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Webcafé - Bulgaria | 23/01/2015

Romania fights corruption, Bulgaria doesn't

According to a current index by Transparency International, Bulgaria and Romania are the most corrupt countries in the EU. But unlike Bulgaria, Romania can point to impressive breakthroughs in the fight against corruption, the online portal Webcafé writes: "On paper Bulgaria has all the necessary means for fighting corruption. ... Yet not a single politician has been convicted. ... In the meantime on the other side of the Danube the Romanians, who've always been put in the same boat with us, have made huge progress in fighting corruption. Last year there were more than 280 convictions there. More than 4,000 new corruption proceedings have been initiated against executives and high-level bureaucrats. Five judges, three prosecutors, the ex-prime minister Adrian Nastase, the media mogul Dan Voiculescu - one of the richest men in Romania, four other ex-ministers, a former MEP and eleven mayors have been convicted, and some of them are now behind bars." (23/01/2015)

Neatkarīgā - Latvia | 23/01/2015

Latvia should give back Jewish property

Latvia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spoke out on Wednesday in favour of the return of property of Jewish organisations that has been in state hands since the end of World War II. The government had long argued that the process of re-privatising state property was concluded. Latvia has no alternative but to return the property, the national-conservative daily Neatkarīgā believes: "We should relax and accept the Ministry's proposal, because there are good reasons for it. The pressure on us will be maintained, and in the end we'll be obliged to give the property back anyway. ... We must also bear in mind our position in the world: we're simply not a major power and we can't dictate conditions to the US or Israel. ... In fact this only concerns five building proprietors. ... So our members of parliament will soon face a test of loyalty vis-à-vis their strategic friends." (23/01/2015)

Kapital - Bulgaria | 21/01/2015

Bulgarian drug boss buys his freedom

The Bulgarian drug boss Evelin Banev, who has been sentenced to 20 years in jail in Italy, has left the country. At the request of a court he was extradited to his home country and allowed to move around freely. Banev bought his way out of jail, the newspaper Kapital Daily is convinced: "According to the Italian authorities the former boxer directly supplied the Calabrian mafia with cocaine. ... The Bulgarian public prosecutors however didn't seem interested in that. Only recently it came to light that they had dropped the money laundering investigation [for which he was extradited to Bulgaria] against him on the quiet. ... Neither the name of the public prosecutor who 'pardoned' Banev nor his motives have been made public. The public prosecutor's office and the police remain silent on the affair. But even if they had anything to say in their defence it doesn't matter any more. It's clear that some officials are making a fortune out of this. And the EU monitoring report that is due next week will be unequivocal." (21/01/2015)

Público - Portugal | 21/01/2015

Pope must finally allow contraception

On the flight back from his Asia trip Pope Francis said that people didn't have to multiply uncontrolledly to be good Catholics. The pontiff should be more consistent, the liberal daily Público demands: "The pope was asked what he would say to a Catholic family which - because the Church forbids contraception - has more children than its budget allows for. In his simple language he said: 'Some people believe - pardon the expression - that we have to be like rabbits to be good Catholics. No. Responsible parenting is what we need.' His choice of words was surprising but unfortunately there's nothing new about this news ... And that's the problem. ... The Church still gives no answers to homosexual Catholics, those who don't want to have ten children or those who don't live monogamously. ... Francis shouldn't stop at just making lax statements." (21/01/2015)

Lietuvos Žinios - Lithuania | 20/01/2015

Lithuanians won't learn defence from books

The Lithuanian Ministry of Defence brought out a publication entitled How to act in extreme situations or instances of war at the start of January. The conservative daily Lietuvos žinios doubts the book can really help in a war situation: "This publication was presented as a 100-page booklet which focuses heavily on offering concrete practical advice on what to do if a war breaks out. Part of it is supposed to be 'useful in the event of a battle against an enemy using the methods of a so-called hybrid war'. So we'll whip our enemies with this booklet. ... Let's not be deceived. Books or practical advice won't help us to identify real threats and combat them if we can't overcome our internal fears. Because these are the biggest threat to us." (20/01/2015)

Postimees - Estonia | 19/01/2015

Tallinn goes solo on alcohol policy

The petrol station chain Statoil is suing the city of Tallinn because of new restrictions on the sale of alcohol. Under a resolution passed by the municipal authorities that takes effect on March 8, petrol stations will be banned from selling spirits. The city was not right to act on its own here, the liberal daily Postimees comments: "The Centre Party which shapes Tallinn's policies is putting the opposition in an impossible position. Banning or permitting the sale of alcohol is guaranteed to draw attention. This ploy was very successful last year. Drinking alcoholic beverages in public was allowed on the regional level but then banned again under pressure from Tallinn. Without doubt the City of Tallinn will be successful in pushing the public's interest in its upcoming legal confrontation with Statoil over corporate freedom. But it is reprehensible of the Centre Party to exploit the ban in the election campaign [ahead of the parliamentary election on March 1]. ... The state should listen to experts when it comes to alcohol policy and take a comprehensive approach here." (19/01/2015)

Dennik N - Slovakia | 19/01/2015

Freedom of opinion also holds for conservatives

The February referendum against extending family rights to same-sex couples instigated by the Slovakian pro-Church organisation Alliance for the Family has largely met with criticism in the country's media. But liberalism must learn to tolerate opposing views, the independent daily Dennik N admonishes: "After the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo there's been a lot of talk about defending freedom of speech. ... For that reason one can also expect that the Alliance for the Family should be able to publish an advertisement against the right of homosexuals to adopt children. The debate over freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones of liberalism. For a liberal it's very easy to demand freedom of expression for the Parisian authors of cartoons that criticise Islam. Apparently it's not as easy to support the Alliance for the Family. You don't have to share their views, but you do have to defend their right to express them." (19/01/2015)

Trud - Bulgaria | 15/01/2015

Bulgaria facing new series of mafia murders

Three entrepreneurs and a local authority official have been shot in the street in the last ten days in Bulgaria. Is this the start of another series of mafia contract killings like those in the years before the country joined the EU? asks the daily newspaper Trud: "From 1996 to 2006 there were a total of 111 contract killings in Bulgaria. ... However the gangster wars were succeeded by the economic crisis. The number of dead bodies has decreased. But if the dead of those days and the dead of today had a common gravestone it would be inscribed with the words: 'Murdered by an unknown killer'. Every crime leaves its tracks but there has to be someone who investigates them. An experienced policeman who has survived the many political cleanups in the police force; one who does his job and isn't afraid to lose it. And a clever prosecutor without ulterior motives or political ambitions, who is not involved in any intrigues. Such officials have become difficult to find. This doesn't bode well for us." (15/01/2015)

Spiegel Online - Germany | 15/01/2015

Western concept of Islam is pure fiction

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed in a government statement on Thursday that Islam belongs to Germany. But this debate is based on a fundamental mistake in reasoning, columnist Jakob Augstein writes on the website of news magazine Der Spiegel: "People are talking about these young criminals [in Paris] as if they were challengers on an equal standing with us. The West has practically welcomed these attackers with open arms. With astounding willingness we have accepted them as emissaries of their religion - and thus granted them their most fervent wish. ... But these are all fictions we are dealing with here. Because from Morocco to Indonesia there is no such thing as an Islam that is in any way homogeneous. But our public doesn't want to hear such things. And no matter how much effort is put into stressing that Islam belongs to Germany - as Angela Merkel has once again repeated - this will only have the opposite of the desired effect." (15/01/2015) - Spain | 15/01/2015

Paternity suit against ex-king admitted at last

Spain's highest court admitted one of two paternity suits against former King of Spain Juan Carlos on Wednesday. The fact that for years all paternity suits against Juan Carlos were rejected is proof that not all are equal before the law, Ignacio Escolar fumes in his blog with web portal "At least it seems certain now that Juan Carlos de Borbón will either have to take a DNA test or countersue. Finally, because the first paternity suits by these alleged children of his were rejected. The king enjoyed immunity, even for an affair that supposedly occurred before he became head of state, which didn't affect his official function and which robbed other citizens of their basic rights. It was necessary for Juan Carlos de Borbón to abdicate before a court could even examine the lawsuits. Despite what the [new] King [Felipe] said at Christmas, the law does not apply to everyone equally in Spain." (15/01/2015)

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