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MAIN FOCUS | 22/08/2014

US warns of threat from IS militias

After the execution of the journalist James Foley, the US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Thursday described the IS militias as an imminent threat to US interests and did not exclude the possibility of attacks on their positions in Syria. Commentators warn against the fragmentation of the Middle East and fear the West will move closer to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the war against the IS.

With articles from the following publications:
Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy, Milliyet - Turkey, Financial Times - United Kingdom

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

The states of the Middle East threaten to collapse and the West is half-hearted about stopping the process, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore fears: "We are at a crossroads: either national unity is maintained as is pledged at every conference or we must get used to the idea of the Balkanisation of the Middle East. ... The Europeans are world champions at this, having stood back and watched Yugoslavia fall apart. ... The successful military solution to the conflict depends on the political solution, and this requires the commitment of all the foreign powers who have been fighting a proxy war in Syria and Iraq for years. The other alternative would be to let the caliphate do as it pleases and watch it challenge the West by expelling religious minorities in order to tear the region apart." (22/08/2014)

Milliyet - Turkey

US airstrikes against the IS militias in Syria would help only one person by giving him the chance to restore his reputation, the conservative daily Milliyet predicts: "The Islamic State has changed the mood in the Middle East. Particularly since the murder of US journalist James Foley, the West seems to be warming to the idea of starting talks with [Syrian President] Assad again. Assad has never opposed Western values and has an image that can convince the Western world. Shaved, with a smooth face and tie, he looks typically Western, and his wife even more so. These are simple and persuasive arguments with which the Western politicians can convince people of the merits of changing their policy. So it is that the IS militia are becoming a catalyst for Assad's salvation, while for others they bring torture." (22/08/2014)

Financial Times - United Kingdom

Linguists have identified the murderer of James Foley as British on the basis of his accent in the video of the beheading. It's high time Britain did more to understand why so many young Muslims in the country fall prey to extremism, the conservative daily Financial Times demands: "First, there must be a more honest acknowledgement by politicians that Britain has a problem with Muslim extremism and is fast becoming a renowned exporter of jihad. ... Community leaders - be they from mosques, schools or local government - need to engage in a serious debate about why so many young men feel alienated from society. And so do national political leaders. Nearly a decade after the 2005 bombings, we do not have satisfactory answers." (21/08/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 21/08/2014

Obama threatens IS after Foley execution

After the beheading of US reporter James Foley by IS militiamen, President Barack Obama announced a 'vigilant' and 'relentless' campaign against the IS, and called for broad support from the international community. Military force is the only effective way of dealing with the Islamists, some commentators write in approval. Others warn against a new war on terror.

With articles from the following publications:
The Independent - United Kingdom, De Morgen - Belgium, Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy, Blog Pitsirikos - Greece

The Independent - United Kingdom

At this stage military force is the only effective instrument in the battle against the Islamic State's militias, writes columnist James Bloodworth in the left-liberal daily The Independent: "Liberals are very good at calling for the bombs to stop, but now is the time for anyone of a remotely progressive temperament to call for an intensification of the military campaign against Isis. ... The latest atrocity by Isis ought to drive home the point that those committing such crimes are not misunderstood men who have been 'radicalised' by Western imperialism, but rather are attempting to use our concern for human suffering against us by proudly brandishing their own disregard for it - all to create a hellish and totalitarian Caliphate that would make death feel like a deliverance." (20/08/2014)

De Morgen - Belgium

With the beheading of James Foley the terrorist IS movement wants to provoke the US and the UK to strengthen their attacks against the caliphate, the left-liberal daily De Morgen warns. "We can only hope that the leaders in question have the intelligence and courage not to react to this provocation. ... The war on terror of the last 13 years has not been a major success. And on the stinking mess its failure has created, new and strong terrorist movements can flourish. ... The new leader in Iraq, who unlike his predecessor seems willing to reach out to all the groups in the country, could take the wind out of the extremists' sails. Admittedly, the outcome wouldn't be sure. But this approach is more compatible with the values of freedom and diversity that courageous journalists like James Foley stand for than another war." (21/08/2014)

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

James Foley was kidnapped in Syria in 2012. The West must finally revise its Syria policy if it wants to stop the advance of the jihadists, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore urges: "If the West believes it can stop the caliphate with airstrikes and military aid to the Kurdish Peshmerga, it's wrong. Because it is up against a dual front, with Iraq on one side and Syria on the other. ... Europe's actions [in Iraq] are commendable, but the international community will only show true courage if it takes the road to Damascus. To this end it must remove the veil of hypocrisy with which it masks its failed policy [in Syria]. ... To overcome the barbarity of the caliphate and to prevent the breakup of the entire region, it must also engage in negotiations with Assad." (21/08/2014)

Blog Pitsirikos - Greece

The US and its allies shouldn't be surprised when their citizens are cruelly executed by Islamists, blogger Pitsirikos rails: "Of course the beheading shown in the video is extremely ruthless, and clearly illustrates the brutality of the jihadists. The United States and its allies kill in a much more civilised fashion. They simply drop bombs without caring who gets killed. Perhaps a couple of hundred civilians die in the process. But you don't see the corpses, heads, feet or hands of these victims in videos. ... How would it be if the US and Israel gave the jihadists a couple of bombs so that they too could kill in a civilised fashion: group the potential victims together in a building and drop a bomb on it. ... The paranoid and reckless jihadists of the Islamic State are the product of the paranoid and reckless politics of the US." (20/08/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 20/08/2014

Merkel to mediate in Kiev

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Kiev on Saturday to discuss a solution to the Ukraine crisis with President Petro Poroshenko. Commentators praise this step as evidence of Germany adopting a more aggressive role in foreign policy, but warn that Merkel should not confine diplomatic talks to the Ukrainian leadership.

With articles from the following publications:
Berliner Zeitung - Germany, Diário Económico - Portugal, Super Express - Poland, Die Presse - Austria

Berliner Zeitung - Germany

The German chancellor must not be taken in by the Ukrainian government's manoeuvring, the left-liberal daily Berliner Zeitung warns: "Otherwise she would jeopardise Germany's role as the most important mediator in this crisis, listened to in both Kiev and Moscow and currently able to get the opposing sides to sit down at a table. If Poroshenko and his people get the idea of confronting Merkel with a demand for weapons deliveries they will be disappointed. ... If the chancellor switches now from telephone diplomacy to travelling diplomacy, after visits to Riga and Kiev the next destination would be clear: Moscow. Beyond all the heated debates about arms deliveries and military operations, in these weeks the German government is showing what it means to assume major international responsibility: diplomatic leadership and crisis management." (20/08/2014)

Diário Económico - Portugal

With her position on the Ukraine crisis and her sanction policy Angela Merkel has proven that she's willing to pay for stability, the liberal business daily Diário Económico comments: "[Putin] badly miscalculated the mood and determination of Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, over the current crisis in Ukraine. ... Mr Putin had expected the German Chancellor to resist taking any action that would seriously affect German exporters. He was wrong. The sanctions package was driven by Berlin. Central to German policy, led by Ms Merkel and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, foreign minister, was determination to maintain a united European front. ... Indeed, the Ukraine crisis accelerated a rethinking of German foreign policy. ... In this case that means maintaining a steady stance against unilaterally altering agreed international borders, even if it means paying an economic price." (19/08/2014)

Super Express - Poland

Merkel on the weekend rejected proposals for the permanent stationing of soldiers in the Baltic states, referring to the Nato-Russia Founding Act of 1997 in which the Alliance agreed to limit troop deployments in the region. The conservative tabloid Super Express is nagged by age-old fears: "For Merkel Putin is more important than the EU, of which Germany is a member. ... It's clear that we're being sold yet again - this time in the name of the economic and political interests of Germany and Russia. For Poles that brings to mind traumatic experiences. Memories of the Second World War and the historical divisions of Poland should suffice here. This is both painful and frustrating. We're powerless and angry. Particularly because there's practically a war going on in Ukraine, our neighbour to the east." (20/08/2014)

Die Presse - Austria

The lack of Ukrainian supervision of its border with Russia lessens the chances of peace, the liberal-conservative daily Die Presse writes commenting on a Russian military convoy's crossing the border: "Since the start of the fighting it's become clear to everyone that the key to a de-escalation (or even to an end) of the conflict is effective border controls. For weeks this has been discussed at the meetings of the conflict parties - as recently in Berlin. But so far almost nothing has happened. The West's wishes have remained on paper. ... Western diplomats must once more push for a far-reaching observation mission. Kiev supports this. Even Moscow should be interested: Ukrainian accusations about artillery fire from the Russian side could finally be verified. If it turns out to be true that the separatists are not in fact receiving Russian aid, there's nothing to be feared from observers. There's only one reason for Moscow to reject controls: it has something to hide." (20/08/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 19/08/2014

Russian sanctions: EU helps farmers

The EU will offer financial aid of up to 125 million euros to growers of perishable fruit and vegetables in the wake of the Russian import ban, Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloș announced on Monday. Only an end to the Russian sanctions will help growers in the long term, some commentators write. Others place their hopes in alternative markets.

With articles from the following publications:
Ilkka - Finland, Blog Adevărul - Romania, Cinco Días - Spain, Sme - Slovakia

Ilkka - Finland

The EU's assistance is all fine and good, but in the long term it won't be of much help to growers, the liberal daily Ilkka believes: "Finns needn't envy the first producers receiving financial aid, because they too can expect to be among those assisted by the end of the week. A total of 400 million euros have been set aside in the EU budget to ease the effects of agricultural revenue losses. ... In Finland it's mainly various dairy products that are affected, but these can also be sold on the domestic market. Cheap cheese with Russian labels didn't stay on the shelf but sold like hotcakes. However the EU crisis fund won't last forever. If the sanctions aren't lifted in the next few months, growers and food companies will be in for a long, cold winter." (19/08/2014)

Blog Adevărul - Romania

The Spanish town of Fraga illustrates how Romanian seasonal workers in Southern Europe are also feeling the effects of the Russian sanctions, Florin Manole writes in his blog for the Spanish daily Adevărul: "The war in Ukraine can be felt as far away as Fraga, all because of globalisation. ... The Kremlin took European products off the shelves, and with them 900,000 tonnes of Spanish pears and nectarines. Now work has ground to a halt in Fraga. Seven trucks have come back full of fruit. Now it will be shipped off to other parts of Europe. ... War hits the workers worst of all; capital's still doing fine. True, EU Commissioner Cioloş has promised help to companies hit by the conflict, but he hasn't said a word about the workers who are losing their jobs. Life will go on in Spain, with or without the nectarines. But a good few euros are missing that will never be so easily earned in Romania." (19/08/2014)

Cinco Días - Spain

While Russia is dispensing with European meat imports in reaction to Europe's trade sanctions, China could become an important new market for Spanish meat, the left-liberal business daily Cinco Días observes: "Between 2008 and 2012 Spanish meat exports to China have increased five-fold. The investments of the Shuanghui/WH Fosun groups in Campofrio and Osborne, respectively, confirm China's strategic interest in this sector. The process of approving Spanish food products for China was slow but doesn't seem to be as arbitrary as that of Rosselkhoznadzor [the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance]. And since the setting up of Chinese certifying agencies in Spain the process has become much easier. Without doubt the future of Spanish meat may be decided in Asia." (19/08/2014)

Sme - Slovakia

Following Moscow's announcement that it will cut down on car imports if the sanctions against Russia are tightened further, the liberal daily Sme sees a new polemic looming in Eastern Europe: "The new Russian counter-measures will hurt Slovakia's auto exports but they won't be disastrous. They will however give Prime Minister Fico, the Hungarian head of government Viktor Orbán, Czech President Miloš Zeman and his finance minister Andrej Babiš the opportunity to describe the Western sanctions as nonsense again. Their problem is that they are avoiding the question of what else the West can do to stop Russia. ... What are we supposed to do when Putin ignores all the warnings and negotiations prove fruitless? Act as if nothing has happened, or perhaps even applaud Russia?" (19/08/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 18/08/2014

EU backs weapons supplies for Kurds

At a meeting in Brussels on Friday the EU's foreign ministers paved the way for individual states to supply weapons to the Kurdish forces in Iraq. Finally the EU is speaking with one voice, some commentators write in praise. Others call on their countries to join in with weapons deliveries.

With articles from the following publications:
Diário de Notícias - Portugal, Svenska Dagbladet - Sweden, Der Tagesspiegel - Germany, Corriere della Sera - Italy

Diário de Notícias - Portugal

The EU foreign ministers have sent an important signal with their decision, the liberal-conservative daily Diário de Notícias applauds: "With this decision they have shown that a consensus is possible - even on matters where the most diverse and complex 'sensitivities' prevail among the 28 states. ... The Kurdish forces are now (given the weaknesses of the Iraqi army) the only effective line of defence between the threatened ethnic groups and the IS militia. ... In view of the real danger of a mass murder of civilians and the threat the IS poses for the geopolitical reality in the Middle East (and beyond) there can be no hesitation, not even when it comes to choosing allies." (16/08/2014)

Svenska Dagbladet - Sweden

The EU's late reaction to the crisis in Iraq and the spread of the Islamic State's terrorist militia highlights once more the vital importance of a common foreign policy, the conservative daily Svenska Dagbladet admonishes: "In recent years the EU has played above all a humanitarian and military role, for example after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and the conflicts in Mali and Libya. But it can only act when there is consensus among the member states. ... The EU is not a finished project. The role of the Union and its mechanisms are continually developing. It's not unthinkable that in future more humanitarian missions will be carried out under the EU flag and that the reaction time will be shorter. But a fully developed foreign policy will likely never be achieved. ... In the future too, people suffering under genocide and attacks will have to put their hopes in the moral compass towards the US, the UK or organisations like Nato rather than that of the EU." (18/08/2014)

Der Tagesspiegel - Germany

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has promised Iraq's prime minister designate Haider al-Abadi support in preventing the Islamists from advancing further. However the German government is still discussing whether or not to supply weapons to the Kurds. The time for deliberation is over, the liberal-conservative daily Tagesspiegel admonishes: "The murdering continues every second as the talking, weighing up and arguing goes on. And it is not happening in secret but with the world looking on. ... There is no perfect solution in such a conflict, no clear-cut black and white. In the end the decision boils down to what is the lesser evil. This is not a pretty realisation, but it is inevitable. After a week in which a growing number of voices in politics and society no longer rule out weapons deliveries, it looks like all the arguments have been voiced. The time has come to take action." (18/08/2014)

Corriere della Sera - Italy

The EU shouldn't fall into the trap of seeing weapons deliveries as the true solution to the conflict in Iraq, the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera warns: "Whenever unilateral decisions are taken based on ethical considerations and democratic values, the situation rarely improves as a result. ... It's time to strike out on a more pragmatic and ultimately more intelligent path in Iraq. How? By showing more openness to the regime in Tehran, which is an indispensable dialogue partner for the Shiite world and other crisis regions in the Middle East. With a more careful assessment of the repercussions of the crisis for relations with Russia, which is every bit a major player in this conflict zone. And by paying careful attention to Turkey, which plays a decisive role for stability in the region." (18/08/2014)

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