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Francis appeals to Europe's conscience

Francis's speech marks the first time a pope has addressed the EU Parliament since 1988. (© picture-alliance/dpa)


In view of the widespread poverty, unemployment and suffering of refugees, Pope Francis called on Europe to remember its fundamental values in an address to the EU Parliament on Tuesday. In Strasbourg the pontiff made an appeal for more European integration and encouraged politicians to believe in change, commentators write.

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

Pope spurs Union on towards a utopia

Europe should be thankful for Pope Francis's well-meant appeal, the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung comments: "The Pope did not speak as a politician or head of government. He made no comments on European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's tax-saving models, nor did he present an alternative to the Frontex operation in the Mediterranean; ... Francis, as the pope, spoke in terms of truths: refugees are drowning in the sea. People are being treated like goods and are just a nuisance when they don't function. The planet is being plundered. But precisely this made his message political: those who allow themselves to be moved by these truths won't find a moment's peace. ... But European politics, with all its steps forwards and steps backwards, needs the scraping of a utopia. ... This too was one of the Pope's messages to Europe: the terrible news of this year is not the whole truth. Europe and the world don't have to stay like they are now. Could there be any better consolation for Europe's politicians?" (26/11/2014)

Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Francis strengthens EU integration

Pope Francis has strengthened the idea of Europe with his first appearance before the European Parliament, the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza writes in delight: "The most important message of his visit was less his words than his very presence in the heart of the European Union. Of course John Paul II was the very first pope to address the European Parliament in 1988. However the relations between the EU and the Vatican steadily deteriorated thereafter. The Polish pope welcomed Poland's joining the EU but overall the Vatican has often been sceptical about the Union. ... One of the reasons was the dispute over whether the draft preamble of the EU constitution should contain the statement that the European Union has 'Christian values and roots'. ... And now Francis has clearly stressed that the Church supports European integration." (26/11/2014)

La Stampa - Italy

The world needs Europe more than ever

The Pope was right to remind Europe of its international responsibilities, the liberal daily La Stampa comments in praise: "Europe, before whom the Bishop of Rome spoke when he addressed the representatives of the continent's more than 500 million citizens, is no longer the centre of the world. It is a weary continent that has gone from being 'Mother Europe' to 'Grandmother Europe'. A continent that has not only lost its identity and Christian roots, but also seems to have forgotten the reasons for its unity - the very same reasons which have given nations and peoples who fought each other for centuries such a long period of peace. A Europe that is shirking its responsibility on the international stage, that is incapable of speaking with one voice and of using its diplomatic 'weapons' where necessary. ... Europe may no longer be the centre of the world. But the world needs Europe more than ever. The pope from Argentina reminded us of this yesterday." (26/11/2014)

La Croix - France

Human dignity must be central once more

Pope Francis appealed to Europe's historic responsibility in his speech on Tuesday. Europe can draw much strength from its rich history, the Catholic daily La Croix believes: "Above all he reminded his listeners of their historic responsibility: just as a tree needs a solid trunk and deep roots to grow, Europe needs a memory, courage, and a sound and humane utopian vision. … Europe can find in its cultural heritage the intellectual and spiritual resources it needs to face the challenges of the present: accepting migrants, poverty, unemployment and the solitude of the elderly. ... Many of these topics have to do with human dignity and an ideal inherent to European culture which has been profoundly shaped by Christianity, and which Europe must continue to defend if it is to remain true to its universal vocation." (25/11/2014)


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Slobodna Dalmacija - Croatia

Ferguson: American dream only for the rich

Rioting broke out again in the US city of Ferguson on Tuesday after a grand jury's decision not to indict the white policeman who shot a black teenager in August. But the reasons for the protests go deeper, the liberal daily Slobodna Dalmacija warns: "Without prospects of work or education a critical mass of disenfranchised Afro-American teenagers is emerging that won't be appeased by empty promises of formal human rights any longer. The American system allows only a handful of Afro-Americans to achieve superstar status in sport, the media or showbusiness, thus confirming the maxim of American society: only the rich can secure all human rights for themselves. In this system ethnic minorities are relegated to the fringes of society. ... Where the American dream ends, the nightmares of poverty begin." (26/11/2014)

Respekt - Czech Republic

Ukraine's neutrality doomed due to Russia

Czech President Miloš Zeman said on Tuesday that the "Finlandisation" of Ukraine was desirable, meaning that the country should play the role of a neutral bridge between East and West. Nothing but a sham, the liberal weekly paper Respekt writes on its website: "Our own history clearly shows that the attempt to build a bridge between East and West can only lead to a political tragedy. The last one to come up with such an idea was former Czechoslovakian president Edvard Beneš, and we paid for it with 40 years of our freedom. For a simple reason: unlike the West, the East builds bridges solely to gain access to foreign territory. Who would guarantee the security of the Ukrainians? No one. Just as no one guaranteed it after they gave up their nuclear weapons in 1994 in exchange for the promise that no one would violate their territorial integrity. And who violated it? The East." (26/11/2014)

Lietuvos rytas - Lithuania

Grybauskaitė's mistaken anti-Russian polemic

The president of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė, described Russia as a terrorist state in a radio interview last week. Lithuania's politicians and media suspect this is the reason why border checks for Lithuanians entering the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad have become more stringent since Sunday. The liberal daily Lietuvos rytas also takes the view that the president's rhetoric is inappropriate: "Grybauskaitė is probably right about Russia bearing the characteristics of a terrorist state. But for someone who is the leader of a country and not just a loudmouth in parliament it would be appropriate for example to talk about how not just Lithuania but the West as a whole, of which Lithuania is now part, should behave towards this state. ... However this would be serious politics, requiring time and effort. Why bother with all that when you can just shout out loud to show how cool you are?" (26/11/2014)

i - Portugal

Sócrates case a chance for a new start

Portugal's former prime minister José Sócrates has been remanded in custody since Monday on charges of corruption. His detention is aimed at preventing any interference with the ongoing investigations, the media report citing the legal authorities. This is a unique opportunity to regenerate the system and declare war on illegal enrichment, the liberal daily i writes commenting on the arrest: "From now on the leading parties must make much higher demands on their leaders. ... They must prevent illegal party financing and corruption from influencing the way public interests are handled, and they must stop public servants from lining their pockets to the detriment of the country's politics. ... For now Sócrates is only under suspicion and the presumption of innocence applies. But his custody marks an end to the impunity that many high-ranking party figures have enjoyed in the last forty years." (25/11/2014)

Magyar Nemzet - Hungary

Orbán can still turn the mood around in Hungary

Hungary's right-wing conservative ruling party Fidesz lost two constituencies to the opposition in a by-election on Sunday. The voters may be unhappy with the government right now but Prime Minister Victor Orbán will be able to turn the mood to his favour once more, the conservative daily Magyar Nemzet believes: "In the parliamentary elections in April the voters gave the government the green light to continue its work. In other words, the mood was not one of protest. Right now it looks like people are unhappy with the government. Many voters want to teach Fidesz a lesson. But the ruling party can still turn the mood around and correct its mistakes. ... The mood of protest could be beneficial for all the political movements provided they are capable of recognising and understanding it." (26/11/2014)


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Cinco Días - Spain

Juncker's plan requires more public funding

The investment plan of new EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker aims to use 21 billion euros in EU subsidies to generate several times that amount in private investments and boost the economy by 315 billion euros in total. But without more support from the national budgets the project is doomed to failure, the left-liberal daily Cinco Días fears: "Since in most cases the money will go into financing extremely expensive public infrastructure projects it will be difficult to find investors unless the governments of the individual states pledge additional public funding. The estimated multiplying effect of the start-up funding appears so exaggerated. ... For this reason the summit on December 18th and 19th which will decide the fate of Juncker's plans must provide additional financial resources." (26/11/2014)

Contrepoints - France

Meek politicians water down French reforms

According to a report published in the German news magazine Der Spiegel, the French government plans to freeze wages and make the 35-hour week more flexible. The liberal online magazine Contrepoints fears that even these measures won't do enough: "It's sad to say, but the future of our country depends on just how well these measures are implemented. If there is much progress it will be because despite all the friction, groaning and opposition in the country, the government and some members of parliament take the necessary steps. ... If there is little progress, if it all comes down to pushing things forward millimetre by millimetre as with all the magnificent reforms to date, it will be further proof of the total lack of courage and conviction on the part of our leaders and the political apparatus." (25/11/2014)

Neatkarīgā - Latvia

EU Commission leaves dairy farmers in the lurch

Latvia's dairy farmers are suffering losses of at least 10,000 euros per month as a result of the Russian import ban, the national-conservative daily Neatkarīgā writes, expressing disappointment that the new Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has only offered them roughly eight million euros in financial assistance although his predecessor spoke of 20 million: "This should be a lesson to us: the new EU Commission bears no responsibility for the promises given by its predecessors. ... The consequences for farmers are grave indeed. ... Some will be forced to cut their spending or even have some of their animals slaughtered. ... On the other hand, Latvia has no moral right to demand more compensation than other EU member states. After all, we were one of the six EU countries that called for tougher sanctions against Russia in November." (25/11/2014)


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Taraf - Turkey

Turkey must penalise anti-Semitism

The governor of the western Turkish city of Edirne announced last Friday that after renovation the city's synagogue will no longer be a house of prayer but a museum. Justifying the decision he cited his 'hatred' of Israel's role in recent clashes with Palestinians on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Such statements are unforgivable, the liberal daily Taraf writes in outrage: "The governor of Edirne, Dursun Şahin,should be dismissed immediately. ... Since he has not proved circumspect enough to resign of his own accord, the government must at least make it clear that it does not endorse this crime by sacking him. Otherwise it will bear partial responsibility. ... Just who does this governor think he is to classify the people of Turkey according to their origins, and on top of that to strip them of their right to worship? Imagine if Muslims were prevented from visiting the mosque in a Christian city due to 'anger' over the IS militias or al-Qaeda. How would we react?" (26/11/2014)

Aftonbladet - Sweden

Begging ban won't alleviate poverty in Sweden

The growing number of beggars on Sweden's streets has prompted the Conservatives and right-wing populist Sweden Democrats to resume the debate about a ban on begging. But that won't solve the problem of poverty which affects above all Roma immigrants, the left-liberal daily Aftonbladet argues: "Banning poverty was no solution 100 years ago and it's no solution today. We didn't pull our country out of poverty by calling the police, but with social reforms, education and housing. ... Several issues must be resolved for EU migrants. The large sums of money currently being spent on forced evacuations could be used to build housing. And Sweden should insist on cooperation with Romania. ... Sweden has much experience with development aid around the world. Even though Romania belongs to the EU, this experience should be put to use." (26/11/2014)

Blog Ivo Indjev - Bulgaria

Bulgaria's police monitor each other

At least two patrol cars are to be present during traffic checks in Bulgaria in future and one officer is to film events to avoid cases of corruption, Interior Minister Veselin Vuchkov announced on Tuesday. Just who's protecting whom, Ivo Indjev asks in his blog: "It's strange that police officers are being mobilised not to fight hardened criminals but to watch over their colleagues who would otherwise be too prone to corruption. ... The police is protecting us from the police! But I wonder: how can we be sure that the police who film their colleagues aren't just as corrupt? Or that there is even a single incorruptible police officer whom the others fear and would be ashamed to have him see them taking bribes from drivers?" (26/11/2014)

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