Press review | 22/05/2015



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Palmyra under threat from IS terrorists

After the IS terrorists destroyed archaeological excavation sites in Iraq, the ancient Syrian oasis city of Palmyra is now under threat. (© picture-alliance/dpa)


The IS has gained control of the Syrian city of Tadmur, where the ancient ruins of Palmyra are located. The world must look on powerlessly while this World Heritage site is destroyed, some commentators lament. Others criticise the West for showing more solidarity with a pile of stones than with the hundreds of thousands of victims of war.

Mladá fronta Dnes - Czech Republic

West looks on powerlessly as Palmyra falls

The ancient Syrian oasis city of Palmyra will fall and the West is powerless to stop it, the liberal daily Mladá fronta Dnes writes in despair: "The videos on the Internet will break our hearts. We'll see the IS militias smash colonnades, columns and stone arches - everything that in their primitiveness they see as a sign of idolatry. But the West is not ready to send in ground troops. The Americans - and the Czechs - don't want to watch soldiers die in the Middle East. All that remains is airstrikes. The Americans are in a position to carry out precise strikes. But that would only help military dictator Assad, who had controlled Palmyra until now. In other words, Western jet fighters would then be serving the man who used chemical weapons and broke Syria with his brutality. For that reason Palmyra won't be saved, and will soon only exist in photographs." (22/05/2015) - Netherlands

Grotesque solidarity with pillars in the desert

The global outcry over the IS's seizure of Palmyra is grotesque, author Ilja Leonard writes in the liberal daily "When the homeless and the refugees ask us for help we close our eyes, our ears and our borders to them. But when a pile of photogenic stones are besieged we scream blue murder. And I know why: Palmyra is ours. … The Romans built the city, so our historic roots are at stake. It is part of our culture and we want to show that it's important to us. … We feel a personal bond with this pile of stones. The dead and homeless Syrians, on the other hand, are totally alien to us and leave us cold or make us afraid. Clearly it's easier to show solidarity with a bunch of pillars in the desert than with hundreds of thousands of victims of war." (22/05/2015)

El Mundo - Spain

Only a consolidated effort can defeat IS

The terrorist IS is an international security risk and the nations of the world must join forces against it, the conservative daily El Mundo urges: "The consolidation of a terrorist state in the region has destroyed borders that have existed for almost a century. This state finances itself by ransacking cities and selling stolen petrol on the black market. It applies an implacable policy of ethnic and religious extermination. And finally it is exporting Islamic terrorism to the rest of the world. All this should be sufficient reason to intensify the efforts aimed at its destruction. The IS is not only a danger in the region, its mere existence is a threat to international security" (22/05/2015)

Berliner Zeitung - Germany

Collapse of Iraq and Syria unstoppable

Nothing and no one seems to be able to stop the advance of the IS, the left-liberal daily Berliner Zeitung writes, taking a bleak look at the region's future: "Ramadi was simply overrun by the terrorists although the US did its best to stop them with numerous airstrikes. ... The situation is no better in Syria, where the IS has forced the government troops to retreat from Palmyra. While the military is simply defending the interests of Bashar al-Assad and the opposition can at best only agree on a temporary alliance against the IS, the terrorists are continually building up their power base. Things seemed different for a while in Iraq, where the Kurds and the Sunnis fiercely fought the IS in concert with the Americans. After the fall of Ramadi the local chiefs could be inclined to unite with the Sunni IS against the Shiite power elite in Baghdad. But the time has come to bid farewell to any hopes of a victory against the IS. The fall of Iraq and Syria seems unstoppable." (22/05/2015)


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Die Presse - Austria

Eastern partnership neither fish nor fowl

The Eastern Partnership summit in Riga once more highlights how indecisive the EU is in its dealings with its neighbours to the east, the conservative daily Die Presse concludes: "The Eastern Partnership was an odd entity, neither fish nor fowl, right from the start. The idea is to try to gently extend the EU's sphere of influence, but without any political consistency. As long as the EU can't provide these countries with concrete economic partnership leading up to complete membership, it's room for manoeuvre will be minimal. For example there's a lack of pressure on the Ukrainian government to introduce necessary reforms and tackle recent events in a credible way. Many parties - in particular Russia - accuse the EU of interfering too much. The truth is that the EU is making itself vulnerable to attack owing to its limited influence. Because it demands that these countries change their orientation yet lacks the power to steer them." (22/05/2015)

L'Obs - France

Russia must be represented in Riga

The EU summit on the Eastern Partnership in Riga is taking place without a Russian representative. But without Moscow a balance of power cannot be achieved in Eastern Europe, historian Thomas Flichy de La Neuville writes in the left-liberal weekly magazine L'Obs: "If in line with the 17th century theory of the balance of powers these countries were nothing more than buffer states, the Eastern Partnership would hardly be a source of concern. But the reality is different, because they are in the process of becoming militarised appendage states. Already in the south they serve to impede strategic ties and energy liaisons between Russia and Iran, and in the north they allow the West to penetrate areas that belonged to Russia's historic core. In a nutshell, only including Russia in this partnership would pave the way for a balance of power for a dialogue aimed at achieving peace." (21/05/2015)

Corriere del Ticino - Switzerland

EU refugee policy eroded by egotism

Egocentric sentiment is once more the order of the day in the EU, the liberal daily Corriere del Ticino complains, and sees the European spirit sinking with the refugee boats in the Mediterranean: "The EU migration strategy threatens to fail because of the quota system and be exposed as a purely cosmetic undertaking. The 28 member states refuse to understand that the situation of the migrants is not a temporary crisis but one that requires structural measures. There is a factor that is making it difficult for the EU to act responsibly as a community: the rebirth of the nation state. A revival of strategic interests that is once again opening up egocentric power perspectives for individual nations. This mentality is diametrically opposed to the spirit behind the founding of the EU." (22/05/2015)

Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Poles facing same situation as in Hungary

Poles will vote for a new president on Sunday. The country is threatened by an Orbán-style authoritarian regime if the national conservative PiS candidate Andrzej Duda - who took the first round in a surprise victory - becomes president, the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza fears: "The presidential and parliamentary elections this year could once again sweep the PiS to power. This is a party that questions the state in its current form. ... As president, Duda would act neither as a conflict mediator nor as a defender of the rule of law. Rather he is a mere extension of the PiS, which if it also gets a majority in parliament will introduce a system like that in Hungary. Then nationalism and Catholic doctrines will be enshrined in the constitution, and the party will occupy all the key posts in state institutions." (22/05/2015)

Agos - Turkey

Pro-Kurdish HDP is AKP's toughest rival

Six people were injured in bomb attacks against two offices of the pro-Kurdish HDP party in the southern Turkish cities of Mersin and Adana on Monday. The HDP has accused the ruling AKP of being behind the attacks. At the very least the AKP did nothing to prevent them because the HDP poses a threat to the AKP's omnipotence in Turkey, writes Agos, the weekly paper of the Armenian minority: "The HDP has made its mark in the election campaign by running for election as a party and mobilising support to pass the 10-percent hurdle. If it clears that hurdle it will become a force that could at the very least obstruct the AKP. … This is the first election in which the AKP is actually having to counter its rivals' arguments. ... This is perhaps the first time this has happened in an election campaign, but not the first time in the history of the AKP. As a result of the Gezi Park protests the AKP lost its political terrain and its hegemony." (22/05/2015)

De Morgen - Belgium

Lying energy minister is a security risk

Belgian Energy Minister Marie-Christine Marghem has admitted that she failed to properly inform parliament on the lifespans of nuclear power plants. She withheld the results of a negative legal report. The centre-left daily De Morgen shakes its head at Marghem's weak excuse: "It was because of her temperament. That was how, in all seriousness, she tried to explain the fact that she repeatedly failed to tell parliament the truth. … This excuse is embarrassing and absurd, but above all worrying. If an energy minister falls victim to her temperament even when it comes to explaining trivial facts to parliament, how can we trust her when crucial matters such as energy supplies or nuclear security are at stake? … This is not a case of a loose tongue or a bad memory. This was wilful hindrance of parliament's monitoring function. If that is the result of Ms Marghem's temperament, then she shouldn't be in government." (22/05/2015)


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Kymen Sanomat - Finland

Dangerous gap between poor and rich

According to a current OECD study, the gap between rich and poor in the West is wider than it has been in three decades. This could endanger social cohesion and political stability, the daily Kymen Sanomat believes: "This trend has taken economists by surprise: income differences are generally considered a driving force behind economic growth. ... But in truth economic growth has been weak - non-existent, even - for a long time, while at the same time the income gap is widening. ... In the past large income disparities have been the cause of revolutions. Theoretically such things could still happen today in developed countries. True, revolutions are relatively unlikely in the prosperous West. But with time the growing inequality will undermine political stability." (22/05/2015)


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Novosti - Croatia

Dangerous self-censorship in Dubrovnik

The Summer Festival in Dubrovnik last week cancelled the premiere of the play The Elementary Particles by the controversial French author Michel Houellebecq, who has repeatedly been accused of anti-Islam sentiment. The Croatian ministry of the interior had called the production a security risk. The incident shows up the spiritual poverty of Croatian cultural policy the left-leaning weekly paper of the Serbian minority Novosti criticises: "This sudden discovery of tolerance and love for those who are 'different' has been used in service of national security. The example of Dubrovnik shows that the so-called war on terror is working hand in hand with a war on culture. In our democratic environment, fear serves merely as political fuel for repression. In the case of Houellebecq, the supposed concern for citizens with other beliefs really only abets a further shift toward the far right in Croatian society - and that does not bode well at all." (22/05/2015)


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Irish Examiner - Ireland

Irish must vote for gay marriage

The Irish vote in a referendum today, Friday, on the introduction of gay marriage in the country. The polls predict a clear "yes". The liberal daily Irish Examiner also hopes this will be the result: "[The planned reform] offers constitutional protection to people who happen not to be heterosexual should they choose to exercise a right everyone else takes for granted. ... It is based on the realisation that the half-life, the suffering and discrimination - and loneliness - inflicted on so many of our brothers and sisters, cousins, and friends is no longer acceptable. Many of those opposed to the change believe deeply in their position and must be respected for that and allowed to freely express those views. That caveat is not enough though to sustain the constitutional discrimination endured by so many." (21/05/2015)

Gândul - Romania

Raise in child benefit won't help Romania

The Romanian parliament doubled child benefit to the equivalent of 20 euros on Wednesday. The online paper Gândul writes that more should be done to offer children in the poor country better prospects for the future: "Should we try to boost the birth rate in poor areas where children are condemned to a life of deprivation, or should we offer them better quality of life and education? Naturally the latter entails far more work than just doubling child benefit. It would mean investing more money in daycares and kindergartens, in schools, and in schemes that teach children that work and knowledge can help them do well in life. Whether we like it or not, everything depends on education - it is the only means to correct the country's lack of orientation." (21/05/2015)


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Neatkarīgā - Latvia

Lithuanian president loses her magic in Latvia

In a televised interview this week, Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaitė refused to answer two questions which hadn't received her prior approval. She withheld her views on the introduction of gay marriage in Lithuania and the collapse of a supermarket in Riga. For the nationalist conservative daily Neatkarīgā Grybauskaitė lost her credibility in the interview: "On that evening the Latvians saw the president of their neighbouring country, otherwise so perfect and popular because of her wonderful speeches, in a different light. To be more precise, they saw her for what she is, because the person the Latvians so adore is just an illusion. The king is naked and there's no reason to worship him. Now it's clear what Grybauskaitė thinks about democracy. ... The Latvians should rethink their admiration for Grybauskaitė and her grandiloquent phrases." (21/05/2015)

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