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Schäuble's plans to reform EU Commission

Schäuble is obviously critical that Commission President Juncker has had so much influence in the dispute over Greek debt. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has put forward proposals for reforming the European Commission. According to media reports he wants to strip it of powers such as budget supervision and antitrust monitoring and transfer them to other authorities. While some commentators see a politically independent economic administration as unrealistic others say the proposals could convince Britain to stay in the EU.

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Brussels, Berlin, or who wields the power?

Tensions are mounting between Berlin and Brussels and the two ambitious men Messrs. Schäuble and Juncker, notes the conservative Lidové noviny, which initially sides with the German finance minister: "He's absolutely right about one thing: the EU needs an antitrust authority that is independent of the Commission. Like the ECB, the supervision of fair competition should not be subject to political preferences. … Say, for example, the EU is dealing with the issue of energy security and has to formulate political objectives. Its priority will be less dependence on Russia. At the same time an investigation is underway into whether Gazprom is breaking the rules of competition. However Gazprom, like every other company, has the right to fair treatment and the EU is already having to refute suspicions that it is exploiting its powers for political ends. Both the EU and Germany have a role to play. But some powers should be in the hands of neither the EU nor Berlin." (31/07/2015)

Corriere della Sera - Italy

Monetary union unthinkable without political agenda

Wolfgang Schäuble's reform proposals are mainly aimed at putting core elements of the EU single market, such as antitrust law and budget monitoring, under the supervision of independent authorities. But Schäuble is wrong if he believes the political agenda can simply be made separate from the financial administration in Europe, points out the liberal conservative daily Corriere della Sera: "The argument Schäuble has presented for his project is crucial: EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was the candidate of the European People's Party in the European elections and he therefore has political legitimation and should not take on technical duties like the budget deficit or state debt supervision. … Berlin sees the prerequisites for the euro as technical specifications that must be adhered to under all circumstances, even if they directly affect the budgets of individual countries. … But it will be difficult to explain this to Renzi or Valls because both have anti-system parties that are determined to break with the euro breathing down their necks." (31/07/2015)

Der Tagesspiegel - Germany

Clearer distribution of powers

The EU and Eurozone need to divide powers more clearly between supranational institutions and national ones, writes the liberal-conservative Tagesspiegel commenting on the discussion about reforming the EU Commission: "The EU and Eurozone have reached the point where they must adjust their structures to the new reality. If the Commission wants to change roles from that of an authority to that of a government it must surrender powers that don't fit with government, such as legal supervision. A disentangling of powers with regard to EU affairs and issues that continue to be national affairs would also help keep the British in the EU. A Europe in which responsibilities are more clearly allocated wouldn't have to get out of the swamp because it wouldn't end up there in the first place." (30/07/2015)

Die Presse - Austria

Europe must end its shilly-shallying

The EU and its members must finally reach a decision on whether to create strong supranational institutions or transfer powers back to the nation states, demands the conservative daily Die Presse: "If the goal is a politically and economically strong Europe with a strong common currency, then a credible, democratically legitimised model with strong supranational institutions must be developed - and this approach must be made plausible to the people. Because Europe can't function against the will of the national populations. If this doesn't work, then the EU will have to start thinking about how to dismantle the monetary integration achieved so far in a way that causes as little damage as possible. With the consequence, of course, that a Europe of nation states will relapse into global insignificance, and not just economically. But to continue with the shilly-shallying we've had so far should not be an option." (30/07/2015)

POLITICS

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NRC Handelsblad - Netherlands

Quick alternative to MN17 tribunal needed

Russia blocked on Wednesday the establishment of an independent UN tribunal on the shooting down of passenger jet MH17. The Kremlin claimed that Moscow was trying to prevent the investigation from turning into a political show trial. An alternative must be found as quickly as possible, the liberal daily NRC Handelsblad admonishes: "All member states of the Security Council, including Russia, say that there can be no talk of the perpetrators going unpunished. The value of these nice words must be determined as soon as possible and another way found to get the MH17 tragedy dealt with by a court. This is important for the relatives of the victims. … But it is also important for the international legal system. The Netherlands must try to find an alternative as quickly as possible. And an international tribunal should be the preferred option. Suspicions of biases are best avoided if the judges' mandate is as international as possible." (31/07/2015)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

Putin securing his own power with veto

The veto against setting up a UN tribunal to investigate the crash of flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine is aimed at protecting President Vladimir Putin's power, the liberal-conservative Neue Zürcher Zeitung contends: "A credible tribunal that confirmed the suspicions that Russia was to blame for the crash would destroy the distorted view of the world conveyed by Russian television. And it would ultimately expose a far bigger lie of the Kremlin, namely the fairy tale that there were no Russian soldiers fighting in eastern Ukraine and that the conflict in Ukraine was simply a civil war. … Without the annexation of Crimea and the subsequent infiltration of Russian partisans in eastern Ukraine, that war would never have broken out and flight MH17 would never have been shot down. If the Russian people cottoned on, not only would President Putin's Ukraine adventure fail, but the power of his regime would be threatened." (30/07/2015)

Berlingske - Denmark

Erdoğan fights IS military more consistently

The US and Turkey have agreed on a joint strategy in the fight against the IS. The US can now use Nato's İncirlik base for air strikes, which will boost the alliance's strike force against the IS, stresses the liberal-conservative daily Berlingske: "Up to now the Turks had insisted on a clear US commitment to making Syria's dictator Assad disappear. … But the White House's top priority was the IS. This weakened Turkish-American cooperation and was the reason for the lack of a coordinated strategy on Nato's southern flank. President Erdoğan should not be underestimated. ... His main objective is still to eliminate Assad and the Kurdish terrorists. Whether two of the most important partners in the alliance will pursue a clearer strategy in the future remains uncertain. But the fact that the two countries have decided to fight the IS together is already progress." (29/07/2015)

Hürriyet Daily News - Turkey

Ankara's hypocrisy provokes PKK terror

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK has killed at least 12 Turkish police officers and soldiers in the last week, according to media reports. This is hardly surprising given that despite all its promises the AKP government has made barely any concessions to the Kurds in recent years, points out the liberal Hürriyet Daily News: "Knowing that there would be three elections in 2014-15, the government pretended that it wanted sustainable peace with the Kurds, while in fact privately aiming to keep the PKK 'inactive'. The more the hope of peace was kept alive, the more Kurdish votes for the government. Smart shot. But like all nice things, the plan had an expiry date. And not trusting Ankara (rightfully) the Kurds neither surrendered their influence on Turkey nor have they given up the fight. Hence the current mess." (31/07/2015)

Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Kiev desperately needs money for reforms

The Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk complained in an interview in mid-July that his country is being treated worse than Greece by international creditors. Yet in view of the threat from Russia, Kiev's reform efforts so far have been admirable, comments the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza: "The ambassadors of the EU and the US have already said that Kiev has made real progress on the reforms concerning the military, the financial sector and the fight against corruption. … Russia, which is constantly kicking up a stink politically, economically and militarily, remains the biggest threat to reforms in Ukraine. … There is the constant threat that the current break in the ceasefire in Donbas will turn into full-scale fighting once more. Then the reforms in Ukraine will be postponed again." (31/07/2015)

REFLECTIONS

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Sme - Slovakia

Matúš Krčmárik criticises verbal dehumanisation of refugees

The debate over the refugees in the Channel Tunnel is now marked by a dangerous choice of words, warns Matúš Krčmárik in the liberal daily Sme: "This dehumanisation is a step towards the 'final solution'. The Nazis caricatured the Jews, the Hutus called the Tutsis cockroaches. The genocide that followed began with words. … The fear of black people attacking 'decent Europeans' in the night is deeply rooted in many people's minds. When those 'decent Europeans' then see the pictures from Calais the question they naturally ask themselves is: 'Do we really want these people in our country?' … Those people are not clambering onto lorries out of summertime boredom. Of course there will be a few criminals among the refugees. But it is absurd to claim that tens of thousands of people are coming to Europe to rape the local women or burn down the churches. It is not nameless hordes who are jumping onto lorries, but people with a specific fate." (31/07/2015)

ECONOMY

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La Croix - France

France's nuclear era comes to an end

The French energy provider EDF is taking over the reactor division of the nuclear company Areva, the two state-controlled companies announced on Thursday in Paris. Areva made record losses last year so it desperately needs the money from the deal. The move heralds the end of France's nuclear era, the Catholic daily La Croix claims: "In the coming months the French state will decide to top up the company's capital by 5 billion euros to secure its future. The French taxpayer will have to foot the bill and will be right to rail against such incompetence. ... Against this background the law has started the countdown to less dependence on nuclear energy in France. … Areva's near bankruptcy coincides with the end of energy production based almost entirely on nuclear reactors. It has been ruled over by state consensus since the 1970s. That era is coming to an end." (30/07/2015)

Avvenire - Italy

Southern Italy must get back on its feet

The Association for Development in Mezzogiorno on Thursday warned of permanent underdevelopment in southern Italy. With a 9.4 percent negative growth in the last 15 years the region is worse off than Greece. The state has forgotten Mezzogiorno, but the region must also learn to help itself, warns the Catholic paper Avvenire: "The deficit must be remedied immediately. But to get out of a poverty trap you need a vision for the future. What future does the South have? History teaches us that the basic condition for developing a region is an understanding of its unique destiny. ... Development does not come from imitating others but from trying to make the best of what one has. An understanding of one's vocation, even economic vocation, requires a fresh view of things. It is vital to recognise a territory's unique qualities, its strengths and resources." (31/07/2015)

Duma - Bulgaria

Bulgarians overburdened by extortionate loans

Bulgarian money lenders have, according to recent figures, amassed around 500 million euros since the beginning of the year in toxic loans which were not paid back on time. In their desperation the impoverished Bulgarians will accept any terms just to get a bit of money, comments the left-wing daily Duma: "The place is crawling with loan sharks, with whose help people try to fill the holes in their household budgets before the end of the month. They tout their loans on every street corner, on the Internet and the phone. No place is safe from them. The interest they demand is often exorbitant even for the most paltry sums. Sometimes the interest is higher than the loan. Even after changes to the law, which were supposedly going to rein in these money lenders, their business continues to flourish. … And all the loan sharks live at our expense because we are poor and have the lowest wages in the EU." (31/07/2015)

SOCIETY

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Kaleva - Finland

Global population growth must be stemmed

According to a UN report presented on Wednesday the global population will swell to over 11 billion by the end of the century. It is high time we stemmed population growth, argues the liberal daily Kaleva: "There is simply not enough food for everyone, which means that large swaths of the global population will live in poverty. … Even more people will suffer from a shortage of space and clean water. If life and living on earth is going to be bearable in any way for the generations to come we must get a grip on population growth. … Developments in industrial countries show that it is possible to put the brakes on without resorting to the sort of measures practiced in China. More effective birth control means information about contraception and better access to contraception as well as educating women and improving the right to self-determination." (31/07/2015)

Göteborgs-Posten - Sweden

Sweden's openness is outdated

After a sharp rise in online identity theft the Swedish police have warned the public to better protect their private data. According to the investigation authorities one Swede in 150 was affected in 2014. Sweden's unwritten law of unlimited access to data should not become a self-service shop for criminals, warns the liberal daily Göteborgs-Posten: "A simple phone call to the tax authorities or a search on particular Internet sites is enough for anyone to access our personal numbers, addresses or finances. Technical developments have outrun the law. It is hopelessly incapable of taking action while the entire lives of victims can be destroyed. It is time to change the law - either by making all personal numbers anonymous or allowing people to make their own decisions about whether their personal data should be made public or not." (31/07/2015)

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