cost

Shortly before the second round of the presidential election in Greece today, Tuesday, the Greek MP Pavlos Chaikalis has said he was offered 700,000 euros to vote for the candidate of the ruling coalition, Stavros Dimas. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is now pressing charges against the Chaikalis in retaliation. An inappropriate reaction, the left-leaning daily Avgi comments: "Samaras is behaving like a citizen who has been insulted even though it's clear that he bears political responsibility. ... We're not saying that Samaras is criminally responsible for the bribe. But he bears political responsibility because his plan to have a president elected at any cost has led to these uncontrolled developments that threaten the very heart of democracy." (23/12/2014)

Novi List - Croatia

Presidential candidates completely drab

Ahead of the presidential election in Croatia on Sunday the four candidates crossed swords in a TV debate on Monday. In the midst of its worst crisis the country also has the most boring and incompetent set of candidates, the left-liberal daily Novi List complains: "This election campaign is completely devoid of content and the personalities of the candidates too weak to inspire any real passion. Two of the four candidates are total losers and don't stand a chance while the two favourites, Josipović and Graber-Kitarović, are so ultra respectful that they're incapable of a proper confrontation. And if they tried to they would be even less credible. ... Ideologically the two candidates are clearly positioned: Ivo Josipović is a liberal anti-fascist and Kolinda Graber-Kitarović a conservative, so the voters needn't go to much trouble or puzzle over the details." (23/12/2014)

Dnevnik - Bulgaria

Bulgarian state commiting pension fraud

In Bulgaria all pension contributions will in future automatically flow into the state pension scheme unless the insured object to the procedure within a year of entering the labour market. The parliament on Friday amended the legislation according to which until now some of the compulsory contributions had gone into private pension schemes. No person in their right mind would entrust the Bulgarian state with their entire provisions for their old age, the news portal Dnevnik observes: "So what is this so-called pension reform based on? On fraud. This voluntary nationalisation relies on the ignorance of a large part of the insured population. If an individual doesn't expressly declare that they prefer to stay with a private pension scheme their money is automatically nationalised. That's like automatically jailing anyone who doesn't declare within a year that they want to live in freedom." (21/12/2014)


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Magyar Hírlap - Hungary

Lásló Bogár on the fairy tale figures in us

Although the large majority of people wish for peace at Christmas, conflict and war exist in many places around the world, philosopher László Bogár writes in the right-wing conservtive daily Magyar Hírlap, commenting that we can learn from fairy tales to control events in our world: "In folk tales, humans are reflected both by dragons, witches and evil spirits as well as by wise kings and poor young men who court the favour of princesses. But we are also represented by elder siblings who've been turned to stone because they failed to reach their goals, or by lazy brats and evil stepmothers. In fact all of these figures are reflections of the human soul and its myriad contradictions. The strife and conflicts in fairy tales also take place within our souls. ... Likewise, the adversaries and enemies in our daily lives are also created within us. Only we hide this fact from ourselves because we don't want to change. And so we too inevitably turn to stone. An age-old aphorism runs: 'If you want change, then be the change yourself'." (22/12/2014)


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Financial Times - United Kingdom

UK needs foreign students

British Home Secretary Theresa May wants to introduce legislation that would oblige students from non-EU countries to leave the UK and apply for a new visa after completing their studies. The plan will meet with the approval of the Conservative Party's right wing but it's not in Britain's interest, the liberal Financial Times criticises: "Britain needs to do far more to attract students from China and India. Highly skilled immigrants are precisely the ones that a developed economy needs. Her idea would also harm British universities - one of the country's few export successes. Ms May's restrictions, and their accompanying rhetoric, have already seen university enrolments from India drop by almost 50 per cent. ... Foreign graduates are in demand in the US and Europe, and will go somewhere more welcoming." (22/12/2014)

Keskisuomalainen - Finland

Alcohol advertising ban in Finland unfair

Starting next year stricter laws on alcohol advertisements will come into effect in Finland: outdoor ads will be banned and broadcasted advertisements restricted to after 10 p.m. The liberal daily Keskisuomalainen sees some problems: "There have always been restrictions on tobacco and alcohol advertisements in Finland. These are intended to limit the harmful effects of these products, which they have. ... Nevertheless an advertising ban is problematic if the products can be sold legally. Such restrictions hit the Finnish media the hardest. Because they don't apply for television channels that broadcast from abroad, even if their programmes are dubbed or have Finnish subtitles. That is definitely not fair competition." (23/12/2014)


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La Croix - France

Not the time for anti-Islam paranoia in France

Several people were injured in attacks against police and pedestrians in Joué-lès-Tours and Dijon on the weekend. In both cases the alleged assailants called out "Allah is great". The investigators suspect one of the attackers was motivated by radical Islamism. Instead of panicking France should do more to help those who are excluded from society, the Catholic daily La Croix urges: "The first thing to do is not give in to fear or a collective psychosis that would mobilise people against this or that part of the population. The vast majority of people of foreign origin and Muslims want to live in peace and harmony with French society. … Rather than turning a blind eye, French society must ask itself some serious questions about its fringes, populated by deracinated, jobless people. The fight against violent excesses is not just the job of the security forces. It also involves strengthening social cohesion." (22/12/2014)

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

Pope Francis a welcome imposition

In his annual Christmas speech to the Vatican bureaucracy, Pope Francis accused the Curia of arrogance, vanity, greed, "spiritual Alzheimer's" and the "terrorism of gossip". This pope is just what the Vatican needs, the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung writes approvingly: "Such impertinence is just what's called for if the Church wants to find its way in the modern world. Francis seems determined to cleanse the city state of the pomp of the millennia and lead it back to the simplicity of its roots. In so doing he is encountering much resistance, but he doesn't seem particularly phased. He told the severe and rigorous Vatican staff that a good 'dose of humour' would be beneficial. Good advice, and not just for the Church." (23/12/2014)

El País - Spain

Spanish king must talk about his sister

For the first time in history a member of the Spanish royal family will go on trial. Princess Cristina, sister of the king, will stand trial over claims she was an accessory to tax fraud, investigating magistrate José Castro ruled on Monday. King Felipe must clearly address the topic in his Christmas speech, the liberal daily El País demands: "The king has presented himself as a man of principles. For that reason he must not simply ignore the matter by announcing through a spokesperson that he respects the decisions and independence of the judiciary. According to the constitution, the decision on declining the right of royal succession lies with Princess Cristina alone. ... Nevertheless King Felipe VI must tell the people that the principles he stands for also hold for his sister." (23/12/2014)

La Libre Belgique - Belgium

Royal family also deserves a break

The Belgian royal family's Christmas holiday in Indonesia is a source of discontent among Belgians. But even royals must be allowed to take a family break after an arduous year, the liberal daily La Libre Belgique counters: "If Philippe had chosen to stay in the country he would certainly have given the impression of being close to his people and well aware of their difficulties. Can a trip to Indonesia jeopardise this impression? No. Because maintaining their bond with the people is precisely what the king and queen do all year long, by visiting the needy and raising the profile of charitable associations. Philippe is obsessed with being an exemplary monarch. Yes, a certain amount of restraint is called for, particularly in times of crisis. But this trip seems to be a short time out in a reign that demands of the king a great understanding of the problems of our time." (22/12/2014)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Christmas as a test of endurance

Christmas fever has the Czech Republic firmly in its grip, commentator Petr Pešek observes with a shake of the head in the conservative daily Lidové noviny: "Both for individuals and society as a whole, the advent and Christmas season is a huge test of endurance. Shopping centres and public transport are stretched to maximum capacity. The postal service, cash points, Internet trading and emergency medical services are all tested to see how much of an onslaught they can withstand. And of course to see what humans can actually bear: the mental stress of the shopping, the cleaning up, the family visits and the traditional Christmas films. In the Olympics the important thing isn't to win but to take part. In the Christmas variant it's merely to survive. Luckily, however, things aren't always so awful, and there are some pleasant moments. This morning, for example, I observed children happily helping to build the manger of Bethlehem in the church." (23/12/2014)

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