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NRC Handelsblad - Netherlands | 23/04/2014

Paedophiles have right to form associations

The highest court in the Netherlands banned the paedophile association Martijn on Friday. But bans are the wrong way to take action against paedophiles, the liberal daily NRC Handelsblad criticises: "In a free society it must be possible for people with undesirable, shocking and even harmful outlooks to form associations - as long as the members' goals and activities remain within the framework of the law. ... As a matter of principle, the courts should not infringe on basic rights like the freedom of association. The balance between civil freedoms and criminal obligations is valuable, and the difference minimal. And there's a point to that. In a free society, the legality, and consequently also the visibility, of groups with undesirable ideas and activities can be useful. That puts a large responsibility on society, which can then demonstrate its powers of resistance." (23/04/2014)

Duma - Bulgaria | 23/04/2014

Same rights and obligations also for Roma

Illegal buildings in Bulgaria's biggest Roma neighbourhood Stolipinovo are to be torn down on Friday and the inhabitants resettled in other areas, the city of Plovdiv announced on Tuesday. The socialist daily Duma calls for a consistent Roma policy: "If this is supposed to be a state policy on Roma, so be it. But then the state should do the same in all other parts of the country. ... Before it resettles the Roma from the ghettos in new flats, it should make up for what it has neglected to do for them in terms of education, work and legislation. The Roma must not be discriminated against, but they must also not be given preferential treatment. The state must establish clear rules for them, and not budge an inch. In that way the Roma will have the same rights but also the same obligations as all Bulgarians. Everyone must abide by the law and know that if they don't, they can be held liable." (23/04/2014)

Ilkka - Finland | 22/04/2014

Actionism not the answer after plane crash

Eight parachutists died in Finland when their plane crashed on Sunday, while three others survived. The accident has deeply saddened the country. The liberal daily Ilkka nevertheless warns against the hasty introduction of regulations governing air sports: "Discussions with the survivors have not yet clarified what happened in the plane at the time of the accident, when all eleven people were still on board. It's important to find this out. A technical failure doesn't make it any easier to bear a fatal accident, but any defects that are discovered can in future be predicted and remedied. Of course air sports are risky. But stricter regulations must be discussed in depth, and be based on facts. Otherwise they won't be able to prevent similar accidents from happening in the future." (22/04/2014)

Veidas - Lithuania | 21/04/2014

Lithuania still has no EU strategy

In its issue marking the tenth anniversary of Lithuania's joining the EU, the weekly magazine Veidas published interviews with opinion makers. In view of the Ukraine crisis, they paint a frightening picture of Lithuania's EU strategy, chief editor Evaldas Labanauskas writes in dismay: "What has Europe given us and what have we brought to Europe? An even more difficult question: what can Lithuania expect from the future? ... Although it is very unpleasant to hear, most of those interviewed admit that Lithuania has no clear goals. The result: developments here are marked by chaos and the lack of any strategy whatsoever. The absence of a clear direction is particularly dangerous, especially in these times where state sovereignty is at risk, since the borders of Europe are being shifted and one country is telling another what to do as if this state were merely one of its provinces." (21/04/2014)

Politiken - Denmark | 22/04/2014

Snowden's revelations outweigh Putin show

US Whistleblower Edward Snowden made a video appearance on Thursday in a televised call-in show with Russian President Vladimir Putin. For the left-liberal daily Politiken this controversial appearance does not diminish the significance of Snowden's revelations: "The world is better prepared for discussions on the power of the state, the rights of the individual and the balance between private life and security. Even if we believe that more surveillance is good for overarching goals. Not only can the question of whether Snowden is clean or dirty hardly be answered, it is also increasingly irrelevant. The decisive thing is that the opportunity should be taken to protect the fundamental rights of democratic debate and integrity in a world where perhaps there will be hardly any private sphere left at all." (22/04/2014)

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)

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