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Press review | 05/05/2015

 

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Final spurt in British election campaign

Cameron's Conservatives and the Labour Party are set to receive just over 30 percent of the vote, according to the latest polls. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

Two days before the UK general election, the Tories and Labour are neck-and-neck in the polls. Tory leader and Prime Minister David Cameron has renewed his promise to hold a referendum on exiting the EU if elected. Commentators warn Britons not to sideline themselves with a Brexit and urge them to think carefully before they vote.

Salzburger Nachrichten - Austria

Brits must reach decisions about future in EU

The question of a Brexit will continue to occupy Europe regardless of the election outcome, the Christian-liberal daily Salzburger Nachrichten expects: "With the elections this week the British will decide whether it comes to a vote on this question. ... Around one third of the population is currently for exiting the EU. Consequently the British will have to discuss their future in Europe no matter who wins the election this Thursday. Even the pro-European parties can't afford to leave the field to sceptics and populists like Nigel Farage's Ukip in the long term, otherwise a Brexit will remain an option. Whether or not Cameron can apply pressure with a referendum, the next government will have to discuss reforms with the EU. And all parties stand to benefit from that. Because the Brits share many concerns with other EU citizens, for example regarding the need for less bureaucracy and more transparency." (05/05/2015)

Pohjalainen - Finland

UK too weak on its own

If the British vote to leave the EU in a referendum it won't be to their advantage, the liberal daily Pohjalainen writes: "At present Western Europe's banking hub is in London. But it's worth considering how the UK's status would change if it were no longer in the EU.  The financial world's centre of gravity would without doubt gradually shift to Germany. And Britain's possibilities of free trade with the EU member states would also have to be reviewed. Cameron's move also seems odd from a foreign policy perspective. The UK's influence outside the EU would dwindle. Even its unshakable ally the US is dubious about Cameron's gamble. … The UK isn't strong enough to have a better future outside the EU." (05/05/2015)

euinside - Bulgaria

Brexit would be great loss for all

A Brexit would be bad for both the British and the EU, blogger Adelina Marini warns in web portal euinside: "If Britain left the EU this would send signal to the world that an adventurous country has turned into a timid one; that a country with global ambitions has opted to be a parochial bystander; that a country known for its openness to the world shuts the open door nearest to it; that a nation which has built its history on confidence towards others defines itself by resentment to others. There are still no in-depth studies of how a possible exit could affect the EU but the several ideas that are circulating in the European public domain suggest a loss of a valuable outlook on life - a liberal, open, trading nation with traditions." (04/05/2015)

La Repubblica - Italy

Only Liberal Democrats can save the UK

The Liberal Democrats are decisive for the future of Britain, historian and social commentator Timothy Garton Ash writes in the left-liberal daily La Repubblica: "The outcome will almost certainly be a coalition or minority government: all frightfully un-British and typically continental. Yet this most European of elections could result in Britain leaving the EU and Scotland then Leaving the UK. ... As an English voter, those are all things I want to prevent. Complicated some of these judgments may be, but the general message is clear: vote with your head. ... For all the priorities I have mentioned, it is important that there should still be a hardcore of perhaps 35 Liberal Democrat MPs capable of coalition with Labour or the Conservatives or of influencing a minority government of left or right." (05/05/2015)

POLITICS

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Jutarnji List - Croatia

Gauck right to call for reparations to Athens

German President Joachim Gauck last week proposed that Germany should think about paying compensation to Greece. At last a German has dared to address Germany's debt to Athens, Croat author Miljenko Jergović writes in the liberal daily Jutarnji List: "Germany's economic recovery and its strength today are largely based on the waiving of debts in 1953 and the fact that Germany never finished paying off its war reparations. … And beyond that there is another interesting and forgotten war debt which the Federal Republic of Germany inherited from the 'Third Reich'. In 1942 the Greek national bank was forced to make Germany a zero-interest loan of 476 million reichsmark in gold to finance the 'costs of the occupation'. This money was never paid back. If we converted that loan into euros, even allowing for the enforced zero-interest rate Germany would still owe the Greeks eleven billion euros." (05/05/2015)

Hürriyet Daily News - Turkey

Turkish nationalism prevents Cyprus solution

Mustafa Akinci, the new president of Northern Cyprus, will make his first official visit to Ankara on Wednesday. To reach a peaceful solution in the Cyprus conflict above all Turkey's nationalist perspective regarding the island must change, the liberal daily Hürriyet Daily News admonishes: "It is time to start questioning the so-called 'conquest of Cyprus', inquire why the military intervention [of 1974] turned into de facto partition. ... Unless we feel brave enough to engage in an open discussion on those matters without fear of being accused of treason, we will further contribute to the sufferings of Turkish Cypriots. Unless we are more concerned by the welfare of the islanders rather than Turkey's so-called 'strategic interests', the prospect of a peaceful solution in Cyprus will continue to be held ransom by the populist politics of Turkish nationalism." (04/05/2015)

Polityka Online - Poland

Poland's primitive presidential campaign

Candidates for the office of president are getting increased media coverage in the run-up to Poland's presidential elections on Sunday. Philosopher Jan Hartman accuses them of being immature on the left-liberal portal Polityka Online: "In principle they all follow the same basic populist pattern whenever they make an appearance. That is, they differentiate between the 'good people' and the 'evil state'. ... And it's here that it becomes clear that all contenders are superficial, and what's more, intellectually impoverished. What becomes most clear here is that there is no political culture in Poland. ... Ill-bred churls, drunken hordes and coarse plebs still make up the majority in Poland, far outnumbering the cultivated souls, or at least those who've had the smattering of an education. Unfortunately nothing has changed at all on this score since the days of communism. If you read the elite press, you see that Polish democracy is still underdeveloped. Sadly the Poles have yet to become a people who can think in terms of political responsibility." (05/05/2015)

La Tribune de Genève - Switzerland

Ousting Le Pen won't pacify FN

The executive of the far-right Front National suspended Jean-Marie Le Pen from the party on Monday. The former leader and party founder had repeatedly made provocative statements in recent weeks and took the floor at a rally on May 1 without being invited to. His suspension does not long meant the end of friction in the party, the regional daily La Tribune de Genève predicts: "Each of the two 'blonde angels' of a changing Front National, Marine and Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, embody one of the two major currents in the party which [Jean-Marie] Le Pen had managed to keep together ever since it was founded in 1972: nationalist populists on the one hand, and nationalist Catholic traditionalists on the other. After casting out the devil, will Marine and Marion be able to avoid a clash between the two camps united by their father and grandfather? ... Yes, the devil has been sacrificed. Now the duel between the blonde angels looms. And it's by no means certain that the party's unity will withstand the test." (04/05/2015)

ABC - Spain

Ten almost perfect Merkel years

Angela Merkel has been ruling Germany highly successfully for almost ten years now, the conservative daily ABC observes, noting that the chancellor's only weakness is that at times she is too reluctant to act against public opinion: "Two of these mistakes came in March 2011. One was the Fukushima earthquake and the other Germany's abstention from the UN Security Council's vote on intervention in Libya. In the case of the Fukushima earthquake, which unleashed a wave of hysteria in Europe, and especially in Germany, Merkel decided to put a definitive end to nuclear energy in reaction to a panicked public. She did so at enormous expense without security being enhanced, also inflicting great damage on legal certainty and causing major substitution problems. With Libya Merkel bowed to pacifist fears, another wave of panic fed by the German media, and adopted a neutral stance which left Germany isolated from its allies." (05/05/2015)

REFLECTIONS

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Világgazdaság - Hungary

Harold James on the economic success of authoritarian states

States led by authoritarian regimes are sometimes better off economically than democratic states, historian Harold James comments in the liberal business daily Világgazdaság: "Authoritarian regimes - at least those not committed to pillaging their countries - might be better positioned to implement policies that ensure long-term economic success. … Since the beginning of this century, China's supercharged economic growth once again seemed to highlight the benefits of authoritarianism. The Chinese Communist Party's success in navigating the turbulence of the global economic crisis with barely a shudder has attracted the attention of others who would follow its example. Leaders like Russia's Vladimir Putin, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Egypt's Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, and Hungary's Viktor Orbán claim that the price of economic stability and growth might sometimes be the suspension of democracy." (04/05/2015)

ECONOMY

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Deutschlandfunk - Germany

German train drivers are stubborn egoists

The German Train Drivers' Union (GDL) began a seven-day strike on Monday. It aims to represent all railway personnel. With this latest strike the GDL has put itself on the sidelines, the public service broadcaster Deutschlandfunk writes: "The basic understanding that the egoism of the individual is to be curtailed in the interests of the entirety is lacking among the train drivers, and the longer the pay dispute continues, the more apparent this is. How far removed this stubborn pursuit of individual unionist interests is from the long practised consensus-based social partnership with which the Federal Republic of the social market economy grew up. The refusal to admit a mediator highlights this most clearly. The train drivers simply refuse to make use of this instrument in their negotiations with Deutsche Bahn. This is not only incomprehensible, but also unwise." (04/05/2015)

Dnevnik - Slovenia

Slovenia shouldn't blindly follow OECD's advice

OECD general secretary Angel Gurría has called on Slovenia to introduce further reforms on Monday. The forecasts and recommendations of such institutions are often dubious and shouldn't be slavishly adhered to, the left-liberal daily Dnevnik argues: "This applies for the OECD, the IMF, the European Commission and all the other 'central committees of global neo-liberalism' so despised by the left. But the problem is not what these institutions advise or even in certain cases demand that Slovenia do. At the very latest since the stress tests we should have realised that the problem is whether we have the necessary knowledge or political will to follow their advice in a creative way. We simply shouldn't follow it blindly." (05/05/2015)

SOCIETY

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Observador - Portugal

Russia's Night Wolves provoke EU

Sympathisers of the Russian bikers' club the Night Wolves crossed the German-Austrian border on Sunday. The club's members are still banned from entering the country. The online paper Observador understands why: "What was supposed to be a gesture of respect for the millions of fallen Soviet soldiers has quickly turned into another political provocation. … The leader of the bikers, Alexander Zaldostanov, who thanks to his support for the invasion of Crimea has become a Kremlin protégée, is celebrated as a hero. This makes it difficult for the Poles, the Czechs and the Slovaks to receive the Night Wolves with open arms. … In Russia, where the revision of history is a constant process, many Russians will believe such whitewashing lies but please don't force them on the Estonians, the Lithuanians, the Ukrainians or the Poles! Putin wants to normalise relations with the EU, but bikers certainly aren't the best means for doing that." (01/05/2015)

Financial Times - United Kingdom

Honour Russian war victims despite Putin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will join Russian President Vladimir Putin to pay tribute to the millions of Soviet citizens who lost their lives in World War II on May 10. Such gestures are important and right despite the tensions with the Kremlin, the conservative daily Financial Times writes approvingly: "At this solemn moment, the west's leaders should take the opportunity to declare that whatever differences they have with Mr Putin, they have none with the people of Russia. Mr Putin may wish to use Victory Day as an exercise in militaristic posturing that puffs up his regime. But the millions of Russians and other former Soviet peoples who fought heroically to rid the world of Nazism deserve better. In Russia and beyond, they should be honoured for the extraordinary sacrifices they made - and for no other purpose." (04/05/2015)

Dimokratia - Greece

Greek jails just depots for derelicts

Two people died and 18 prisoners were injured in a fight that broke out among inmates of Greece's largest prison, Korydallos Prison near Athens, on Sunday. Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos blamed the incident on staff shortages and overcrowding. The conservative daily Demokratia has a similar view of prison conditions in the country: "They're nothing more than warehouses for lost souls and scrap processing plants for unwanted bodies. And they're universities of crime. Re-education is neither possible nor intended. ... Each new head of the Ministry of Justice makes grandiose plans and statements only after extremely unpleasant incidents have occurred that can't be covered up. Normally these are prisoners' revolts. But sometimes - with serious riots, spectacular escapes or even murders - the media once take an interest in the situation in Greek prisons." (05/05/2015)

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