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Press review | 23/07/2014

 

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EU considers new sanctions against Russia

Russia had not distanced itself from the actions of the eastern Ukrainian separatists in recent days, Germany's Foreign Minister Steinmaier criticised. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

The EU's foreign ministers were unable to agree on further sanctions against Russia on Tuesday. Instead they tasked the European Commission with examining measures such as an arms embargo by Thursday. Commentators criticise the fact that harsh economic sanctions weren't imposed immediately and call on the EU to finally adopt a united stance vis-à-vis Moscow.

De Volkskrant - Netherlands

Europe barks but doesn't bite

Europe's tone against Moscow has become harsher but that's not enough, the left-liberal daily De Volkskrant argues: "Dogs that bark don't bite. Some of the countries that sent a last warning to Putin yesterday were still arguing about concrete measures only shortly before. A typical example was President Hollande's insistence on selling at least one Mistral warship to Moscow [rather than two as planned]. ... The Netherlands must now adopt a leading role to end Europe's lack of unity. Putin's dreadful decision in favour of ethno-nationalism and escapades abroad can only be countered if his 'European partners' make it clear this won't be tolerated. ... There's no choice: Putin's power can only be reined in by an effective counterweight." (23/07/2014)

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Shilly-shallying over sanctions

A divided community in which each state pursues its own interests is hardly trustworthy, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore laments: "When it comes to relations with Russia every country in Europe has more than one skeleton in the closet. ... How much longer can Europe entertain the illusion that it can put its short-term economic interests above all ethical and strategic considerations without paying a high price? The model of the economic giant resting on the laurels of its single market and single currency without bothering about anything else no longer functions. ... The need for a common foreign policy and defence can no longer be ignored. But instead Europe is sticking to little games with the slide rule of sanctions: one for you, one for me, or perhaps none at all. It won't get very far with this approach." (23/07/2014)

The Times - United Kingdom

Merkel must impose limits on Russia

Germany should play a pivotal role in the discussion over stepping up sanctions against Russia, the conservative daily The Times believes: "Mrs Merkel won't risk a showdown, though, because Germany now sees its central role as the Putin-Whisperer, the official interpreter of Vladimir Putin. … Slowly Mrs Merkel has come to realise that redefining the relationship with Russia could be the biggest challenge of her nine years in office, as grave as the euro-crisis. More complex, too, than the prospect of a British exit from the EU. It means thinking out loud about whether the EU can by itself define the political and geographical boundaries of the continent. That's tricky for Germany and it will entail a degree of toughness with Moscow that has so far been absent. ... The price of wrong-headed tolerance of Putin has, in fact, just been paid in the blood of innocent airline passengers." (23/07/2014)

Berliner Zeitung - Germany

Putin reveals his true concern

At a meeting of the Russian National Security Council on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for the first time of putting pressure on the separatists in eastern Ukraine. But he wants something in exchange, and this reveals his true concern, the Berliner Zeitung comments: "Denuded of all the cautious phrases, what Putin is doing is demanding that the West promise it will stop using a country's internal problems as an excuse to support coloured revolutions or national springs. In Putin's eyes this is nothing but the destabilisation of foreign states and the instigation of conventional coups. ... He wants the West to guarantee there won't be another Ukraine - neither in neighbouring Belarus nor in Kazakhstan - but above all not in Russia itself. The approval there for his course of action is overwhelming right now, because he appears so strong and unbending. But Putin knows, also from the experience with Ukraine, how quickly and for what trivial reasons the mood can swing and turn against him." (23/07/2014)

POLITICS

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Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Dubious death toll figures from Gaza

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has compared Israel's policy with that of Hitler, while protests and violent clashes over Israel's military offensive have broken out in several European countries. The liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza comes to Israel's defence: "No one here seems to consider the fact that this is a reaction, and not an act of aggression. The list of casualties serves as proof of Israel's supposedly disproportionate behaviour: 27 dead Israelis, 25 of them soldiers in the Gaza Strip, compared with 600 Gaza residents - most of whom are civilians. ... But this accusation is not justified because these figures are dubious, which is no surprise in times of war. They are compiled by Palestinian organisations that are controlled by Hamas. ... Then they're adopted by the UN. After that the media cite them, quoting the UN as the source. That's what makes them seem believable. But that doesn't alter the fact that they come from Hamas." (23/07/2014)

Le Quotidien - Luxembourg

Exclusion promotes anti-Semitism in France

Violent protests against Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip once again broke out in France on the weekend. Molotov cocktails were thrown and synagogues attacked in Paris and the suburb of Sarcelles. But the real issue behind the religious tensions is less politics than social exclusion, the liberal daily Le Quotidien argues: "The rioters were more driven by feelings of anti-Semitism than by solidarity with the people of Palestine. ... Eternal scapegoats, the Jews are stigmatised as purported supporters of an Israeli policy which many - in France and Israel - in fact condemn. The young people in the problem neighbourhoods will seize any pretext to give vent to their hatred of a society that is increasingly exclusive, whether they're Muslims or not. ... Although such religious tensions are fanned by the growing popular support for the nauseating ideas of the Front National, they are above all rooted in the economic and social situation, which has nothing to do with religion or ethnic origin." (22/07/2014)

Hürriyet Daily News - Turkey

Erdoğan behaves as if he owns the country

At least 52 high-ranking police officers were arrested on Tuesday, including several who led the corruption investigations against the government last winter. They are accused of espionage and illegal phone-tapping. Once again Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's megalomaniac fantasies are rearing their ugly head, the liberal Hürriyet Daily News comments appalled: "What is their crime? They are all alleged to have belonged to a grotesque 'parallel state structure' or the Fethullah Gülen Islamist brotherhood, or the 'Hizmet' (Service) organization.This period of allegiant civil servants must come to an end in Turkey if this country is to proceed toward a healthier democracy. Just lend an ear to the ever-yelling, tall, bold, bald and always-angry prime minister: 'My teacher … My policemen … My civil servant … My soldier.' It is as if he owns the country and everyone living in it. It is as if he is the worshipful and sacrosanct son of God, who cannot be criticized at all." (23/07/2014)

De Morgen - Belgium

Belgium's new kamikaze coalition

King Phillipe of Belgium has tasked the Walloon liberal party MR and the Flemish Christian Democrats CD&V with forming a government. The ruling coalition is to include both Flemish nationalists and liberals. The left-liberal daily De Morgen struggles to find a designation for this alliance: "As far as we're concerned, those who find 'kamikaze' too fatalistic can call the government Swedish: liberals (blue), Flemish radicals (yellow) and Christian Democrats (the cross). But the name can't conceal the fact that this unusual formula is explosive and risky. It will be a government that represents only 25 percent of the French-speaking voters. It will require strong shoulders to bear the weight of this imbalance against such a powerful opposition. Whether the MR, with its history of in-fighting, can bear that weight remains to be seen. This also goes for the question of whether the entire future government of a Prime Minister Kris Peeters can stand the pressure." (23/07/2014)

Novi List - Croatia

In Slovenia everyone wants to be EU commissioner

The EU member states must select their candidates for the European Commission - one for each country - by the end of July. Especially in the smaller and poorer countries, the haggling over the highly desirable post is intense, the left-liberal daily Novi List observes: "Slovenia, where a change of government is under way, is particularly affected. In this phase greedy eyes turn to the commissioner post, endowed as it is with so many advantages. It is one of the most desirable posts in the EU's entire bureaucratic apparatus - not exactly famous for its modesty. The outrageous salary of 20,000 euros including other privileges is inconceivable for ordinary mortals, and clearly the reason why Slovenia has so many candidates it could easily put a whole commission together. First and foremost Alenka Bratušek, prime minister up to now, who is also thinking of fleeing to Brussels." (23/07/2014)

REFLECTIONS

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Kathimerini - Greece

Panteilis Boukalas on the inequality of death in Ukraine and Gaza

Public discussion of the casualties in Ukraine and Gaza differs depending on the nationality of the deceased, columnist Pantelis Boukalas comments in the conservative daily Kathimerini: "Corpses are corpses. Whether they're Malaysian, Dutch, Palestinian or Israeli. ... However it seems that in international politics the dead in Ukraine and Gaza aren't dead in the same way. We differentiate between 'our' dead and 'their' dead. 'Their' death doesn't have the same significance or call for angry reactions on the part of the interest groups concerned. And it puts no onus on the powerful of the earth to seek a common reaction to it. They couldn't care less if their attitude is stringent - that is impartial - and their moral criteria applied consistently, or if these criteria change with the nationality of the victims. The others who mourn their dead have nothing in common with our nationalities or ethnic groups. ... And the real nightmare is that 'our' dead are used to play down the dead of the 'others'." (23/07/2014)

Contrepoints - France

For Jean-Baptiste Noé Europe is good for France

The fact that France is going through difficult times should not make people forget that the country owes its current level of prosperity to the EU, historian Jean-Baptiste Noé argues on the website contrepoints.org: "The EU forced France to introduce thoroughgoing structural reforms. As a result, our country has experienced rapid development over the past 30 years. It's France's own policies, not the EU's, that are to blame for our current economic difficulties. Brussels never ordered us to impose outrageously high taxes on businesses or people who work from home, to destroy our education system or to put up obstacles to entrepreneurial freedom. Without the EU, key reforms would most likely never have taken place. Let's have the courage to admit that, and to make it clear to the public that economic liberalisation has brought huge benefits. If we don't, we shouldn't be surprised to see the Front National - as the new 'social' party - doing so well in the polls." (22/07/2014)

ECONOMY

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El Periódico de Catalunya - Spain

Spain's painful bank bailout

The Spanish state on Monday sold the Catalunya Banc, which was nationalised in the wake of the banking crisis, to the BBVA bank for just under 1.2 billion euros. The overhaul of the Catalan financial institute is seen as one of the final steps in Spain's bank bailout operation. The left-liberal daily El Periódico de Catalunya is less than enthusiastic about the results: "We must conclude that many mistakes were made during the economic boom, but that things weren't done any better once the extent of the tragedy had become clear. Instead of intervening quickly as was done in other countries, we strived to convey the impression that we had the most solid banking system in the world (as [then prime minister] Zapatero said in September 2008). Then came the promise that the money spent on bailing out the banks wouldn't cost the taxpayers a single cent (as Guindos [minister for economic affairs] said in June 2012). And this is all the more painful given that virtually none of those to blame for the disaster has been called to account." (23/07/2014)

CULTURE

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Diena - Latvia

Pointless entry ban for Russian musicians

One day before the start of the Russian New Wave music festival in the Latvian resort of Jūrmala, Latvia's Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs has refused entry to three musicians who openly supported Russia's annexation of Crimea in recent months. The liberal daily Diena doesn't see the point: "Will these bans change anything essential? Does anyone think a ban will influence how these Russian musicians think? Dozens upon dozens of Russian musicians who are well known in Latvia support Putin's policies in Ukraine. Why have only three been refused entry? ... The Latvian authorities' reaction to the tragic events of the past days in Ukraine is anything but even-handed. We're not happy with our neighbour, so we'll stop his friends from singing. ... Will such an attitude change anything in Ukraine?" (23/07/2014)

SOCIETY

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Der Standard - Austria

German cannabis ruling awakens false hopes

Chronically ill patients in Germany may grow cannabis for therapeutic use if no other medicine can alleviate their pain. With this decision the Administrative Court of Cologne on Tuesday ruled in favour of five plaintiffs who had challenged the legal ban on growing marijuana. Although it may have rekindled the debate over legalising the drug, the ruling was too faint-hearted, the left-liberal daily Der Standard believes: "The decision has only caused a sensation because it fans the hopes of supporters and the fears of opponents, but not because it mark a turning point in drug policy. It's too timid for that. The judges had the chance to set a precedent. However the strict requirements patients must fulfil to get a permit for growing marijuana make it clear that the court shied away from making a political statement." (23/07/2014)

SPORT

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Politiken - Denmark

Don't force FC Copenhagen to play in Ukraine

Despite major security concerns FC Copenhagen is due to play against the Ukrainian team Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in eastern Ukraine in a Champions League qualification game. Uefa has so far failed to react to FC Copenhagen's request for the match to take place elsewhere. The social-liberal daily Politiken is annoyed: "Football is not politics, the association says. Yes, it's true that football is at best an apolitical meeting and acts as a link between nations. Danish clubs are quite happy to play against Ukrainian teams and other international teams any time in sports tournaments. But every now and then reality collides with the ideals and Uefa must understand this. ... It has already prevented the Russian and Ukrainian teams from playing against each other in the qualifying games - in reaction to the insecure situation and because this was the wish of those concerned. By the same token Uefa should now listen to the teams, which quite naturally have their concerns about security." (23/07/2014)

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