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SOCIETY

De Volkskrant - Netherlands | 17/04/2014

Social benefits only after language test

Those who can't speak any Dutch after spending a year in the Netherlands may see their social benefits reduced under draft legislation presented in the Dutch parliament on Wednesday. The law will turn into a farce, columnist Bert Wagendorp comments derisively in the left-liberal daily De Volkskrant: "The local authorities are supposed to monitor the linguistic progress made by social benefit claimants who speak broken Dutch? It looks like we're in for a few laughs. Already the local authorities are supposed to make sure such claimants don't mess up their chances of getting a job by wearing crazy clothes, using bad language, behaving inappropriately and the like. ... If the law goes into effect on 1 January 2015, the already impenetrable bureaucracy will only grow and lead to enormous arbitrariness. This appears to be another of those laws with which the ruling parties are trying to keep [right-wing populist] Wilders at arm's length." (17/04/2014)

Jyllands-Posten - Denmark | 17/04/2014

Summer home provision shows Danish duplicity

In view of the stagnating Danish real estate market, several mayors are calling for a special provision that prevents non-Danish EU citizens from purchasing summer homes in the country to be abolished. The liberal business paper Jyllands-Posten is annoyed that the initiative is being resisted by self-interested citizens: "Are there no bounds to the duplicity? ... What next? Will foreigners have to sell their houses when the crisis ends and the Danes once more want to buy a holiday home? The Danes must show once and for all that they are true EU citizens, and say goodbye to all special rules and exemptions. If they don't want to, the logical consequence is for us to leave the EU, from which a duplicitous Denmark clearly only wants to reap benefits." (17/04/2014)

Dagens Nyheter - Sweden | 17/04/2014

Jokes about Christians also offensive

The Swedish supermarket chain ICA has stopped airing a pre-Easter commercial in which a group of people gathered around a table make tasteless jokes about the Last Supper. Writing in the liberal daily Dagens Nyheter columnist Erik Helmerson wishes his countrymen were more sensitive to the feelings of Christians: "It makes me a little sad to see how carelessly some people - in this case one of our best-known companies - offend Sweden's Christians. ... When it comes to Islam or the Jewish faith, a little more thought is put into whether one really wants to offend religious feelings just for the sake of selling a few more lamb steaks. I wish a similar discussion took place when it comes to using Christian themes for marketing. Jokes about offended Christians aren't that much funnier than jokes about offended Muslims or Jews." (17/04/2014)

Rzeczpospolita - Poland | 16/04/2014

The Gothenburg model: Work less, achieve more

The city of Göteborg has agreed to let the staff at a care home for the elderly work six hours per day instead of eight, for the same salary. The aim is to reduce the number of staff that take sick leave and thus cut costs. The conservative daily Rzeczpospolita praises the project: "The Swedes have rightly recognised that the number of work hours does not automatically reflect the efficiency of the work. ... According to an OECD study the Greeks work on average 2,000 hours per year, while the Germans work 1,400. But the Germans are 70 percent more efficient. Consequently the number of hours worked is not decisive. What's important is good work organisation. And when the staff are well rested and satisfied, they work better as well. Unfortunately many employers haven't yet understood this." (16/04/2014)

Eesti Päevaleht - Estonia | 15/04/2014

Protection for gays spreading towards Russia

The Estonian parliament will deliberate this week for the first time on a new partnership law that would significantly bolster the rights of same-sex couples. As of yet the country has not introduced gay marriages or registered partnerships. The liberal daily Eesti Päevaleht calls for the law to be passed quickly so as to clearly distance the country from Russian conservatism: "The example of Russia is no coincidence. Russia's ideological confrontation [vis-à-vis Western values] is necessary to justify the declaration of war made to the West in Ukraine. This fight is not just about territories, but also about values. ... In this light the decision to quickly pass the partnership law has become all the more pressing. ... The new law will give a feeling of inner security that Estonia will protect the family and love in all areas of society. This will allow us to draw a clear moral line of demarcation between us and the Kremlin, one which is lacking today." (15/04/2014)

The Malta Independent - Malta | 14/04/2014

Gay marriage historic decision for Malta

The Maltese government passed legislation for the introduction of registered partnerships and adoption rights for gay couples on Monday. For the liberal-conservative daily The Malta Independent this step was long overdue: "One of the memes doing the rounds on the social media goes along the lines that being angry at the introduction of same sex marriage is akin to being angry at someone buying a doughnut because you are on a diet. It sums it up perfectly. ... People in same sex relationships have as much right to be legally recognised as a partnership - from each and every aspect, whether it is joint property, hospital bedside rights, or even just the stability that it brings. Perhaps in the not so distant future, we might even see it being changed in name from civil union, to plain and simple gay marriage; and why on earth not?" (14/04/2014)

Ziare - Romania | 14/04/2014

Romanians prefer Ceauşescu to today's elite

According to a recent survey, 66 percent of Romanians would vote for the former communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu in the presidential elections slated for next November if they could. People have above all fond memories of a certain restraint on the part of the potentate, the news portal Ziare explains: "Yes, the nomenklatura in the party and secret service was privileged. The gap between it and normal citizens was enormous. But it didn't make a huge display of its power. If you listen to statements from back then you realise that those in power, the big corrupt players, were afraid to be ostentatious. ... Can anyone imagine any of the party bigwigs heading off to Madagascar or Rio in the public eye? Or one of them owning seven apartments? Or turning up to every party function in luxury cars like they do nowadays? These differences between the privileged and the pariahs, which in reality are no bigger than they were before 1989, are more obvious and obtrusive nowadays." (14/04/2014)

Taraf - Turkey | 11/04/2014

Turkey's misguided approach to its history

After ten months of constant renovation, the entrance gate to the University of Istanbul has been reopened. The original symbol - a Sultan's signature which was replaced by a sign with the words "Turkish Republic" in 1933 - has been remounted at the centre of the arch. The liberal daily Taraf criticises the way Turkey deals with its history: "Only last week, the 800-year-old priests' room in the church that was converted into the Vefa Kilise Mosque was redesigned as a toilet. This is the clearest sign of the Islamic-conservative mentality in Turkey and its view of history. ... It is really very difficult to live with the 'Turkish Republic' signs that brutally blot out a centuries-old history. But it is just as difficult to live with the Sultans' signatures that are reappearing in the context of a 'New Ottomanism'." (11/04/2014)

Berlingske - Denmark | 11/04/2014

Alcohol consumption a private matter

Copenhagen and other Danish municipalities have announced that they will respond to high alcohol consumption with so-called "front workers". Working in daycares, they are to single out and provide counselling to parents who are at risk of alcoholism. The liberal-conservative daily Berlingske rejects the idea: "The whole thing smacks of totalitarianism and brings back dark memories of East German society, precisely now as we prepare to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. ... We don't doubt that the idea is inspired by good intentions. But there is no reason for normal, respectable citizens to come under suspicion and have to justify their behaviour to community workers responsible for investigating people's private lives. How much you drink is your business and no one else's." (11/04/2014)

Polityka Online - Poland | 11/04/2014

All parties capitalising on Smolensk

The conservative Polish government and the national-conservative opposition party PiS each organised their own commemorative ceremonies to mark the fourth anniversary of the Smolensk plane crash. Both are at pains to keep the memory of the tragedy alive simply because they can capitalise on it politically, the left-liberal news portal Polityka Online surmises: "The PiS leader [Kaczyński] may have stopped talking about an attack. ... But he continues to hint at chummy relations between [Polish Prime Minister Donald] Tusk and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. For the opposition the Smolensk tragedy has been an inexhaustible source of emotions, suspicions and accusations that it will never give up. There is not a single fact that it doesn't question. And for the government this is also useful because it makes the PiS look like a pack of troublemakers and fanatics. ... Therefore both sides have an interest in keeping the subject on the agenda." (11/04/2014)


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