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Press review | 25/11/2014

 

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Pentagon chief Hagel resigns

Hagel was the only Republican in Obama's cabinet. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

US President Barack Obama announced the resignation of his Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday without giving any reasons. According to a report in the New York Times Obama forced the Pentagon chief to step down. Some commentators see an internal dispute over the strategy against the terrorist IS as the reason. Others believe Chuck Hagel was no longer viewed as the right man to tackle the Herculean tasks in the Middle East.

Radikal - Turkey

Resignation over Syria and Iran

Chuck Hagel was obliged to resign because his strategy for Syria was incompatible with Obama's, the liberal Internet portal Radikal believes: "According to information leaked from the White House, Obama too was against a Syria with Assad. But in the fight against the IS he would not have been able to work towards having Assad toppled for two reasons: Firstly the Congressional mandate wasn't against Assad but against the IS. Secondly Iran played an important role - though only behind closed doors: when the IS appeared and conquered Mossul and Iraq was on the verge of collapse, Iran and the US suddenly had a common enemy. This shared position brought them together. ... At the same time Obama, who had declared his satisfaction with Hassan Rohani's taking power in Tehran, ensured that the nuclear talks with Iran were resumed. ... And he shied away from declaring Assad and the IS as equally important targets, as Hagel had proposed." (25/11/2014)

Deutsche Welle - Germany

Hagel's departure means new US foreign policy

Chuck Hagel clearly wasn't the right choice for a US Defense Secretary facing new challenges in foreign policy, the public state broadcaster Deutsche Welle writes: "Like Obama, Hagel is deeply sceptical about the use of military force to solve international problems. ... Obama's rationale to hire Hagel to finally end the other war started by his predecessor - the one in Afghanistan - and trim down the Pentagon made sense at the time. But reality quickly took priority over their foreign policy plan to decrease America's military footprint in the Middle East and beyond. ... Meanwhile in Washington, the Obama administration has struggled to adapt to the changing geopolitical landscape. It still hasn't fully. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was not the right man for that task. Perhaps Obama now needs someone at the helm of the Pentagon who, in some ways, is less like himself." (25/11/2014)

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Defense secretary a convenient scapegoat

The resignation is a sign of President Barack Obama's growing weakness, the liberal business paper Il Sole 24 Ore notes: "After the defeat in the midterm elections Obama is already viewed as a lame duck. Now he also threatens to become a mute duck if he doesn't take over the reins again in foreign policy. ... Hagel is a convenient scapegoat for the crisis that the White House has suffered on the [Middle-]Eastern front. The question is crucial: Obama must say who he wants to make peace with and against whom he wants to wage war. Above all in the Middle East, where US and Western policy appear rather contradictory. That must be part of the reason why the war veteran Hagel, eyewitness to various US debacles, from the Vietnam War to the era of George W. Bush, prefered to step down as Secretary of Defense." (25/11/2014)

POLITICS

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El País - Spain

Sócrates left Portuguese in the lurch

Portugal is in shock after the arrest of ex-prime minister José Sócrates on Friday, the left-liberal daily El País observes, explaining why: "Although we don't know all the facts, Sócrates comes across as the captain who abandoned his ship, demanding sacrifices of its occupants that he himself had no intention of making. One of his final acts as head of government was to sign the agreement putting Portugal under the control of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission. ... While the Portuguese felt the effects of the austerity measures on their daily lives, Sócrates was in Paris enjoying his accumulated wealth, which his income can't justify - he claims he inherited it - and has left a trail passing through several tax havens behind him." (25/11/2014)

Der Standard - Austria

West won't give up hope in nuclear dispute

The deadline for a deal to settle the nuclear dispute with Iran was extended again on Monday. Now is not the time for cooled relations between the West and Iran, the daily newspaper Standard concludes: "Beyond Iran's 'eternal revolution' ideology, for which the conflict with the West is identity-establishing and which manifests time after time in verbal attacks against Israel, in the nuclear talks the pragmatic side of Iranian foreign policy came to the fore. The West hopes that a nuclear deal would be just the start of a process that permanently changes relations between the West and Iran. This hope is also evident among sections of Iranian society and politics, even if it is not so loudly formulated there. And no one wants this hope to die yet." (25/11/2014)

euinside - Bulgaria

Eurosceptics raising their profile with scandals

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker must face a no-confidence vote in the EU Parliament on Thursday in the wake of the Luxembourg Leaks affair. Although none of the large parliamentary groups are behind the motion tabled by far-right groups, they must be more wary of the Eurosceptics, the online portal euinside warns: "The big groups take their majority too much for granted. They don't want to admit that the Eurosceptic, xenophobic and nationalistic parties are still on the rise and that they could even achieve a majority in the next EU Parliament. ... That would pose an enormous problem because these parties don't offer any alternatives. They're simply against everyone and everything. But  they rely on scandals and in contrast to the traditional parties this helps them get the media on their side." (24/11/2014)

Blog Adevărul - Romania

Fear of Moscow dominates elections in Moldova

Fear of Moscow will dominate the parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova next Sunday, columnist George Daiman writes in the blog of the liberal-conservative daily Adevărul, and blames the association agreement with the EU: "The events in Ukraine have put Chişinău under terrible pressure. ... Moscow already instilled fear in all the ex-Soviet republics in 2008 when it marched into Georgia. From then on it was clear to everyone that there would be no guarantee of remaining independent and autonomous for the states that emerged from the Soviet Union. ... The Kremlin's repertoire ranges from promises of material prosperity and cheap gas to embargos and invasion. Moldova was already in a state of fear during the 2009 parliamentary elections. ... Because of the events in Ukraine the same fears are rife but on top of that now there's also the association agreement with the EU." (25/11/2014)

Marianne - France

Regional reform exposes Valls' Germany complex

The French National Assembly is due to pass the territorial reform today, Tuesday. The measure will almost halve the number of French regions in a bid to cut administrative costs. France shouldn't try to copy the model used for the German states, national-conservative essayist Roland Hureaux writes in the liberal news magazine Marianne: "The unstated idea is to create French 'Länder' and - why not - to transform France into a federal state. But how naive to think that enlarging Aquitaine [the region around Bordeaux] will put Bordeaux on a par with Paris! It's clear where this idea of imitating Germany at all costs comes from! How not to see yet again the complexes of a France defeated in 1940 and which, despite the efforts of General de Gaulle to give it back its pride, has never recovered since. By trying to make themselves German, Hollande and Valls have only managed to turn themselves into French caricatures!" (24/11/2014)

REFLECTIONS

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Newsweek Polska - Poland

Tomasz Lis on a sloppy Polish state

The vote-counting fiasco in Poland's local elections is a further example of the sloppy mentality of the Polish state, writes Tomasz Lis in Newsweek Polska: "Naturally it's embarrassing for a state when it's unable to tell the people who they voted for. But this state already permitted the Smolensk disaster. And it didn't warn the nation about dubious banks. At the beginning of each year some major crisis occurs. So yet another scenario of chaos and irresponsibility shouldn't come as any surprise. The election debacle is just another event caused by the attitude that 'Somehow things will work out'. And the state always opts for the cheapest approach. ... This is simply the reflection of a sloppy state." (25/11/2014)

ECONOMY

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The Independent - United Kingdom

Flexible job market impoverishes young Brits

A growing number of young Britons have fallen below the poverty line in recent years, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation finds in a report published on Monday. The growing flexibility of the job market is mainly to blame, the left-liberal daily The Independent writes and calls for countermeasures: "Increasing the amount of social housing is one. Too much income of poorly paid younger workers drains into the hands of private landlords, in London especially. Cracking down on zero-hours contracts and raising the minimum wage may also be good ideas. But we need to recognise that record high levels of employment in this country are partly a result of what is euphemistically termed 'flexibility' in the labour market." (24/11/2014)

Echo24.cz - Czech Republic

Germany falls into Russian gas trap

Germany's Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel wants to force electricity companies to reduce their CO2 emissions by 22 million tonnes by 2020. To this end the closure of several more coal-fired power stations is planned. The conservative web portal Echo 24.cz argues that this will make Germany even more reliant on Russian gas: "Germany generates 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources today. Environmental activists see that as too little. Gabriel has given in to their pressure now. ... On the one side new coal-fired power stations are being built, on the other the number of those that are to be closed is increasing. This illustrates the impasse Berlin has got itself into with its climate activism. The country's natural conditions hardly allow it to cover its own energy needs from renewable sources. Since it's written off nuclear energy that leaves only coal and gas. Coal currently covers 50 percent of the demand. If that's reduced it leaves just gas. From Russia. Meaning that Germany will become permanently 'Russified'." (25/11/2014)

CULTURE

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Tages-Anzeiger - Switzerland

Exemplary solution for art looted by Nazis

Switzerland's Bern Art Museum has agreed to accept the legacy of Munich art collector Cornelius Gurlitt. The solution found by the museum and the German authorities is exemplary for dealing with art looted by the Nazis and shows that Germany and Switzerland can work together constructively, the Tages-Anzeiger comments approvingly: "It is exemplary that Germany and Switzerland have once again found a quick and uncomplicated solution. This was not always the case in the past - for example with the tax dispute. On other open issues such as flight approaches to Zurich Airport an agreement is still a long way off. With the Gurlitt case it helped that economic interests weren't the main issue but coming to terms with history was equally important." (25/11/2014)

SOCIETY

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Corriere della Sera - Italy

Erdoğan's religious zeal endangering Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has rejected gender equality saying that equality between men and women was 'against nature' at a summit on Monday. Unbelievable, the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera comments: "In a Europe that is forgetting its roots anything goes nowadays - even a Turkey that is drifting further and further towards religious fundamentalism at the behest of its all-powerful president. We are dealing with a country that no longer needs to preserve the appearance of separation between church and state. ... The times when Turkey was knocking on the EU's door are over. Only the IS threat prevents Erdoğan from steering the country towards radical Islamism. Rejection of gender equality is the simplest way to profess his new devotion to religious principles. It costs him nothing because no one will demand sanctions for this latest insult." (25/11/2014)

De Morgen - Belgium

Belgians won't let austerity plan go through

The Belgian unions called on Monday for a general strike against the government's austerity plans. The left-liberal daily De Morgen looks into why the protests continue unabated: "There is simply no moral or ethical justification for the fact that the low and middle income groups have to bear the brunt of almost all the measures while the large fortunes - and above all the profits made on them - remain untouched. ... Now that the [Christian Democratic governing party] CD&V has gone along with the unions in their protest against the unequal distribution of the burden, hopes that the protests will peter out after the Christmas holidays are nothing more than wishful thinking. ... After Luxembourg Leaks we're living in a different world. Now the reality of unfair distribution is firmly anchored in the social consciousness." (25/11/2014)

Kristeligt Dagblad - Denmark

Don't play down Islam as a source of violence

Radical Islamist al-Shabaab militants have claimed responsibility for a bus attack In Kenya in which all 28 passengers who could not read from the Koran were killed. Reason enough for the Christian daily Kristeligt Dagblad to question certain assumptions in media reporting: "Although the criminals themselves admitted they committed their bestial acts in the name of Islam, Western commentators tend to give a purely materialistic explanation for these atrocities, blaming them on economic inequalities or social problems, and not on the religion itself. ... That's like saying the Crusades had nothing to do with Christianity. Of course they did. That doesn't mean all Christians are like the Crusaders, and of course not all Muslims stand for the excesses of the islamic terrorist organisations. But everyone should recognise that religion plays an increasingly large role in the conflicts of this world." (25/11/2014)

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