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MAIN FOCUS | 24/10/2014

Attack in Ottawa

After the attack in Ottawa on Wednesday in which one person and the gunman were killed, investigators are trying to establish the motive. According to media reports, the attacker was known to the authorities and may have had Islamistic reasons for his actions. Religious converts must be watched more closely, some commentators write. Others doubt that constitutional states can effectively thwart individual perpetrators.

With articles from the following publications:
The Times - United Kingdom, Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland, NRC Handelsblad - Netherlands, Le Nouvel Observateur - France

The Times - United Kingdom

The attacks in Canada should come as a wake up call for the West's security services to heighten their surveillance of religious converts in the social media, the conservative daily The Times warns: "The two incidents do, however, make plain that western counter-terrorist specialists should not concentrate exclusively on the threat posed by trained jihadists returning to their native countries primed to kill. Those who stay at home, radicalised by militant preachers and above all by the buzz of like-minded people on social media, are of equal menace. The security services have monitored such Muslim converts as best they can. As long as they are not part of a criminal conspiracy, however, it is difficult to control their movements or gauge their intentions." (23/10/2014)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

The Ottawa gunman was acting alone, according to information put out by the Canadian police on Thursday. His attack demonstrates how difficult it is to prevent such amorphous acts of terrorism, the liberal-conservative daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung warns: "With the help of individuals seduced by its propaganda the Islamic State can spread terror with relatively little effort - in Canada and in any other country. This poses major challenges for the rule of law. The protection of the private sphere and the rights of the individual rule out all-penetrating surveillance and precautionary restrictions or arrests based merely on assumptions and suspicion. The current list of statutory offences can barely be stretched to include the infiltration of destructive false doctrines. Once the laws come into play it's often too late because by then the shots have already been fired. Guaranteeing security without bending the rule of law is no easy undertaking in the face of IS terror." (24/10/2014)

NRC Handelsblad - Netherlands

The international fight against the terrorist IS militia has increased the risk of terroris attacks, the liberal daily NRC Handelsblad stresses: "It's no surprise that terrorism poses a serious threat. That's as true for Canada as it is for any of the other countries that have joined the anti-IS coalition. ... Terrorism is a symptom that can be combated but not entirely prevented or eliminated. In such a situation societies must show stamina and the ability to defend themselves. And politicians must be cold-blooded and able to prevent people from panicking. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper proved capable of doing so through his televised speech to the nation yesterday. He calmly reassured his fellow citizens that Canada would not be intimidated and would redouble its efforts in the fight against terrorism." (24/10/2014)

Le Nouvel Observateur - France

The attack will worsen the social and political climate in Canada, the Canadian Alice Audrain writes in the left-liberal weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur: "Clearly security regulations will be tightened, delivering a blow to Canada's tradition of openness. The same will hold for counter-terrorism legislation, which incidentally had been under discussion in parliament on Wednesday. ... As certain political reactions already show, the Conservatives will not hesitate to play on emotions and use this shooting to toughen the laws. ... The fact that the attacker's passport had been confiscated has also been the subject of much discussion. Is this not an invitation to carry out an attack in the country one is living in instead? What is certain is that this is the end of an era for Canada: the era of innocence." (23/10/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 23/10/2014

EU discusses climate and energy

The EU's leaders are convening in Brussels to discuss EU climate policy up to 2013 today, Thursday. Some commentators hope the current uncertainties about Russian gas supplies will put Europe firmly on the path to an energy union. Others fear that weak compromises will once again prevent the establishment of uniform climate targets.

With articles from the following publications:
Financial Times - United Kingdom, Hospodářské noviny - Czech Republic, Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany, Rzeczpospolita - Poland

Financial Times - United Kingdom

The fear that Russia will turn off the gas tap over the Ukraine crisis underlines the need for Europe's political leaders to redouble their efforts to establish an energy union, the liberal business paper Financial Times writes: "Since 2008 Europe's agenda has been dominated by the eurozone crisis and the need for national leaders to respond urgently to potential financial meltdown and extinguish the blaze. Despite the conflict in Ukraine, the challenge of forging an energy union has not generated the same sense of urgency. Success in this matter is critical to Europe's economic future. European leaders should start to focus on this project with far more resolution and dynamism than they are currently demonstrating." (21/10/2014)

Hospodářské noviny - Czech Republic

The 28 member states of the EU have roughly 28 different positions on climate policy, the liberal business daily Hospodářské noviny complains, seeing only one way out of this chaos ahead of the EU climate summit: "Energy policy is the domain of the nation states. Some of them protect their national energy beacons, others fear that the new energies will be too costly and insecure. And there are others who argue that Russian gas is cheap. The post-communist countries, spearheaded by Poland, are concerned about their competitiveness. Perhaps it would be enough for now to take the proposal put forward by European Council president designate Donald Tusk seriously, which foresees the creation of an energy union that effectively connects the national networks with each other. It is estimated that the EU could save around 40 billion euros by 2030 with this solution. ... Perhaps the Ukrainian crisis and Russia's expansionist policy will push the EU to be more decisive about forming an energy union." (23/10/2014)

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

In view of plans for a new nuclear power plant in Britain, Polish investments in coal and the continued importance of electricity from coal-fired plants in Germany, the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung holds out little hope for binding EU climate standards: "If the heads of state and government can agree this Friday on any sort of climate and energy package for the period up to 2030, it will depend only on deals that have nothing to do with the nuts and bolts of climate protection. Spain will agree if cables are erected over the Pyrenees. Poland will sign if enough billions are pumped into the Solidarity Fund. And so on. At the end of the day a paper will come out with three goals, two of which will be non-binding for the 28 member states. But then tell me, if you please: just who will fulfil these goals?" (23/10/2014)

Rzeczpospolita - Poland

The EU climate summit is decisive for Poland's development, the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita points out and calls on Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz to remain firm: "Over the next two days the future of the Polish coal-dependent energy sector will be decided. But more than that: the competitiveness of Poland's entire economy is at stake. If the political leaders confirm the ambitious CO2 emissions reduction targets for 2030 without making concessions to Poland and other Visegrad states, we face a drastic increase in energy prices. ... In the run-up to the summit there is already word from Brussels that an agreement is imminent that could be favourable for Poland. However if anything is missing, Kopacz must refuse to sign it. For example the rich EU countries must retain the option of passing on some of their emissions allowances to poorer states." (23/10/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 22/10/2014

EU Parliament to vote on Commission

The EU Parliament will vote definitively on the new Commission in Strasbourg today, Wednesday. Everything points to a majority for the team of designated Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The Commission will suffer from the conflict over how to tackle the recession, some commentators predict. Others hope Juncker will provide an answer to the growing populism in Europe.

With articles from the following publications:
Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy, Der Standard - Austria, Dnevnik - Slovenia

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

The new European Commission may fall victim to the tug of war over the right measures for countering a recession, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore fears: "Above all the growing lack of sympathy between Germany and France speaks against a productive change of course. ... Nor does the growing rift between the European People's Party and the social democrats, the two major European parties, bode well for the Commission. ... The one party advocates a policy of reform and modernisation, the other is a proponent of a major European investment programme which it believes could create growth and full employment. ... The obvious lack of agreement between the two fronts as regards which course to take - a reflection of the Franco-German disharmony - poses a threat not just to the grand coalition that rules the European Parliament today. It may also push Juncker's new commission into a corner and limit its room for manoeuvre both at the EU level and internationally." (22/10/2014)

Der Standard - Austria

In his farewell speech in Strasbourg on Tuesday, the parting EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso warned of the growth of nationalist populism in Europe. Unfortunately in the midst of the economic crisis he was unable to put forward a policy that could oppose that trend, the left-liberal daily Der Standard sighs, pinning its hopes on the new Commission president: "The roots of this populism lie in the social crisis and the despair that millions of young people feel over their prospects. Europe needs to optimise its performance, yes, but above all its policies must be more socially oriented. And someone 'at the top' must set that as a target for the member states. This obligation now falls to Jean-Claude Juncker. Although he tripped up a few times during the hearings with the MEPs, he has more excellent commissioners than any president so far. If he's able to put together a strong centrist team, the people of Europe can hope for a better Union. However should he fail, the scenario doesn't bear thinking about." (22/10/2014)

Dnevnik - Slovenia

After Alenka Bratušek failed her European Parliament hearings it has been confirmed that the Slovenian Violeta Bulc will be in charge of the transport portfolio while the Slovak Maroš Šefčovič becomes Vice President for the Energy Union. This was a clever move by Juncker, the left-liberal daily Dnevnik writes approvingly: "With a minimal switch of posts between the popular and competent socialist Maroš Šefčovič and the liberal Violeta Bulc following Alenka Bratušek's hearings debacle, Jean-Claude Juncker has achieved two things: he has maintained the structure of his commission and avoided the confirmation of the commission being postponed due to changes in staff. Slovenia's commission odyssey could become a chapter in schoolbooks about what happens when the state fails to work out a proper European strategy." (22/10/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 21/10/2014

Paris and Berlin consider investment package

The economic and finance ministers of Germany and France on Monday announced that they will soon present proposals for warding off a new recession. Paris had previously held out the prospect of France cutting its spending by 50 billion euros if Germany matched that amount in investments. Berlin must defend its budgetary discipline, some commentators warn. Others thank Paris for launching an important debate.

With articles from the following publications:
Die Presse - Austria, taz - Germany, Libération - France, Diário de Notícias - Portugal

Die Presse - Austria

France's call for German investment in exchange for French cuts is outrageous, the liberal-conservative daily Die Presse criticises: "Macron clearly believes that the Germans are responsible for France's misery - because of their strict austerity. In fact, however, such austerity has never been part of any budget passed in Berlin. Nothing but a refusal to sink further into debt, which created new trust in the midst of the worst debt crisis. This refusal was also what made possible the German economic boom that has long functioned as a motor for the Eurozone. Holding to this course is the best - and the only - thing the Germans can do for the French. Not even the left wing of the German SPD could have come up with the strange idea of having Germany pump 50 billion euros into the economy. This is completely detached from reality." (21/10/2014)

taz - Germany

Paris's proposal makes good sense because both France and Germany have growth problems, the left-leaning daily taz comments: "Strictly speaking the whole Eurozone is suffering from the impact of the austerity policy imposed by Chancellor Merkel during the euro crisis. Only Germany can still afford to take a different course and invest in growth and jobs. And Germany also just happens to be the country where investments are urgently needed. So from that perspective Paris's initiative makes sense. Naturally one can't expect the spending cuts in France to be set off one by one against investments in Germany. But that's not what [Finance Minister] Sapin and [Economics Minister] Macron meant anyway. Their point is that the Eurozone urgently needs to boost demand. ... The Eurozone needs a new economic policy geared towards growth, not a fiscal policy fixated on cuts. Paris has launched the debate with a provocation - merci!" (21/10/2014)

Libération - France

The proposals by Germany and France for preventing an economic slump in Europe are the best news to come out of Europe for some time, the left-liberal daily Libération writes in delight: "Angela Merkel clearly has an undeniable political flair. Faced with apparent danger, she has decided to take action. Of course this is no time to sing the Ode to Joy or build castles in the sky. Nevertheless Berlin's new awareness is the first good news we've heard in the European Union in a long time. With all the required diplomacy, France must now make the best of this positive change of heart. After all, the idea wasn't to appeal to Germany for money, but to convince it to spend more for itself." (21/10/2014)

Diário de Notícias - Portugal

Germany should remember that it itself was once one of Europe's "deficit sinners" yet didn't face any sanctions, the liberal-conservative daily Diário de Notícias writes: "If German and France join forces to make decisions on Europe, it can only mean one thing: the economic crisis has hit them both. ... For years we have been hearing talk about the stimuli Germany should be providing but the results are plain to see: youth unemployment is rising, the economies are registering minimal growth or none at all. ... It's finally time to do something like for example Matteo Renzi has done: Remind Ms Merkel of the past [that Germany violated the EU Stability Pact in 2002 and 2003]. The rules must be the same for everyone, otherwise the European project is doomed to fail." (21/10/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 20/10/2014

Homosexuality and divorce divide synod

At the end of their two-week synod in the Vatican, the Catholic bishops were unable to agree on a reform course regarding homosexuals and divorcees. The corresponding sections of the final document published on Saturday failed to achieve the necessary majority. The Church shouldn't be surprised to see more of its members turn their backs on it, some commentators criticise. Others praise Pope Francis for forcing the bishops towards greater openness.

With articles from the following publications:
The Independent - United Kingdom, Jutarnji List - Croatia, Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland, Die Welt - Germany

The Independent - United Kingdom

The bishops shouldn't be surprised if more people leave the Church as a result of its unchanging attitude to homosexuals and divorcees, columnist Stefano Hatfield writes in the left-liberal daily The Independent: "Religion risks becoming anachronistic for an entire generation. ... Whatever you think of the current Pope - at least he recognized that many in his modern-day congregation struggle with Catholicism's centuries-old prejudices, and was trying, unsuccessfully, to do something positive about it. That his bishops slapped him down helps explain that startling decline in the 'religious' in one action. Unless Britain's religious leaders listen to what remains of their flocks, they will continue to talk to each other in ever decreasing circles." (19/10/2014)

Jutarnji List - Croatia

Even if the episcopal synod hasn't changed the general stance on gays and divorcees the bishops are now forced to address these issues openly, the liberal daily Jutarnji List comments approvingly: "To convene a synod on this subject was a courageous decision. It was even more courageous to announce its lack of consensus. The Church is willing to communicate with the world of which it indisputably forms part. At the same time Pope Francis has opened the doors of the divine household. His decision to publish the synod's report immediately and in its entirety establishes a new precedent. His decision to even make the results of the vote public article by article is absolutely exceptional. Not only has it given the faithful a precise idea of the balance of power, but it has also shown the anguish and difficulties of the Catholic Church in finding an answer to today's challenges." (20/10/2014)

Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

The openness with which the clergy addressed difficult issues such as divorce and homosexuality at the family synod holds out hope that the Church may become more receptive, Jan Turnau, the church expert of the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza comments: "God is present in the Vatican once more. Once again I can say 'Ex Roma lux'. That means: In Rome we see light. The most important aspect was the openness of the discussion. And it wasn't forced on the gathering by reformers but initiated by the pope. This in particular has encouraged my Christian hope that ecumenicalism will be strengthened in the Church. And that divorcees, who have been regarded as a kind of unfortunate accident so far, will receive better treatment. It could also be that the Church becomes more open to people of a different sexual orientation." (20/10/2014)

Die Welt - Germany

After the family synod failed to produce a majority for a reform course on homosexuality or divorcees who remarry, the conservative daily Die Welt calls on the Catholic Church to give up the attempt to apply its teachings uniformly right down to the tiniest details all over the world: "The Catholic Church is universal. Its teachings must be the same everywhere - that's what distinguishes it from Protestantism. The concrete inferences for daily life necessarily have to vary from Manila to New York or Berlin's [alternative] Kreuzberg district. Rome could issue general guidelines within the framework of which the national bishops' conferences can find their own answers to the questions in their respective society. ... A two-speed, five-speed, umpteen-speed Catholicism runs the risk of division. No one knows that better than the pope, who personifies the Church's unity. And yet it was Francis who wanted the voting result of the synod to be made public." (20/10/2014)

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