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Večernji List - Croatia | 21/11/2014

Serbia must also impose sanctions on Russia

Johannes Hahn, the new EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement, visited Serbia on his first official foreign trip. He called on the country's politicians to join the EU in its policy of sanctions against Russia. As an accession candidate Serbia should take the call seriously, but Serbian Prime Minister Vučić is once again trying to square the political circle, the conservative daily Večernji List criticises: "Vučić deserves the Nobel Prize in Mathematics for this masterpiece. He maintains he's found a formula that will allow Serbia to move westward and respect Ukraine's territorial integrity while at the same time not having to impose sanctions on Russia. But such a luxury was formerly only granted the non-allied Yugoslavia. A country that wants to be a full member of the EU must also adhere to the common foreign policy. It's open to discussion whether this policy towards Russia is sensible, nevertheless it has to be followed by all member states." (21/11/2014)

Večer - Slovenia | 21/11/2014

Western complacency provokes Putin

The Maidan uprising in Kiev against then president Viktor Yanukovych began a year ago. Today there is still no sign of an end to the crisis in Ukraine, the conservative daily Večer fears: "The Ukraine conflict has become a trial of strength between the West and the East. Russia under Putin's rule is not reviving the Soviet empire, as some fear, but Putin's interference in the conflict conveys the image of Russia as a superpower. ... Putin says he doesn't want a new cold war although in other ways he is provoking it. The Western states are helping him do this with their clumsy diplomacy. In their complacency they failed to recognise the dimensions of the Ukraine crisis and understand Russia's way of thinking. ... The only clever solution would be negotiations between the Ukrainian government, pro-Russian rebels, Russia and the West. But there's still a long way to go before that happens." (21/11/2014)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic | 21/11/2014

Zeman pushing Czech Republic eastward

The Czech ambassador in Kiev was summoned to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on Thursday to explain repeated pro-Moscow comments made by Czech President Miloš Zeman. At the same time top US politicians in Washington warned Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka against turning his back on the human rights policies of Václav Havel. The conservative daily Lidové noviny is also concerned: "It was Havel who taught us to respect freedom; his policies had a moral dimension. Thanks to his principles we live in a secure, free and prosperous society today. ... But this position is by no means automatic. The consensus that existed under Havel has been shattered. Now there are two conflicting directions. The disputes this gives rise to will be decisive for the Czech Republic. Zeman and his comrades are dragging us back into the civilisational lowlands of the East from which we freed ourselves a quarter of a century ago." (21/11/2014) - Romania | 21/11/2014

Moldova an immature democracy

The Republic of Moldova will elect a new parliament on November 30. Recent opinion polls put the Communist Party in the lead ahead of the pro-European parties. The fragmentation of the party landscape portends a difficult government building process, Romanian political scientist Valentin Naumescu fears on the blog Contributors: "23 parties running in this election is simply too many for such a small state. ... It's time the political leaders in Chişinău thought seriously about joining forces - and avoiding a situation where everyone wants to play the boss. The present situation just shows how democratically immature this region still is. ... At the same time it's still too early to exclude the possibility of the Communist Party - now at 21 percent - forming the government. But if another party that only attains 15 or 18 percent wants to put forward the prime minister, one thing is clear: its government will be weak and susceptible to political blackmail." (21/11/2014)

Le Quotidien - Luxembourg | 20/11/2014

Luxemboug's PM wants to tax only the poor

Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel spoke out on Wednesday in an interview with the Belgian paper L'Echo against tax harmonisation in the EU, and rejected proposals for changing Luxembourg's tax policy after the LuxLeaks investigations. The left-liberal daily Le Quotidien is enraged: "Blindness? Provocation? Naivety? There's no making out what such declarations are supposed to mean or what goals they pursue. … Until now Xavier Bettel has been considered a moderate liberal with social convictions. The 2015 budget, which demands further sacrifices from employees, has already chipped away at this image. Now, by encouraging a tax system in which employees and small businesses pay for the multinationals, he's siding with the most radical liberals whose political project aims to make the poor pay for the rich." (20/11/2014)

Sme - Slovakia | 20/11/2014

Iohannis represents "good" minority in Romania

With the election of Klaus Iohannis as the new Romanian president voters have expressed their special appreciation for the country's German minority, the liberal daily Sme believes: "At first glance this speaks for a mature democratic understanding on the part of Romanian voters, who have decided in favour of the representative of a minority. Fundamental, however, is the question of which particular minority we're talking about. The Transylvanian Saxons are viewed positively as industrious and reliable, as a counterpart to the mentality of the Balkans, and as a guarantee of quality. 'If you could choose, would you buy a Dacia or a BMW?', they used to say. ... No one could convince the majority of Romanians that the Germans are their enemies, bent on destroying the state. A representative of the Hungarian minority would have had a harder time, regardless of his personality. And things are similar in Slovakia where we've already had a German president [Rudolf Schuster]." (20/11/2014)

La Stampa - Italy | 20/11/2014

Renzi set to box through job market reform

Italy's two biggest trade unions called a nationwide strike on Wednesday against Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's labour market reform plans. But the latter refuses to negotiate and the reform is due to be passed in parliament on November 26. The going will be really tough for Renzi from now on, the liberal daily La Stampa predicts: "If Matteo Renzi's goal was to show the world how independent his government is from the trade unions, he hit the mark. Meanwhile the consequences of a conflict that already appears to be getting out of control seem unpredictable. The fierceness of the confrontation also reveals two truths that are only seemingly contradictory. The first: the allegation that Matteo Renzi is pursuing a policy of big announcements without substance can be dismissed. The second: after months of optimism the prime minister is now facing a stony path full of countless dangers." (20/11/2014)

La Vanguardia - Spain | 20/11/2014

Trial against Artur Mas would be a mistake

Spain's director of public prosecutions on Wednesday reaffirmed his intention of taking the Catalan president Artur Mas to court for organising the symbolic referendum on Catalonia's independence. The conservative daily La Vanguardia criticises the public prosecutor's stance: "Complex political problems can never be resolved in court. The complicated situation demands agreements that will be prevented if they try to banish the Catalan president from political life. ... A growing number of ideas and proposals for regulating the relations between Catalonia and central Spain and for reforming the constitution can be heard. The majority want dialogue and agreements. The government of Spain can't ignore this. Bringing charges against the Catalan president would be a mistake." (20/11/2014)

Irish Independent - Ireland | 20/11/2014

Irish water tax remains a farce

In the wake of massive protests, the Irish government presented a revised plan for its controversial water tax on Wednesday. Among other things the new plan foresees a lower flat rate per household. This demonstrates that the country's leaders haven't understood the problem, the conservative daily Irish Independent fumes: "Ministers bent half an ear towards water charging concerns. But they did not listen with their full attention. Otherwise, they would retreat from this ill-constructed and badly executed tax. It has left many of them unelectable. … The Government's attitude can be summed up as follows: we realise we've set up a quango [Irish Water] in a singularly incompetent fashion and we'd prefer if the public wasn't annoyed. All the same, we want people to continue giving us money so we can carry on being incompetent. No wonder banners are being unfurled." (20/11/2014)

Polityka Online - Poland | 20/11/2014

New elections would be embarassment for Poland

The director of Poland's National Electoral Office tendered his resignation on Wednesday. The media had demanded his dismissal because the results of Sunday's local elections still aren't clear owing to IT problems. Demands for the elections to be held again can now be heard from all parties. Not a good idea, argues Adam Szostkiewicz on the left-liberal news portal Polityka Online: "This would cause a political scandal and a technical debacle of international dimensions. I can't recall such a thing ever having happened before in a democratic European state. Something of the sort occurred during the 'Orange Revolution' in Ukraine. But that was an exception. In Poland the votes haven't been counted using computers for long. And particularly with elections, tensions run high. Mistakes can happen, but they don't go against the rules of democracy. ... Only in authoritarian systems are there never any mistakes in elections." (20/11/2014)

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