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MAIN FOCUS | 31/10/2014

Sweden recognises Palestinian state

The Swedish government announced its recognition of Palestine as an independent state on Thursday. Some commentators criticise the step on the grounds that the Palestinian organisations Fatah and Hamas don't have their territory under control. Others see the move as providing a basis for the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel on an equal footing.

With articles from the following publications:
Lidové noviny - Czech Republic, Aftonbladet - Sweden, Público - Portugal

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Anyone who simply recognises Palestine without any preconditions is making things too easy for themselves and the Palestinians, the conservative daily Lidové noviny believes: "Few people will deny that the Palestinians have a right to self-determination and their own state. The question is when and how this right should be implemented. That is a matter for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. It becomes a problem when a Western country like Sweden recognises the Palestinian state without awaiting the outcome of these negotiations. ... That gives the Palestinians a blank cheque. ... Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallström says that a government exists in Palestine that exerts control domestically and on foreign policy. Is she serious? If Fatah and Hamas are in control then they are also responsible for the missiles that are being fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip." (31/10/2014)

Aftonbladet - Sweden

Sweden is already the 135th country to recognise Palestine as a state. For the left-liberal daily Aftonbladet this step is necessary for Israel and the Palestinians to be able to negotiate on equal terms: "This is an important and courageous decision which will hopefully encourage others to follow suit. ... International recognition for a Palestinian state on Israel's border is the first step towards more equality between the two. Only when Israel and Palestine get down to serious negotiations over borders, land, Jerusalem, the economy, refugees and the infrastructure can there be lasting peace. Anyone who is unwilling to recognise Palestine as a state is in favour of maintaining the status quo. In that case daily life in Palestine and Israel will continue to be dominated by death, violence, insecurity, terror and destruction." (31/10/2014)

Público - Portugal

Sweden's recognition of the state of Palestine won't solve the problems in the Middle East but it will end the hypocrisy in the international community's stance towards the Palestinians, the liberal daily Público writes. "Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman criticised the decision as 'very unfortunate' and reminded Sweden that relations in the Middle East are far more complicated than 'putting together Ikea furniture'. Well, he certainly forgot something there. ... For sure, the recognition of Palestine doesn't solve the fundamental problems. ... But [Sweden's decision] is a condemnation of the general hypocrisy. How can the UN recognise Palestine's 'observer status' without recognising that very same territory as an independent state? Is Palestine supposed to be a club? A committee? An outpost? A state under construction, as they politely put it? Or is it a state in a perpetual state of destruction, through its own mistakes but also through those of the others who, without using soothing phrases, should save it?" (30/10/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 30/10/2014

Fidesz stands by Internet tax

Hungary's governing Fidesz party has remained intransigent in the wake of mass protests at the planned introduction of an Internet tax. The tax will not be repealed, a spokesman said. Such arrogance could be the government's downfall, commentators write, viewing the protests as an expression of the dissatisfaction of many Hungarians with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

With articles from the following publications:
Pravda - Slovakia, Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland, Heti Válasz - Hungary

Pravda - Slovakia

The protests are not just about the Internet; Hungary's future is at stake, the left-leaning daily Pravda writes: "The Hungarians aren't protesting because they don't want Facebook, Skype or their computer games to be taken away. In the kind of authoritarian society towards which Orbán is heading the Internet is an important source for undistorted information from all over the world and an instrument for social mobilisation. Young Hungarians who feel at home on the web have a growing appreciation of this. The battle against the Internet tax is therefore part of the battle for the country's democratic future. ... Will the protests die out if the parliament stops the plans? If so then Hungary will have to fall even further for people to understand that the problem is not a tax but a political clique that is willing to sacrifice democracy and the life of an entire generation. ... Let us hope the EU will stop raising an eyebrow dramatically and start taking action." (30/10/2014)

Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

After ruling unhindered for years, the Hungarian leader Viktór Orban and his Fidesz party may be caught unawares by the protests and swept from power, the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza writes: "Fidesz and Orbán have suffered the same fate of many other parties that had too much power: they have lost contact with reality. ... Fidesz isn't even seeking to engage in dialogue. All it's saying is that the protests have been organised by the opposition, and that the Socialists are playing the key role because it suits their own interests. Meanwhile Fidesz is merely looking impassively at the windowpanes in its party's headquarters that have been broken by the demonstrators. But it would be better off listening to what the protesters really want. ... This Internet tax could be the straw that breaks the camel's back: the start of an avalanche that produces a true political alternative." (30/10/2014)

Heti Válasz - Hungary

The protest against the Internet tax has become a symbol of a disillusioned generation's rejection of the entire political elite, the conservative weekly Heti Válasz comments: "It looks as if the Internet tax will be the first acid test for the Orbán government. The protest movement against the tax is not just about the fact that Hungarian households with Internet access would have to pay a couple of hundred more forint [or a few euros] each month. That's the least of the problems. The Internet tax has become a symbol of the people's dissatisfaction with government policy and an incompetent opposition. The predominantly 20 to 30-year-old demonstrators want to send the following message: Hungary is not a place where you can live a good life right now." (29/10/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 29/10/2014

London opposes Mediterranean rescue missions

Britain does not want to participate in future EU refugee rescue operations on the Mediterranean. Such missions would only attract more migrants, Foreign Office minister Joyce Anelay said on Tuesday. London is exploiting the plight of refugees to further its own campaign goals, some commentators criticise. Others feel that initiatives for more stability in the countries of origin make more sense than seaborne rescue operations.

With articles from the following publications:
Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy, The Independent - United Kingdom, Deutsche Welle - Germany

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

London's argument that the rescue mission will only encourage further refugees is motivated by Prime Minister David Cameron's fear of losing next year's elections, the liberal business paper Il Sole 24 Ore speculates: "It's hard not to see London's stance on refugees in the context of Cameron's dispute with the EU over migration within Europe. The wave of migrants flooding into London is the most sensitive issue in British politics today. It will dominate the campaign for the parliamentary elections in May 2015. The pressure Ukip is putting on the Tories is pushing the prime minister into a corner and driving him to tougher words and policies. The idea that taxpayers' money - always a popular argument in debates in Westminster - may be spent on border protection operations in the south of Europe threatens to add more fuel to the domestic debate." (29/10/2014)

The Independent - United Kingdom

Unless Britain's government and the other EU states create a safe pathway for refugees from Africa to apply for asylum there will be no end to the tragedies in the Mediterranean, the left-liberal daily The Independent warns: "If Europe is as civilised as it likes to believe, this cannot go on. The people-trafficking scourge must be attacked at source: the drastic reduction in Somali-based piracy brought about by concerted international action could show the way. European governments, including Britain's, need to recognise that the further shores of the Mediterranean are in desperate turmoil, there are many in genuine and urgent need of asylum and they must be allowed to seek it in a dignified way. We cannot pass by on the other side." (28/10/2014)

Deutsche Welle - Germany

While Britain's unwillingness to participate in future rescue operations in the Mediterranean is fully understandable Europe must not shirk its responsibilities, the news portal of the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle writes: "Europe's willingness to take in refugees has its limits. To hear some politicians, clergy or aid workers talk, you'd think they wanted to send cruise ships over the Mediterranean and pack everyone and anyone who wants to come over on board - no matter why or where they're from. ... Nevertheless Europe will have to take in more refugee contingents directly from crisis areas if it doesn't want to betray its own values. ... The basic problem is that all the EU does is react: it rarely makes provisions on its own. Often it only shows interest in a region when conflicts flare up there and refugees threaten to flood in. But by then it's mostly too late to stabilise the situation. We mustn't forget, however, that the EU wields enormous power, and it must use it in such cases." (29/10/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 28/10/2014

Pro-Europeans to form government in Kiev

After the parliamentary elections in Ukraine the Petro Poroshenko Bloc and the People's Front under Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk began coalition talks on Monday. Some commentators welcome the majority vote for moderate pro-European forces. Others fear that Ukrainians are more interested in confrontation with Russia under Yatsenyuk than in President Petro Poroshenko's peace initiative.

With articles from the following publications:
Der Tagesspiegel - Germany, Le Soir - Belgium, Jutarnji List - Croatia, Moskowski Komsomolez - Russia, The Guardian - United Kingdom

Der Tagesspiegel - Germany

Ukraine has voted for Europe and against Putin, the liberal daily Tagesspiegel observes jubilantly: "With this vote the Ukrainians have proven wrong all those who saw the popular movement on the Maidan in Kiev as the work of right-wing extremists. ... For Ukraine this election marks a turning point, the end of the transition period after Maidan. Now the new government must finally tackle the reforms and corruption. ... Russia wanted to prevent Ukraine from moving closer to the EU and keep the country within its self-defined 'sphere of influence'. But the opposite has happened and instead of the pliable Yanukovych Putin faces a democratically legitimated and self-confident leadership in Kiev. ... In the long term a free and democratic Ukraine could become a role model and point of reference for the Russian opposition and revive the protest movement there." (28/10/2014)

Le Soir - Belgium

Various top European politicians have praised the running and the results of the elections in Ukraine. But the EU must not pat itself on the back and shirk its responsibilities, the liberal daily Le Soir comments: "Europe has many reasons to be happy about these smoothly run parliamentary elections and their results. But what appear to be the most evident reasons - including the 'victory of the pro-Europeans' - are no doubt the weakest. One must not be fooled by Ukrainian leadership's satisfaction at having achieved a majority. Because the new political elite's love of Europe is in itself no guarantee that it will be favourable to the European Union when it's in power. Europe now has a huge responsibility. It opened its arms to Ukraine and gave rise to the expectations that led to Maidan, but also to Russia's reaction. Financial, economic and strategic help on the part of the EU remains vital." (28/10/2014)

Jutarnji List - Croatia

By voting for Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk the Ukrainians have elected forces that according to the liberal daily Jutarnji List won't strengthen democracy in the country: "The Ukrainian voters didn't want to take any risks and opted for those who came to power through the Maidan protests. For a country that is at war - and we Croatians know what that's like - it's not surprising that the 'political mainstream' doesn't bother with democratic details but is focused on the existential issue of preserving the state. Its only opponents for now will be the fragmented and disoriented pro-Russian forces. ... But if the country once again plunges into political instability and the threat of new 'Maidan revolutions' is in the air, the Ukrainians will have to go to the ballot again in the next twelve months." (28/10/2014)

Moskowski Komsomolez - Russia

The Ukrainian voters have chosen confrontation over reconciliation with Russia, the Russian tabloid Moskowski Komsomolez writes commenting on the surprisingly poor results of the alliance behind President Petro Poroshenko and the strong showing for Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's People's Party: "21.62 to 21.47 percent of the vote. That can only mean one thing: the president will not play the dominant role in the country. ... The fact that in all likelihood there will now be a 'pro-European majority' in parliament does not diminish the observers' surprise that Poroshenko's party received far fewer votes than expected. It could be an indication that Ukraine's 'war party' is now stronger than the 'peace party' embodied by Poroshenko with his Minsk protocol." (28/10/2014)

The Guardian - United Kingdom

The election results in Ukraine are promising but the crisis is far from over, the liberal daily The Guardian points out, and warns the West against letting Russia's president dictate the solution to the conflict: "The fly in the ointment is President Putin, who has not given up his Ukrainian ambitions. ... It would be an error to accept a de-escalation on Mr Putin's terms. Sanctions should not be lifted before the Minsk provisions are implemented, including the full deployment of international observers along the Russia-Ukraine border. Continued economic assistance to Ukraine, which is perilously close to bankruptcy, is also vital. Everyone knows there will be no quick fix in Ukraine. But there will be no fix at all, and the problem may well worsen, if Mr Putin sees western resolve fade." (27/10/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 27/10/2014

Thirteen banks fail ECB stress test

Thirteen out of 130 European banks have failed the European Central Bank's stress test. But in general the banks are healthier than many experts believed, ECB Vice-President Vítor Constâncio said on Sunday as the results were presented. That is hardly surprising bearing in mind the billions they have received in bailouts, some commentators criticise. Others call on the banks to stimulate the economy with more loans.

With articles from the following publications:
La Stampa - Italy, El Mundo - Spain, Tages-Anzeiger - Switzerland, Naftemporiki - Greece

La Stampa - Italy

Italy came off worst in the ECB's stress test: of the 25 banks that failed nine were Italian, while only one was German. That's not surprising because the ECB rewards state bank bailouts, the liberal daily La Stampa comments annoyed: "The Italian financial institutes haven't received anywhere near as much help from the state as those in other European countries - and above all Germany. The stress test would have been a horror scenario [for them without state aid]. Because Eurostat data shows that with 250 billion euros Angela Merkel's country is the number one in Europe when it comes to investing in the bailout fund. Spain is number two with roughly 60 billion, followed by Ireland and the Netherlands with 50 billion euros. ... In Italy, state aid amounted to a paltry four billion euros, the famous cash injection for the MPS [Monte dei Paschi di Siena]. And even that was labelled a scandalous amount." (27/10/2014)

El Mundo - Spain

Almost all the Spanish banks achieved good results in the stress test. But now they need to start lending again, the conservative daily El Mundo urges: "After passing this test the Spanish bank sector must support the economic recovery and become the main motor of growth. Both those institutes that have benefited directly from the bailout funds as well as those that were helped indirectly by ECB measures must now offer loans to boost the economy. Loans for private households to increase consumption (one of the main factors behind recovery) and loans for small and medium-sized businesses that can create new jobs. It would be unfair if the sacrifices made to help the financial sector didn't translate into benefits for the citizens now." (27/10/2014)

Tages-Anzeiger - Switzerland

The ECB's bank stress test has been a successful rehearsal for the banking union, the daily Tages-Anzeiger comments: "For the first time the European Central Bank has submitted all the bank balance sheets to the same scrutiny. That marks the start of a new era for the markets, but also for the ECB. In future it must supervise the biggest European banks to ensure that fears over the banking system don't paralyse the economy once more. The chances are good that the guardians of the euro are up to the task. With the stress test they have mastered a mammoth project. 6,000 specialists worked for more than a year on it, thousands of documents have been scanned, millions of files put together. There were great expectations of solid results. The current result shows that the ECB has also passed the test for starting the banking union." (27/10/2014)

Naftemporiki - Greece

Three Greek banks failed the ECB's stress test, although one has already been able to close its equity gap since the test day. All told there are only four systemically important banks left in Greece. The conservative daily Naftemporiki nevertheless believes the results give the government in Athens the necessary political tailwind: "The results of the stress test give the government more leeway in its negotiations with the troika, both in the upcoming debt negotiations and in the establishment of preventive measures. ... It will also be very helpful for negotiations on the period following the austerity memorandum. ... But this possibility must now also be exploited. This is not the time for misguided actions such as the [Prime Minister Samaras's] completely out of place remark about an early exit from the bailout programme [at the end of the year, instead of in March 2016 as planned]." (27/10/2014)

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