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MAIN FOCUS | 29/05/2015

Blatter not even considering resigning

Despite the corruption investigations currently under way against top Fifa officials, President Joseph Blatter plans to run for re-election in Zürich today. There is no reason for Blatter to resign since he has done nothing wrong, some commentators write. Others believe only the sponsors have the power to bring about change at the seemingly unassailable international football association.

With articles from the following publications:
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - Germany, Lidové noviny - Czech Republic, The Guardian - United Kingdom, Trouw - Netherlands

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - Germany

Blatter's opponents and critics have been trying to blacken his name for years but the accusations always turned out to be unfounded, the editor-in-chief of the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche writes in a guest commentary for the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, calling for more recognition of the good work the Fifa has done: "Amidst all the intrigue people forget that Blatter's Fifa has become the most powerful development aid agency in the world, a top-level NGO. All the good people who are now going on the barricades against him should be grateful to him. Since Blatter took office Fifa has put over two billion dollars into sport-related social development measures all over the world, including Africa. … The Europeans want to dominate global football. The chauvinistic English are disappointed because they didn't get the World Cup. Blatter, whose success irritates his critics, must navigate his way through a minefield of power interests. This is why he has become the target of criminal accusations." (29/05/2015)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Fifa's major sponsors have reacted with dismay to the corruption investigations against the international football association, writes the conservative daily Lidové noviny, seeing this as a hopeful sign because Fifa seems to be as unimpeachable as the Catholic Church: "The world of the Fifa leadership is like that of the Vatican. Impenetrability and secrecy dominate its media image. ... As in the Vatican, there is no opposition within Fifa even though its leadership is democratically elected in the end. … In the 111 years of Fifa's history only eight men have been at its helm. There have been ten popes within the same period of time. This means the international football association is even more firmly entrenched than the institution for the representatives of Christ on earth. There's no cure for that yet. … But Fifa's major sponsors have the power to act here. Visa has already threatened to withdraw its sponsorship." (29/05/2015)

The Guardian - United Kingdom

Despite the serious accusations being levelled at Fifa it is too soon to announce a boycott of the next World Cup or Uefa's withdrawal from Fifa, the centre-left daily The Guardian warns: "Gary Lineker has wondered whether we just need 'to start again'; others have called for national sides to boycott its tournaments or for Uefa to walk away. ... Calls to boycott Fifa and the World Cup should not be the reflex option. Why go to the brink immediately? Boycotts of big sporting events have their place in the toolbox of protest, but now is not the moment to threaten them. As importantly, has anyone asked the players, officials and clubs who would be affected by a boycott what they think?" (28/05/2015)

Trouw - Netherlands

Uefa has threatened to withdraw from Fifa if Sepp Blatter is re-elected. A new federation competing with Fifa could be a feasible option, the Christian-social daily Trouw comments: "The idea has been rejected as unserious and too European in the past. The football nations in Latin America and Africa are too loyal to Blatter, and so a new association would only bolster their already strong ties, people argued. But with the FBI's intervention and Uefa's reaction, an alternative to Fifa has become a little less theoretical. The survival chances of such an alternative seem small, but nevertheless bigger than the chances that Fifa will ever be free of corruption. Bribes and nepotism have been part of Fifa's culture for too long." (29/05/2015)

MAIN FOCUS | 28/05/2015

Brussels presents refugee quotas

The European Commission firmed up its plans for refugee quotas on Wednesday. 40,000 people are to be transferred to other states from Greece and Italy. The opposition of many countries to taking in migrants is selfish, some commentators criticise. Others believe the proposed quotas could overburden smaller countries.

With articles from the following publications:
Õhtuleht - Estonia, Večer - Slovenia, Lidové noviny - Czech Republic, Die Presse - Austria

Õhtuleht - Estonia

According to the European Commission's proposal Estonia would have to take in more than 1,000 refugees from the Mediterranean area in a year. The tabloid Õhtuleht fears that Estonian society is not ready for this influx: "The number of newcomers amounts to the population of a small town and would pose a challenge to our social welfare system and the sympathy of the people. In solving the refugee problem, provoking new tensions and concerns in the member states should be avoided. Unfortunately the EU Commission's proposal utterly fails to take into account our country's practical ability to take in the refugees. The EU Commission has proposed that Estonia takes 1.76 percent of the refugees, whereas Estonia's population accounts for just 0.26 percent of the EU. The seven times higher refugee quota is proof that Brussels has far higher expectations of our ability to take in the refugees than we do." (28/05/2015)

Večer - Slovenia

Slovenia would have to take in around 700 refugees according to the quota system. The liberal daily Večer sees this as doable: "Whether the Slovenian state can take in 700 refugees is of course a rhetorical question. In the times of the Balkan wars we were able to take in a hundred times that many despite the lower living standards. If the politicians try to tell us now that the current figure is too high for our struggling country, we really should start worrying. The next stage will be that the politicians can't cope with their own citizens. However a few hundred unlucky souls who don't belong to Slovenia's culture and aren't Christians could also provoke a new surge of political nationalism and xenophobia. Slovenia's political culture is far from immune to such sentiment." (28/05/2015)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

According to the EU Commission's proposal, the Czech Republic should take in just under two thousand refugees. But almost the entire political class in Prague vehemently rejects the idea, the conservative daily Lidové noviny laments: "The parties are saying almost with one voice that quotas are no solution. But unfortunately no one is saying what the solution is supposed to look like. And that in a country that produced exiles in several large waves, and which in the past ten years has received the equivalent of 15 billion euros in EU funds from the other states of Europe. ... Within the EU we're neither a small country nor a poor one. ... If we reject quotas in principal, then we must also say what solution we propose instead. Will we send our soldiers to the Mediterranean? Are we ready to set up refugee camps on the African coast? These questions are neither provocative nor purely rhetorical. That would only be the case if we had decided to join Europe as stowaways." (28/05/2015)

Die Presse - Austria

The states of the EU are taking a far too short-sighted view of the refugee problem, the centre-right daily Die Presse criticises: "Anyone who thinks a step or two further on this issue - and that's exactly what even those Eastern European countries that are now opposing the distribution of refugees should be doing - should keep an eye on political developments in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics. What if war spreads there and millions of people flee these countries in the direction of the EU? Then Poland, Slovakia and Hungary will suddenly be overrun by a flood of refugees and demand the selfsame solidarity that they are now refusing to give. Today many are saying the EU shouldn't get too involved in this region. Perhaps they will then say the EU has done too little to bring peace there." (28/05/2015)

MAIN FOCUS | 27/05/2015

New parties reshuffle the deck in Spain

The success of the leftist Podemos party and the liberal Ciudadanos in Spain's local and regional elections on Sunday has shifted the political balance of power in Spain. If Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government doesn't radically change its course it stands to lose the general elections this autumn, some commentators warn. Others complain that voters were just punishing Rajoy for his reforms.

With articles from the following publications:
Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy, El País - Spain, Financial Times - United Kingdom, Le Monde - France

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Although Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his conservative People's Party (PP) emerged from the election on Sunday as the strongest force with 26 percent of the vote, they fared worse than in the past 20 years. The fact that they were given such a thrashing shows what fate awaits courageous politicians who carry out unpopular reforms, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore laments: "The courage to be unpopular is a scarce commodity in Europe. Like [former German Chancellor] Gerhard Schröder, the Spanish prime minister may end up being the victim in the parliamentary elections in autumn, and have to watch how others reap the fruits of his reforms. The author of the most important post-war reform of the German social welfare system lost the 2005 election precisely because of that reform, the so-called Agenda 2010. The Rajoy government has taken a similar step. … If the PP is voted out of office in the autumn, Pablo Iglesias' boys can count themselves lucky: someone has already done the dirtiest and most difficult work for them." (27/05/2015)

El País - Spain

Since their election fiasco on Sunday several high-ranking regional politicians of the conservative People's Party (PP) have announced they are resigning to make way for the next generation. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy should also consider taking this step, the centre-left daily El País warns: "Even though his party lost 2.4 million votes in the elections Mariano Rajoy is determined to stick to his useless course after the May 24 elections. This stance will have consequences, as the mutiny in his own ranks is already making clear. … The political elite must reflect on whether it makes sense to oppose the calls for reform coming from Spain's most urban, populated and dynamic areas instead of dismissing new movements on the pretext that it's not worth worrying about parties created just 'half an hour ago'. If Rajoy persists with this course he should bear in mind that a driver can hardly avoid an accident just by closing his eyes." (27/05/2015)

Financial Times - United Kingdom

After their success at the polls the protest parties Podemos and Ciudadanos will have to show that they really can - and want to - play a constructive role in Spanish politics, the conservative daily Financial Times comments: "They need to come to terms with the increasingly complex landscape of national politics. As Spain heads towards a potentially inconclusive general election, all parties - whether new or old - will have to show maturity in how they deal with one another. Podemos and Ciudadanos, as potential kingmakers, will ultimately have to decide whether they can be responsible parties of government or whether they are destined to be pure protest movements. ... The hope must be that Spain's political fragmentation does not produce stasis, undermining the valuable economic achievements we have seen." (26/05/2015)

Le Monde - France

The established parties in Spain and Europe should not take the success of the protest parties lightly, the centre-left daily Le Monde advises: "The victory of Syriza in Greece, the collapse of Labour in Britain, the rise of the Front National in France and now that of Podemos in Spain go beyond the rejection of austerity. With different accents - and in this respect the Spanish system critics deserve credit for never ceding to the xenophobia of the FN or Ukip - they are all the expression of a strong current of resistance to our political systems. Clearly, Rajoy has chosen to ignore this current. Wrongly so. He and all the other European leaders would do well to take a good look at these polls of wrath." (26/05/2015)

MAIN FOCUS | 26/05/2015

Duda becomes Poland's new president

Andrzej Dudas' victory in Poland's presidential election on Sunday means that for the first time in five years a politician belonging to the nationalist conservative PiS party will occupy a leading position in Poland. Some commentators say that current president Bronisław Komorowski's defeat was the result of his arrogance. Others point out that Duda owes his victory mainly to Poland's young.

With articles from the following publications:
Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland, Gość Niedzielny - Poland, Dennik N - Slovakia, The Times - United Kingdom

Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

Andrzej Duda owes his victory to the dissatisfied Polish youth, the centre-right daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung comments: "Under its smooth surface, the 'model pupil' Poland that made it through the European economic and financial crisis of the past years without a recession is seething. The younger generation is suffering most. Youth unemployment is high and the young have less job protection and less pay than their older colleagues. ... Bureaucratic obstacles and deep distrust in the state have caused almost 2.5 million primarily young, well educated Poles to leave for Western Europe. If Andrzej Duda and the PiS manage to regenerate Poland and offer the young better prospects, it would no doubt be good for the country. Nevertheless it is to be feared that Poland's youthful glow will soon be tarnished by the PiS's backward-looking ideology." (26/05/2015)

Gość Niedzielny - Poland

Encumbent Polish President Bronisław Komorowski has his own arrogance to blame for his defeat, the Catholic website Gość Niedzielny comments: "Many commentators are wondering how it was possible for a rational and predictable politician who only six months ago enjoyed such a high level of public trust to lose the election. He lost because he told the voters that the country would return to the Dark Ages if he didn't win. In so doing he discredited an entire group of voters. Komorowski led a negative campaign against a weaker opponent, with the support of the state institutions and a large part of the media. And even after the results were announced, he didn't understand what the voters were trying to tell him. Yet a change of president is something entirely natural in a democracy." (26/05/2015)

Dennik N - Slovakia

For the liberal daily Dennik N the outcome of Poland's presidential election is appalling: "Andrzej Duda's victory is bad news for the EU, for our region and for Poland itself. If Duda remains loyal to his party leader Kaczyński this could be the start of profound and negative changes. … Duda embodies the section of Polish society that is close to neo-Nazi football fans and ultra-Catholic movements. … Another even worse problem could be his views on European integration, common security and Russia, which in some cases are even more radical than those of his mentor Jarosław Kaczyński. ... An ominous scenario awaits if the rocker Pavel Kukiz wins the parliamentary elections. That would create a Viktor Orbán-like mentality to the north of the Tatra Mountains, but four-times bigger and richer and far more ambitious. Looks like we're in for some fun and games." (26/05/2015)

The Times - United Kingdom

Britain should take advantage of the fact that Andrzej Duda shares its doubts about the EU, the conservative daily The Times comments: "Mr Duda has already made plain his suspicion about the EU becoming an 'ever deeper union'; he stresses the need to recover more national sovereignty and speaks out on what he calls the 'tendencies to create a hierarchy in the EU'. ... All these aims should be supported by Britain. A common language can be found with a Poland that is worried about the migration of its young people, the brain drain, the exodus from the countryside and the strains on families left behind when breadwinners head for Britain." (25/05/2015)

MAIN FOCUS | 22/05/2015

Palmyra under threat from IS terrorists

The IS has gained control of the Syrian city of Tadmur, where the ancient ruins of Palmyra are located. The world must look on powerlessly while this World Heritage site is destroyed, some commentators lament. Others criticise the West for showing more solidarity with a pile of stones than with the hundreds of thousands of victims of war.

With articles from the following publications:
Mladá fronta Dnes - Czech Republic, nrc.next - Netherlands, El Mundo - Spain, Berliner Zeitung - Germany

Mladá fronta Dnes - Czech Republic

The ancient Syrian oasis city of Palmyra will fall and the West is powerless to stop it, the liberal daily Mladá fronta Dnes writes in despair: "The videos on the Internet will break our hearts. We'll see the IS militias smash colonnades, columns and stone arches - everything that in their primitiveness they see as a sign of idolatry. But the West is not ready to send in ground troops. The Americans - and the Czechs - don't want to watch soldiers die in the Middle East. All that remains is airstrikes. The Americans are in a position to carry out precise strikes. But that would only help military dictator Assad, who had controlled Palmyra until now. In other words, Western jet fighters would then be serving the man who used chemical weapons and broke Syria with his brutality. For that reason Palmyra won't be saved, and will soon only exist in photographs." (22/05/2015)

nrc.next - Netherlands

The global outcry over the IS's seizure of Palmyra is grotesque, author Ilja Leonard writes in the liberal daily nrc.next: "When the homeless and the refugees ask us for help we close our eyes, our ears and our borders to them. But when a pile of photogenic stones are besieged we scream blue murder. And I know why: Palmyra is ours. … The Romans built the city, so our historic roots are at stake. It is part of our culture and we want to show that it's important to us. … We feel a personal bond with this pile of stones. The dead and homeless Syrians, on the other hand, are totally alien to us and leave us cold or make us afraid. Clearly it's easier to show solidarity with a bunch of pillars in the desert than with hundreds of thousands of victims of war." (22/05/2015)

El Mundo - Spain

The terrorist IS is an international security risk and the nations of the world must join forces against it, the conservative daily El Mundo urges: "The consolidation of a terrorist state in the region has destroyed borders that have existed for almost a century. This state finances itself by ransacking cities and selling stolen petrol on the black market. It applies an implacable policy of ethnic and religious extermination. And finally it is exporting Islamic terrorism to the rest of the world. All this should be sufficient reason to intensify the efforts aimed at its destruction. The IS is not only a danger in the region, its mere existence is a threat to international security" (22/05/2015)

Berliner Zeitung - Germany

Nothing and no one seems to be able to stop the advance of the IS, the left-liberal daily Berliner Zeitung writes, taking a bleak look at the region's future: "Ramadi was simply overrun by the terrorists although the US did its best to stop them with numerous airstrikes. ... The situation is no better in Syria, where the IS has forced the government troops to retreat from Palmyra. While the military is simply defending the interests of Bashar al-Assad and the opposition can at best only agree on a temporary alliance against the IS, the terrorists are continually building up their power base. Things seemed different for a while in Iraq, where the Kurds and the Sunnis fiercely fought the IS in concert with the Americans. After the fall of Ramadi the local chiefs could be inclined to unite with the Sunni IS against the Shiite power elite in Baghdad. But the time has come to bid farewell to any hopes of a victory against the IS. The fall of Iraq and Syria seems unstoppable." (22/05/2015)


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