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MAIN FOCUS | 26/01/2015

Syriza wins in Greece

The left-wing coalition Syriza has emerged as the clear winner of the elections in Greece but appears to have fallen short of an absolute majority. Party leader Alexis Tsipras has announced the end of the austerity policy in Greece, but indicated his readiness to negotiate with the country's creditors. This is the end of austerity in Europe, some commentators write. Others predict that Tsipras will in fact excel at cutting costs.

With articles from the following publications:
Wiener Zeitung - Austria, To Vima Online - Greece, Dagens Nyheter - Sweden, Die Welt - Germany, L'Obs - France

Wiener Zeitung - Austria

Alexis Tsipras's election victory in Greece spells the end of the austerity policy, the state-owned liberal daily Wiener Zeitung believes: "This is a turning point for Europe. Italy's social democratic leader Renzi also says that the austerity policy must come to an end. And Europe's social democrats will take a very close look at the election result in Greece. The first reaction of Gianni Pitella, president of the political group of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, was two words: stop austerity. Just situating Tsipras and Syriza in the communist corner is too simple. Firstly there is hardly a single head of government on the European Council who can present such an election result, and that alone gives Tsipras legitimacy. Secondly Tsipras will get the social democrats thinking. ... Europe is therefore facing some difficult decisions. The question of whether to extend the Greek bailout programme is of secondary importance here." (26/01/2015)

To Vima Online - Greece

Alexis Tsipras will revolutionise Greek politics if he can reach an agreement with the troika, the left-liberal daily To Vima predicts: "In that case he'll be the absolute ruler. No party or leadership could ignore that. ... Moreover, it can't be overlooked that at 40, Tsipras is Europe's youngest prime minister. He's sure to bring other young politicians into the political arena, as he made clear when he appealed to young academics and scientists who have left the country to return home. The desire for renewal will now be the order of the day in Greek political life. There can be no doubt: this is the dawn of a new era." (25/01/2015)

Dagens Nyheter - Sweden

It would be absolute madness if Syriza really did implement its election programme, the liberal daily Dagens Nyheter comments, with little hope that a coalition partner can have a moderating effect: "All the cuts and laboriously pushed-through reforms are to be done away with, salaries and pensions brought back to pre-crisis levels, privatisations stopped and reversed, large swathes of the population are to receive free electricity and medical help, and all public employees who have been laid off are to get their old jobs back (in the company of ten thousand new recruits). ... And this will all be paid for with hot air: the utopian idea that the widespread tax fraud can be stopped. Syriza would certainly restore one thing: an economy in the process of disintegration. ... Perhaps a coalition partner could restrain such recklessness. However one third of Syriza's members are communists who want to take the alliance even further to the left." (25/01/2015)

Die Welt - Germany

Out of pure necessity election winner Alexis Tsipras will be the leader who pushes through unpleasant reforms in Greece, the conservative daily Die Welt suspects: "It will be up to the gifted populist Tsipras to confront the Greeks, too many of whom still refuse to see reality, with some unpleasant truths. The most important truth is that Greece is broke, and if it can't find any new sponsors Tsipras will have to give in and go to the troika for help. ... Another factor in Tsipras's favour is that the people trust him. Unlike the established parties he is not seen as a puppet of the foreign creditors - also because of his blocking tactics towards Brussels and Berlin. Who, if not Tsipras, can push through the necessary reforms against all the opposition?" (26/01/2015)

L'Obs - France

France's President François Hollande must play a decisive role in the search for a compromise between Greece and the EU, the left-liberal news magazine L'Obs demands: "The upcoming negotiations will be crucial for Greece and fundamental for Europe. They are set to be bitter: Angela Merkel's CDU has already set its terms in an extremely brutal manner by indicating that preparations must be made for a possible Greek exit from the Eurozone. Here François Hollande holds a real trump in his hand. He's in the centre of the political chess board between Germany - which insists on stringent monetary discipline - and Greece, Spain and the other countries where the wind of change is blowing. The chance of seeing the euro take on a more human, social face now depends on the stance he takes." (25/01/2015)

MAIN FOCUS | 23/01/2015

ECB sends stock markets soaring

Share prices soared on Thursday in reaction to the ECB's announcement that it will launch a multi-billion euro bond-buying programme. Meanwhile the euro dropped below 1.14 against the dollar. This trend will help the export trade, some commentators write jubilantly. Others see the Eurozone on its last legs now that the ECB has been forced to resort to the only instrument left at its disposal.

With articles from the following publications:
Turun Sanomat - Finland, The Times - United Kingdom, Weekendavisen - Denmark, Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland, Politis - France

Turun Sanomat - Finland

It is still unclear to what extent the ECB's bond purchases will stimulate the economy, but what is certain is that the drop in the euro exchange rate will give export trade a significant boost, the liberal daily Turun Sanomat believes: "So far the ECB has kept the key interest rate at just above zero and maintained a negative interest rate on deposits, but it still hasn't been able to stimulate inflation and growth. It's too early to say whether the massive bond purchases will accelerate growth in the Eurozone. But we've got no other means at our disposal. What is certain is that the slide in the euro exchange rate will increase the competitiveness of export firms. In Finland economists at the OP Bank raised the growth prospects for Finland on Thursday. The reason: things are looking up for exports." (23/01/2015)

The Times - United Kingdom

The conservative daily The Times welcomes ECB chief Mario Draghi's announcement: "It is the right course and has been carefully designed. Unfortunately it is late and it will not on its own cure Europe's malaise. The eurozone's flagging economy needs radical restructuring. At least the new approach announced by Mr Draghi may provide a respite from the pressures of austerity and deflation. ... Greater stability will in principle help eurozone governments in what they really need to do to secure long-term economic growth: cut costs, reduce welfare bills, free up labour markets and make it profitable for businesses to invest. QE cannot create sustainable growth: it is a means to an end." (23/01/2015)

Weekendavisen - Denmark

The ECB's decision could rouse Europe from its lethargy and help it to start seeing the many political and economic crises as an opportunity, the conservative weekly Weekendavisen writes: "Naturally there is a risk that Russia could fall into a black hole. But if we weren't so depressed we would come up with a solution instead of just despairing. Of course the unemployment rate in southern Europe is scandalously high and Greece is in a terrible state. But if we hadn't been so down in the dumps we could have done something about it. ... If you only see darkness and despair you paralyse yourself. ... The ECB's decision gives the responsibility to the governments of the individual states. This would be a good opportunity to take an objective look at what can be done to encourage Europeans to face the future with realism and hope." (23/01/2015)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

The ECB's quantitative easing programme is neither necessary nor effective, the liberal-conservative daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung writes and warns of dangerous side effects: "The extra liquidity pumped into the financial system will only intensify excesses on the stock markets and real estate markets, while the interest rates that have slipped into the negative range in many states have definitively lost their controlling function. Speculators looking for short-term profit will be delighted to receive more play money from the ECB, and so will states that are unwilling to reform like France or Italy, for whom extra time has been bought although this will hardly encourage their willingness to reform. But the impression is growing stronger that with its monetary activism the ECB, rather than being the solution, is quickly becoming part of the euro problem." (23/01/2015)

Politis - France

After the failure of the austerity policy, the ECB's decision in favour of quantitative easing now points to a complete collapse of the European financial system, the left-leaning weekly magazine Politis comments: "In fact the central banks are the last bulwark in a system on the verge of collapse. ... The last protective wall will certainly cave in. The private banks that have recognised the dire state of affairs have pulled out of the real economy and are emptying their coffers by distributing extensive dividends and bonuses. The states have no answer to the escalating indebtedness other than budget cuts. And what will the ECB do with the debt it purchases when the states can't buy it back? Mario Draghi's latest announcements mark the start of the final round." (22/01/2015)

MAIN FOCUS | 22/01/2015

ECB to decide on bond-buying programme

The ECB's Governing Council is widely expected to unveil a large-scale plan for the purchase of government bonds at its meeting today, Thursday. The decision could further divide the Eurozone if the crisis states abandon austerity and prompt rich countries to end their solidarity, some commentators fear. Others see the plan as an important step towards pulling debt-ridden countries out of their financial misery.

With articles from the following publications:
Diário de Notícias - Portugal, Hospodářské noviny - Czech Republic, La Libre Belgique - Belgium, Die Zeit - Germany

Diário de Notícias - Portugal

The ECB's announced decision to buy government bonds is the most significant monetary measure since the birth of the euro but it could also be a death sentence for EU solidarity, the liberal-conservative daily Diário de Notícias comments: "This is a decisive turning point - for several reasons. Firstly from an economic perspective: the risk of deflation is no longer simply a journalistic fantasy. It can influence the decisions of European consumers and companies and drive us into prolonged stagnation, or even recession. And secondly from a political perspective: if Draghi decides that the ECB's bond purchases are to be carried out solely through the national central banks (as Germany demands) this will further divide the Eurozone because it contradicts the principle of solidarity." (22/01/2015)

Hospodářské noviny - Czech Republic

The ECB's decision to launch a major government bond-buying programme could ultimately lead to the disintegration of the Eurozone, the liberal business daily Hospodářské noviny comments: "Not just the markets are waiting for the ECB's decision but above all the countries with problems. ... First and foremost Greece, whose bonds however don't fulfil the prerequisites currently expected to be stipulated for the ECB's programme. A decision could influence the Greek elections on the weekend, in which the radical leftist coalition Syriza is seen as the favourite. If the ECB does launch a programme that excludes Greece this would be the first step towards the disintegration of the Eurozone or the start of Greece's farewell to the euro." (22/01/2015)

La Libre Belgique - Belgium

The markets and the politicians in Europe's crisis countries have been waiting for a government bond purchasing programme for a long time. The liberal daily Le Libre Belgique dampens hopes that the ECB chief will be able to work wonders: "Certain top economists believe Mario Draghi has been too heavily influenced by Germany's demands and taken far too long to act. And, they say, this will compromise the impact of his shock therapy, which is unprecedented in the ECB's history. ... Apart from monetary concerns, the true problem ailing Europe is a lack of confidence: to consume, invest or hire staff, in short to make plans for the future. The effects of austerity, the rise in unemployment which will have devastating repercussions for our youths, the rise of nationalist tendencies - all of this only worsens the mood. ... Unfortunately for the heads of state and government who no doubt expect too much of him, Mario Draghi is no miracle worker." (22/01/2015)

Die Zeit - Germany

If the ECB Governing Council decides to start buying government bonds and the left-wing coalition Syriza and its leader Alexis Tsipras win the Greek elections on Sunday the Eurozone could finally emerge from the crisis, the liberal weekly Die Zeit suspects: "Tsipras's popularity is down to the fact that he doesn't belong to the political class that ruined the country. And that's the big opportunity. ... Because a government that burdens the masses while leaving the privileged upper class in peace discredits itself morally too. If Tsipras manages to tax the rich Greeks at last and deploy their assets in fighting the crisis he will be celebrated all over Europe for it. ... And Draghi and the ECB? The Eurozone will only emerge from the crisis if the southern countries return to growth. The Central Bank will help them do this. Notwithstanding all the criticism from Germany the ECB is acting true to its name: Europeanly." (22/01/2015)

MAIN FOCUS | 21/01/2015

EU discusses counter-terror strategies

The sharing of air passenger data, cooperation among intelligence services, stripping suspected jihadists of their passports: these are just a few of the proposals that the EU foreign ministers dealt with on Monday in Brussels in response to the Paris attacks. Rightly so, some commentators write, and call for further steps to combat terror. Others believe the authorities must work closer with Muslim families to prevent youth radicalisation.

With articles from the following publications:
Le Figaro - France, The Daily Telegraph - United Kingdom, Večer - Slovenia, Politiken - Denmark

Le Figaro - France

France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls has announced that he intends to crack down on terrorism with full force. The conservative daily Le Figaro calls for far-reaching measures: "Our country must do more to protect itself against the threat of terrorism and Islamist hatred. Surveillance of criminals must be improved, we must reflect on prison conditions and step up monitoring of the Internet. Furthermore, the entire country must hold terrorists in contempt, and in some cases strip them of their citizenship. Jihadists should be expelled or arrested on their return. And more means must be put at the disposal of the police, who must work closer with the intelligence services. ... The prime minister should use his rising popularity to take vigorous, enduring measures." (21/01/2015)

The Daily Telegraph - United Kingdom

The authorities in Western states must encourage Muslim families to do more to help prevent the radicalisation of young people, the conservative daily The Daily Telegraph demands: "The mosques have been supplanted as fonts of radicalisation by social media and active participation in jihad. But that does not absolve those who may be able to exercise some influence over impressionable young Muslim men from doing so. Families in particular need to be watchful and to alert the authorities to signs of extremist behaviour. To that end, the courts need to be mindful in their sentencing policy of the need to encourage co-operation from parents. Lengthy jail terms handed down recently may have prevented some families from co-operating with the police." (20/01/2015)

Večer - Slovenia

The sharing of air passenger data, which the EU interior ministers called for last week as a means for combating terror, could quickly lead to a Big Brother state, the conservative daily Večer warns: "Most people won't be bothered by the government's knowing where they sat on a plane. But when their emails are read, their Internet profiles are monitored and their telephone calls are tapped into as part of a counter-terrorism law, they're bound to ask themselves whether they want to live in such a community of states. Nevertheless that's just the kind of measure now being discussed. The former head of the British secret service MI6 John Sawers said on Tuesday that intelligence agencies should sign data sharing agreements with technology companies. That shouldn't be allowed. The extremists who carried out the killings in Paris were long known to the authorities. So the fault lies with the security services, and not with faulty legislation!" (21/01/2015)

Politiken - Denmark

After the Paris attacks the political efforts to combat terrorism have intensified in Denmark too. A new law is currently being discussed which would allow the authorities to withdraw the citizenship of an individual if they have reason to suspect he or she resided in a conflict zone. The left-liberal daily Politiken steps up to defend the rule of law: "Fortunately the prosecution still has to prove its suspicions. ... That's the way it should be in a constitutional state. ... There is no question that the police and intelligence services need comprehensive powers to monitor the roughly 100 individuals suspected of having fought in Syria or Iraq. ... But the frustration of not being able to prove what they got up to abroad should never be a reason to give up the principles of democracy and the rule of law. Otherwise the terrorists have already won." (21/01/2015)

MAIN FOCUS | 20/01/2015

Global inequality greater than ever

As of next year one percent of the world will possess more than the other 99 percent, according to a study published Monday by the British charity organisation Oxfam. Growing inequality leads to more serious conflicts even in industrial nations, commentators warn. But they hope that the World Economic Forum in Davos will be the first step to more equality.

With articles from the following publications:
De Morgen - Belgium, Delo - Slovenia, Duma - Bulgaria, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - Germany

De Morgen - Belgium

Wealth and assets need to be more heavily taxed in the industrialised nations of the West, the left-liberal daily De Morgen demands: "But in the eyes of the liberals this is entirely the wrong approach and only an expression of a mentality of envy. That's odd. Because of all people US President Obama, who is certainly not a representative of the extreme left, will call for precisely this in his State of the Union address: a tax on capital gains for the richest one percent of society in favour of the disappearing middle class. ... This has nothing to do with envy but with a fairer distribution of wealth and assets which could lead to a society that is safer and offers a higher quality of life. And incidentally it's not just the left that sees growing inequality as a major threat for the future but also pretty much all the leading thinkers, industrialists and economists who are gathering to celebrate their high mass in Davos this week." (20/01/2015)

Delo - Slovenia

The participants at the World Economic Forum in Davos won't campaign for a fairer world, the left-liberal daily Delo comments, and points out that this is regrettable given that poverty radicalises: "This is slowly dawning even on those who will fly to the Swiss resort of Davos in private jets and helicopters on Wednesday. ... But even though the fear of the dangerous consequences of inequality is already present among them it's unlikely that they'll bring the rich to book for evading taxes. It's also unlikely that capital will be taxed more heavily than labour, that the minimum wage will be increased or that public services will be improved, as Oxfam demands, even though the growing inequality is already causing the first conflicts in Europe." (20/01/2015)

Duma - Bulgaria

Only a revolution can counter today's inequalities, the socialist daily Duma writes with an eye to the Oxfam study: "Poverty and inequality are taboo topics for most Bulgarian media, analysts, and especially politicians. Sure, they go on and on about one 'priority' or another, extravagant aid projects subsidised with money from abroad, but no one talks about an integral, holistic policy for combating inequality. That's because the political system itself promotes inequality. ... It may sound cynical, but the rich aren't to blame for the fact that they live off the backs of the poor. The problem is that they aren't able to find adequate mechanisms for fighting inequality. Because just the opposite happens. That's why it's time for a revolution. Seriously: history knows no other way of filling in such huge gaps." (20/01/2015)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - Germany

A growing lack of trust in politics, the media and business and a world rife with conflict: just getting together and talking against such a background fully justifies the meeting in Davos, the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: "For years now we've known in advance what people will say when all is said and done: All talk and no action, a forum for business contacts, a circus of the vanities. ... But that's just a small part of the truth. Nowhere else do so many representatives from the worlds of politics, science, business and the arts meet in such close quarters to discuss the state of the world. That's valuable in itself. People cross paths, shake hands. What can be more valuable, especially in a world where long-standing ties are coming undone? A few days in Davos aren't enough to heal the excesses and greed of managers or the wrongdoings of politicians. But believing that things can improve is a first step along the way." (20/01/2015)

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