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Is Athens provoking a "Graccident"?

According to media reports Prime Minister Tsipras has put a muzzle on Finance Minister Varoufakis on the grounds that he is giving too many interviews. (© picture-alliance/dpa)


Despite the agreement with its creditors, the Greek government has questioned the repayment of government bonds and once again tabled the option of a debt cut. Athens' irresponsible behaviour will have it thrown out of the Eurozone, some commentators fear. Others believe Greece is simply a good negotiator.

Proto Thema - Greece

Be careful to avoid a "Graccident"

Europe must avoid developments that could lead to a "Graccident" - Greece exiting the Eurozone for unpredictable political reasons -, journalist Vasilis Stefanikidis warns in the online edition of the liberal weekly newspaper Proto Thema: "If the government can't convince the creditors' representatives that it is able to implement reforms that immediately bring money into its coffers, I fear we could well be heading for a 'Graccident'. ... The political decisions that have been taken are good and legitimate, but we can safely assume that the creditors have already run out of patience. They're tired of hearing theories and seeing draft laws that don't replenish the treasury but even cost money instead." (05/03/2015) - Spain

More courageous than Madrid and Lisbon

Instead of complaining about the Greek government Portugal and Spain should copy Athens's successful negotiation tactics, the left-wing web portal admonishes: "It's clear that the new Greek government hasn't achieved what it had set out to do. But it's also clear that it has secured better conditions to pursue a policy that is at least a little less unjust. This may seem trivial to our insatiable masters and their politicians but for many people it means nothing other than food on the table, a roof over their heads, health insurance and education. It's as simple as that. Why don't the Portuguese and Spanish governments follow this example even though many of their citizens are suffering? Why are they instead torpedoing the Greeks' negotiations ?" (05/03/2015)

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

Athens unaware of its self-imposed isolation

Greece is doing its best to offend the Euro Group countries, the left-liberal Süddeutsche Zeitung writes and sees a Grexit as more likely for political than for economic reasons: "The Euro Group is more united than ever against the new Greek government, which refuses to see its self-imposed isolation. The outburst against the southern member states has shown that Greece's exit from the euro is no longer a matter of economic strategy - the danger of contagion is small, the collateral damage is probably controllable. Greece's future will be decided on the political level. ... One simple equation holds here: Athens can no longer expect help if the political price is unbearably high for the other euro states. If Greece strains the good will of its EU partner governments to such an extent that it only strengthens parties like Front National or Alternative for Germany or the Podemos movement the friendship will come to an end." (04/03/2015)

Jyllands-Posten - Denmark

Greece comes across as entirely unreliable

In the negotiations on further financial aid the Greek government has shown little diplomatic skill, the liberal-conservative daily Jyllands-Posten writes, pointing out that like other countries Greece too must work seriously on its reforms: "To be fair it must be said that it's not just Prime Minister Tsipras and Finance Minister Varoufakis who are pursuing irresponsible policies in Greece. Both the social democratic and the conservative governments that came before them are guilty of scandalous management of the country. ... But Tsipras and Varoufakis are continuing this madness. Greece is not the only EU member in difficulties. But on the whole all the other countries - from Ireland to Portugal to the Baltic states - have focussed on getting their affairs in order, effectively and with dignity. Athens has failed to do so, although that's the least that could have been expected of it in polite society." (05/03/2015)


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Dennik N - Slovakia

Nuclear deal Obama's last foreign policy chance

US President Obama has voiced his annoyance over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's criticism of the nuclear talks before the US Congress. He pointed out that Netanyahu hadn't presented any alternatives to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb. The daily Dennik N comments on the dispute: "Obama has been forced into the very dubious deal with Iran for egoistic reasons. Compared to all the hope he inspired he hasn't got much to show for himself. Worst of all is his performance on foreign policy. His restart policy in US relations with Russia has been drowned in Ukrainian blood. So far the agreement with Cuba is only making life easier for the dictatorship there. A deal with Iran is Obama's last chance to prove his worth in foreign policy. And it looks like the price he is willing to pay for that deal will mean Israel and the US's other allies in the Middle East lose out in terms of national security." (05/03/2015)

Sözcü - Turkey

Peace process leads to division of Turkey

Together with the HDP - which has close ties to the country's Kurdish population - the Turkish government presented a ten-point plan for a peace agreement with the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK on Saturday. That can only destroy Turkey's unity, the Kemalist daily Sözcü warns: "Don't be fooled by statements that there will be a new constitution or that the power of regional authorities will be strengthened. They only serve as the introduction to a process that will lead first to the strengthening of the provinces, then to a provisional federal state, and finally to some of our provinces in the east and southeast joining a greater Kurdistan. Forget all the fine words: this is the ultimate goal that this package of measures will lead to. And the most important step in this process is the liberation of [PKK leader] Öcalan and his entry in politics." (05/03/2015)

Postimees - Estonia

Estonia's neo-Nazi image only good for Russia

The Estonian Reform Party has broken off its coalition negotiations with the Conservative People's Party, which has made it into parliament for the first time. Already conspicuous for its far-right rhetoric, the People's Party is now in the spotlight over a blog entry in which one of its MPs praises the economic policies of Nazi Germany. The loss of esteem for Estonia is immense, the liberal daily Postimees fears: "There is one particularly objectionable aspect to the story of the 'positive side' of Nazism expressed by the newly elected MP Jaak Madison: the whole thing fits in perfectly with the image of Estonia as depicted by the Russian media. ... If one wants one can present Estonia as a country in which Nazi torchlight processions take place on a daily basis. And we've been seeing on television for a year now what such a portrayal can lead to." (05/03/2015)

Diário Económico - Portugal

Portugal's cheating PM should go

Portugal's Prime Minister Passos Coelho, who is cracking down hard on tax evasion and abuses of the welfare system, has admitted that he himself omitted to pay social security contributions for years - supposedly unintentionally. The prime minister has lost face for good, the liberal business paper Diário Económico believes: "'Omissions' of this type undermine the moral authority of any office holder. And they're particularly harmful in the context of this government's much-loved moral discourse on respecting financial obligations [vis-à-vis Europe]. ... Such behaviour also clashes with the ruthless treatment of thousands of people by the Finance Ministry and the social security system at a time when belts are having to be cinched tighter. In countries with an exacting political culture like in northern Europe, such 'omissions' cost politicians their jobs." (04/03/2015)


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New Statesman - United Kingdom

Jana Bakunina on Putin's unbroken hold on power

After the killing of the Russian regime critic Boris Nemtsov, journalist Jana Bakunina explains in the left-leaning weekly magazine New Statesman why the Russian population is so staunch in its support for Vladimir Putin: "Putin has demonstrated his dedication to addressing the values Russians care about most: the integrity of their country, its sphere of influence in international relations, and its ability to withstand the US dictating its policies to the world at large. … Russian people have survived many periods of hardship since the Mongol invasion in the 13th century, which destroyed its peace, independence, culture and cities ... It is perhaps this early history, as well as the civil war after the Bolshevik Revolution, the famine that followed, the Second World War and the Stalinist repressions, which indicates that Russian tolerance for austerity is higher than in the western world. Russians do not seek prosperity but stability. They are less concerned with individual freedom than with the collective sense of status and integrity. Spanning both European and Asian continents, Russia has inherited the Eastern sense of community, attitude of acceptance and predisposition towards authoritarian government." (04/03/2015)


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Rzeczpospolita - Poland

Polish farmers shrug off Putin's cheese embargo

Two weeks ago Russia extended its embargo on imports of Polish food to include cheese products. This shouldn't pose too much of a problem for the Poles because since the start of the import bans in 2014 they've found alternative markets, the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita believes: "Sales of our products to Africa almost doubled last year. And we're sending a growing number of goods to Asia - to China, Japan and South Korea, but also to Turkey, which is closer geographically and therefore a promising market. Furthermore we've been able to greatly expand the number of exports to the European markets, although the competition is stiff. Consequently the impact of the embargo has not been so drastic. Above all it hurts the Russian economy, which according to the latest figures slumped by 1.5 percent in January." (05/03/2015)

MK Latvija - Latvia

Latvia won't gain anything from Rail Baltica

The multinational RB Rail submitted the papers outlining the financing of the planned express railway link Rail Baltica to the European Commission at the end of February. The Russian-language daily MK Latvija asks what Latvia stands to gain from the project: "No one knows where the freight that is already being planned for is supposed to come from. The Baltic economy is not in a position to produce so much for export to the West. ... Most of the goods crossing the Baltic region are going from west to east, not from north to south. In economic terms only the transport from Finland to Germany is worthwhile. And the sea route may be slower in many places, but it's also cheaper. With most business deals nowadays price is the main factor, not speed." (04/03/2015)

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Stronger euro depends on the Fed

The euro hit its lowest exchange rate against the dollar in eleven years on Wednesday. Whether this trend can be stopped will depend above all on the US's central bank, the Fed, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore contends: "The Fed has 'patience' [as regards the move away from a lax monetary policy - quote from Fed chief Janet Yellen at the end of February]. But sooner or later it will raise the base interest rate. The ECB, on the other hand, will keep buying government bonds until September 2016 in a bid to increase the amount of money - of euros that is - on offer. So everything depends on how much 'sooner or later' the Fed raises the interest rate. ... There are many indications that the dollar will keep on rising and the euro going down. Unless - and this is far from inconceivable - the hidden goal of protecting the US currency resurfaces in the Fed's corridors. This goal led to the Fed's easing of monetary policy in 2008 and had disastrous consequences." (05/03/2015)


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NRC Handelsblad - Netherlands

Stingy local authorities compromising home care

Dutch local authorities pay far less for domestic help for the elderly and disabled than it actually costs, a study published on Wednesday shows. The local authorities only care about money, the liberal daily NRC Handelsblad complains: "Blessed are the countries where most of the costs of domestic help for the elderly and the disabled are paid by the government - like the Netherlands, for example. This is not to be taken for granted. ... The market is under pressure with many bankruptcies and the pitiful legal position of home help personnel. The simple reason is that the local authorities want to pay less for domestic help than it really costs. The price is more important than the quality. ... For the people, however, good quality home care is a priority. The local authorities must take this into account. Decent service standards and a respectable legal position for providers must be the starting point here." (05/03/2015)


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Népszabadság - Hungary

Extension of advertising tax weakens Hungary's press

The right-wing conservative government under Viktor Orbán is planning to extend its advertising tax to all media companies in Hungary. Until now government-critical television broadcaster RTL Klub has been virtually the only company affected by the tax. According to the left-liberal daily Népszabadság, this represents another government assault on press freedom: "Without the measures doing anything to ease the burden on the Hungarian budget the government is worsening the situation of the media industry, which is already facing huge difficulties. ... Like the media laws passed in 2010, the advertising tax only serves the authoritarian ambitions of the Orbán government. With this move the government is stripping the media sector of indispensable resources. That in turn will increase the media's dependence on state funds on the one hand and weaken quality journalism on the other. Fidesz's advertising tax is a further attack on press freedom in Hungary." (04/03/2015)

Ziare - Romania

Blackmail journalism commonplace in Romania

Dan Diaconescu, a Romanian ex-politician and once a prominent media entrepreneur, was sentenced to over five years in jail on Wednesday. He was charged with threatening to publish compromising reports about a local politician and a businessman if they failed to pay hush money. The case is symptomatic of journalism in the country, journalist Ioana Ene Dogioiu laments on the web portal Ziare: "The phenomenon of blackmail is more widespread than we care to admit. It is part of the steady and dramatic decline of the Romanian media landscape. The verdict handed down against Dan Diaconescu is also a condemnation of a completely false understanding of journalism, which has become an instrument for blackmail aimed at furthering political and economic careers. ... This judgement encourages hopes for a recovery of the Romanian press, which is now hardly better than the political class it should be reporting on in a truthful and respectable way - in the public interest." (04/03/2015)

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