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MAIN FOCUS | 17/04/2015

Athens' request for payment deferral rejected

Athens has asked the IMF for a deferral of further loan repayments, according to media reports. IMF head Christine Lagarde rejected the request as "unsatisfactory" on Thursday, at the start of the spring meeting with the World Bank in Washington. If the debt conflict leads to a Grexit it will mean the end of the EU, some commentators warn. Others see a radical restructuring of the Eurozone as Europe's last chance.

With articles from the following publications:
Corriere della Sera - Italy, Club Z - Bulgaria, Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

Corriere della Sera - Italy

Europe's stock markets were sent reeling on Thursday after the IMF's refusal to postpone Greece's bailout repayments. Investors are readying themselves for a Grexit, the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera writes, warning of the consequences: "A Grexit would escalate the tensions within the Eurozone. It would endanger the entire integration process. It would strengthen all those who exploit the scepticism vis-à-vis Europe's bureaucratic institutions to campaign against the euro and even demand the dissolution of the EU: from Podemos in Spain, Syriza and the Alternative for Germany party to the Lega Nord in Italy and Ukip in the UK. … In the eyes of many Eurosceptics the spectre of a Grexit is not only useful for fighting EU bureaucracy but also for denying the entire sense of its political project." (17/04/2015)

Club Z - Bulgaria

If Athens doesn't get any new loans Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will be forced to cut pensions and salaries, journalist Vesselin Yelev writes on the liberal-conservative news portal Club Z and suspects the other EU members are very much aware of this: "If the Greeks have to decide between pension and pay cuts and keeping their government it's clear that they'll opt for a new government that won't cut their pensions and salaries. But that can only be a government that has earned the trust of the international creditors. Tsipras has lost that trust. I believe Europe's strategy is not to throw Greece out of the Eurozone but to get the Greeks to throw Tsipras out of government. And if they don't, the Eurozone will still be able to get along fine without Greece." (16/04/2015)

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

It's highly unlikely that a Grexit could solve the Eurozone's problems, the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung writes, proposing an even more radical solution: "In the long term a kind of European economic government with an enormous budget and far higher transfer effects than Germany has experienced since reunification could help correct the imbalances [within the Eurozone]. But this path is blocked politically. Much more power for Brussels? The citizens of Europe won't go along with that. … The monetary union is dividing the Europeans. Insults are flying back and forth, the political climate has cooled. And Germany, as the commanding euro disciplinarian, is provoking more annoyance than anyone else even though it's acting with the best intentions. Consequently we should start looking at an option that has so far been ignored for understandable reasons: the dissolution of the monetary union, or at least its reduction to a group of homogeneous states. For Europe's sake." (17/04/2015)

MAIN FOCUS | 16/04/2015

EU fuels battle against Google

The European Commission filed anti-trust charges against Google on Wednesday. The search engine operator is abusing its market dominance to the disadvantage of its rivals, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said yesterday. The lawsuit sets an important precedent for online business, some commentators write approvingly. For others, the anti-trust battle against Google is just a sideshow.

With articles from the following publications:
El Mundo - Spain, Financial Times - United Kingdom, Lidové noviny - Czech Republic, Wiener Zeitung - Austria

El Mundo - Spain

The outcome of the dispute over abuse of market dominance at Google Shopping will be a landmark decision for other online business segments too, the conservative daily El Mundo points out, urging the EU Commission to stick to its guns: "The outcome of the conflict will be vital because it will set a precedent for other Internet business segments in which the search engine's behaviour could be controversial, for example air travel, tourism and maps. Hopefully Brussels will keep up the pressure and defend the citizens' interests as well as those of other innovative companies. The latter need the guarantee of fair competition that will enable them to contribute to the development of the information society in Europe. Moreover the investigation needs to be sped up, because in a business as dynamic as the Internet, five years are an eternity." (16/04/2015)

Financial Times - United Kingdom

Although Google should not be wrongly condemned the EU Commission's lawsuit against the Internet giant is a welcome step, the liberal business paper Financial Times believes: "Google can legitimately argue that there are plenty of search engines available to users, including Microsoft's Bing, Yahoo, Quora and DuckDuckGo. No one is forced to consume its services. ... It would be wrong for Google to be hamstrung by regulators merely because its services are superior to those offered by rivals. But the commission is right to watch it with care. What is now needed is a clear process to bring this important investigation to a decisive conclusion. If Ms Vestager can deliver one, she will deserve whatever plaudits she receives." (15/04/2015)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

The European Commission has taken far too long to tackle the problems with Google, the conservative daily Lidové noviny criticises, describing its current decision as unhelpful: "After Wednesday's decision many Europeans will say: at last someone is finally slapping down the big bad Internet monopolist. But unfortunately the Commission isn't tackling the burning issues like protection of the private sphere, data and users. All it's focussing on is whether the competition between the US company and its rivals on the Old Continent is fair. … It may well be that Google is exploiting its dominant market position in the Internet world. … But the EU Commission's inquiry has gone on for four years already. Now sanctions will no doubt follow and then a court battle that goes on for years. Yet the Internet is changing every day. Decisions on five and even ten year-old problems won't help here." (16/04/2015)

Wiener Zeitung - Austria

It will take more than a lawsuit against Google to save the digital market in the EU, the state-owned daily Wiener Zeitung comments: "Google will pay. In the worst case the fine will amount to the company's profits from one quarter. Microsoft also had no problems paying a similar fine when its time came. But what comes next? Europe will continue to be technologically dependent on America and Asia. The merger between what's left of Nokia and Alcatel is still in its infancy - nevertheless the EU must encourage its growth. To build up a location like Silicon Valley you need technological heavyweights. It's the big US multinationals that provide the small start-ups there with the funds they need. ... And that only widens the digital gap. So the EU must strive to create such conditions as quickly as possible in Europe. Because the fact is that a large number of the innovators and inventors in Silicon Valley actually come from Europe." (16/04/2015)

MAIN FOCUS | 15/04/2015

Dispute over genocide of Armenians

The European Parliament will vote today, Wednesday, on a resolution demanding that Ankara acknowledge that the massacre of the Armenians was genocide. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has rejected the pope's comments to this effect as "nonsense". Turkey is once again demonstrating that it is not ready for EU membership, some commentators write. Others criticise the genocide accusation as too one-sided.

With articles from the following publications:
Corriere della Sera - Italy, Hürriyet Daily News - Turkey, El País - Spain

Corriere della Sera - Italy

Ankara's unwillingness to recognise the massacre of the Armenians as genocide provides a good opportunity to rule out EU membership for Turkey, the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera believes: "The time has come to admit that Turkey cannot joint the European community and to say loud and clear that the reasons are entirely secular and political in nature. Turkey has long cast itself as a regional power. As such it is unwilling to adapt its ambitions for power to the limits specified by the interests of the European community. Consequently it cannot be compared with any other EU member state. Good relations are indispensable with Turkey on many levels, but they must take a completely different form than EU membership. Once that is achieved, everything can be much simpler and clearer, including criticism of the genocide of the Armenians." (15/04/2015)

Hürriyet Daily News - Turkey

The pope's comment on the genocide of the Armenians overlooks the fact that Muslims were also victims of massacres by Russians at the end of the Ottoman Empire, writes the liberal English-language Hürriyet Daily News: "All of these horrors happened as this part of the world went through a dark era marked by a painfully crumbling empire and vicious struggles over dominance of its pieces. We Muslims suffered terribly, and also made others, such as Armenians, suffer terribly. What makes so many Turks react so adversely to statements on 'Armenian Genocide' is really this mutually painful history. Their perception is that Armenians are singled out as its only victims. To overcome this conundrum, we in Turkey must work to raise awareness about the tragedy of Ottoman Armenians. In return, the world can help us by remembering the tragedy of Ottoman Muslims as well." (15/04/2015)

El País - Spain

With his statements on such a politically sensitive issue Francis has given the Armenians' suffering the attention it deserves, writes the left-liberal daily El País. The paper praises the way the pope is conducting his papacy, noting that within the space of a few months he has turned the Vatican into "an influential player in international politics, the likes of which we haven't seen since the start of John Paul II's papacy. For the first time in years the pope once more has a voice that is heard by global decision makers. ... The pope is among the most respected international politicians and he is using this clout to weigh in on relevant issues. The Armenian genocide is a good example. If it hadn't been for his appeal on Sunday, the 100th anniversary of one of the darkest episodes in the 20th century wouldn't have drawn so much attention. In our world full of noise we need influential voices which, like this one, are worth listening to." (15/04/2015)

MAIN FOCUS | 14/04/2015

Mourning for Günter Grass

German author Günter Grass died on Monday in Lübeck, aged 87. The press praises the Nobel literature laureate as an incommodious voice who embodied the contradictions of German history.

With articles from the following publications:
Deutschlandfunk - Germany, Lidové noviny - Czech Republic, Die Presse - Austria, Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Deutschlandfunk - Germany

Even with his admission that he was once a member of the Waffen-SS Günter Grass never lost his status as a moral authority, the public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk writes in praise of his work as a political author: "Without ever casting himself in the role of victim, Günter Grass was and remains the unmistakable voice of Germany's bad conscience, the sublimation and reorientation of the guilt-ridden heirs of the German Nazi regime. ... He was difficult right until the end, towards himself and everyone else. At first glance his admission that he'd served in the Waffen-SS wasn't really compatible with his role as a moral authority and Nobel laureate, but it well suited the existential state of the entire German postwar generation that, as Grass once put it, was devoured by this criminal regime. ... Grass did the only right thing, which all too few writers and aesthetes do: he got involved and spoke his mind, even if that sometimes meant strongly overstating his point of view." (13/04/2015)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Günter Grass was one of the icons of German postwar culture, the conservative daily Lidové noviny writes in praise of the Nobel laureate who died on Monday: "Grass wasn't 'just' a writer. He was also the symbol of the politicised intellectual who represented Germany's postwar democracy: a poser of uncomfortable questions, a civil-minded critic as a matter of principle, a non-conformist and at the same time a friend of politicians like Willy Brandt. Grass was part of German history, complicated and full of contradictions, and like that history he was hard to understand and accept. In was in literature, however, that he made his real mark. Grass was never able to surpass his début novel The Tin Drum. That constellation was simply one of a kind, unrepeatable. But that one book was enough for him to ascend the throne of postwar German literature." (14/04/2015)

Die Presse - Austria

As a consciousness-creating intellectual Günter Grass had earned the right to err, writes the liberal-conservative daily Die Presse: "With his view that German reunification was an 'ugly' mistake Grass was profoundly mistaken. His admission that as an ignorant youth he was a member of the Waffen-SS came too late for a man who had criticised so many so harshly for their past. And he would have been better off saving the 'last ink' he used to pen the denunciatory poem in which he equated Israel with Iran. Did this 'old leftist fossil', as he described himself, always have to open his mouth so wide? Did he have the moral right to moralise? He certainly did. Because Grass fought for his licence to make mistakes - through his rank as an intellectual. ... In his major works he created a collective consciousness of the past, of the guilt and responsibility that it creates." (14/04/2015)

Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Not everyone will mourn the passing of the controversial author Günter Grass, writes Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza: "German nationalists can breathe a sigh of relief while German and Polish democrats are united in grief. Grass was the conscience of German and European democracy. ... He was very precise in unmasking the resentment of the Nazi tradition in Germany's public life. He was an enemy of all totalitarian systems, a social democrat and anti-communist, a stubborn boy who didn't want to grow up - like the little hero in The Tin Drum. ... As a teenager reared in the spirit of national socialist propaganda he registered of his own free will for the army. Years later he faced angry accusations for this - the revenge for his non-conformism, his literary talent and his courage." (14/04/2015)

MAIN FOCUS | 13/04/2015

Clinton wants to get into White House

Hillary Clinton will seek to become the first woman president of the United States in 2016, the US Democratic Party member announced in an Internet video on Sunday. Some commentators are sceptical about her chances because she stands for a continuation of the policies of current president Barack Obama. Others believe she will score points with her experience as former secretary of state.

With articles from the following publications:
Salzburger Nachrichten - Austria, Pravda - Slovakia, Sydsvenskan - Sweden, Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Salzburger Nachrichten - Austria

Hillary Clinton's experience and prominence alone won't be enough to get her into the White House, the conservative daily Salzburger Nachrichten writes: "The elections for the world's most important office are about the future. America always reinvents itself in the presidential elections - every eight years in general. With one exception - the election of George Bush senior - no party has managed to stay in office for more than two terms since the end of World War II. If the polls are accurate, the desire for change will be even stronger than in 2008. Hillary will just have to hope that the Republicans put up John Ellis 'Jeb' Bush as their candidate. A third Bush would stand for as little of a fresh start as a second Clinton presidency. Any other rival could make things more difficult for Clinton. Her only novelty factor would be the prospect of going down in history as the first woman in the White House." (13/04/2015)

Pravda - Slovakia

Hillary Clinton will face a number of hurdles on her path to the White House, the left-leaning daily Pravda predicts: "One of these obstacles could be Obama himself, who said on Sunday that Clinton would make an 'excellent president'. His popularity has dropped from 69 to 47 percent, so it's incomprehensible that Clinton is counting on him as her most important campaign ally. According to CNN's most recent polls, six in ten Americans say they want the next president to have a different policy than Obama's. So the fact that Clinton comes from Obama's camp could scare off part of the electorate. ... That said, Clinton herself has a handicap: many left-leaning voters outside of the big cities find her too centrist. In their view she's a very wealthy politician backed by rich Wall Street sponsors. And they think she really only wants to become president so as not to be outdone by her husband." (13/04/2015)

Sydsvenskan - Sweden

Clinton's foreign policy experience is a major trump in her bid for the presidency, the liberal daily Sydsvenskan comments: "As is so often the case, jobs and the economy will play a decisive roll in the election outcome. But national security will also be high on the agenda. While the Republicans waver between wanting to strengthen the US's global power base and seeking to give it up altogether, Hillary Clinton can fall back on her experience as secretary of state. Commenting on American foreign policy she has said that 'don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle. The world needs a committed US, one that supports international cooperation. ... In addition, Hillary Clinton has stressed the importance of strengthening women's rights both at home and abroad. ... Globally speaking that's crucial when it comes to leading countries out of poverty and avoiding armed conflicts." (13/04/2015)

Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

After Hillary Clinton, observers expect Jeb Bush to be the next to declare his candidacy for the White House. If one of these two wins, the US will have been governed by either a Bush or a Clinton from 1989 to 2021 apart from an interlude of eight years. A frightening scenario, finds the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza: "The emergence of a quasi-feudal system in which an individual's fate is determined from the moment he is born would send a fatal signal that the US increasingly belongs to the millionaires and billionaires - first in its economy and now in politics. ... Clinton's biggest flaw is not even the fact that she is privileged, but that she also sees herself as privileged. ... Ms Clinton's first grandchild was recently born. It would probably be better for the 'ordinary people' if she got the chance to prove her skills in a different role: as grandmother." (13/04/2015)

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