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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)

MAIN FOCUS | 17/10/2014

Investors' fears cause markets to tumble

The weak growth of the global economy and low inflation in the Eurozone prompted investors to sell shares on a massive scale on Thursday again. The euphoria on the markets has long stood in stark contrast to the real economy situation, commentators point out. They call on Europe's politicians to combat the threat of another recession with reforms and economic stimulus measures.

With articles from the following publications:
Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy, De Telegraaf - Netherlands, La Libre Belgique - Belgium

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

The stock markets' downward slide was predictable because the investors' euphoria had nothing to do with the real economy, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore comments: "Forget the return of the Greek crisis or the US's departure from its expansive financial policy, the spectre of deflation in Europe or the upcoming stress tests for Europe's banks. The real reason is that share and bond markets all over the world rose carelessly in recent times. Investors put their faith in an economic boom and financial stabilisation in Europe that are anything but certain. ... The tumbling markets are simply the final proof of the huge gap that now exists between the world of finance and the real economy. In other words it is confirmation of the fact that the only response [to the economic crisis] has come from central banks. They have pumped huge and unprecedented amounts of cash onto the markets and driven them ever higher." (17/10/2014)

De Telegraaf - Netherlands

Europe should be concerned about the jitteriness on the markets, the conservative daily De Telegraaf warns: "The dropping share prices and the low interest rates are first and foremost a signal that the economy is not doing well - particularly in Europe. Not without good reason did the German chancellor warn again yesterday [in a government statement] that Europe needs to continue the reforms and economic stimulus measures. Merkel's warnings are justified. Europe still has a long way to go before it leaves the crisis behind. There are still countries that are living beyond their means and there are still countries that refuse to adjust their welfare systems to the new economic reality in a world where competition has grown tougher. This can't go on any longer. The problems must be tackled to avoid a new escalation of the crisis." (17/10/2014)

La Libre Belgique - Belgium

The drop on the stock markets is no reason for panic, the liberal daily La Libre Belgique writes: "The tumble can't be put down to one specific event, but rather an indigestible cocktail of bad news. ... Even China is showing signs of running out of steam. In short, there is no end of problems dogging the global economy. If you add to that the hyper-sophisticated market operations that aggravate price volatility, there's nothing surprising about the current correction. It brings to mind the saying on the markets that 'trees don't grow tall enough to reach the sky'. But we know that fear is a poor advisor. The worst thing would be if the economic players' incertitude were exacerbated by the feeling that the states, governments and central banks are unable to influence events." (17/10/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 16/10/2014

Scandal match between Serbia and Albania

The Euro 2016 qualifying match between Serbia and Albania on Tuesday evening in Belgrade was interrupted after heavy rioting broke out among the players and spectators when a drone carrying the flag of Greater Albania flew over the pitch. Hatred and distrust still dominate in the former Yugoslavia, commentators write, and blame Europe's football association Uefa for ignoring the potential for tensions.

With articles from the following publications:
Jutarnji List - Croatia, The Guardian - United Kingdom, Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Jutarnji List - Croatia

Nationalistic hatred is still rife in the western Balkans, and not just on the football pitch, the liberal daily Jutarnji List laments: "One must concede that the Albanians have achieved an unprecedented level of innovation when it comes to abusing football. However we can also shudder at the explosion of hate the Albanian roar triggered among the Serb fans. But let's be honest: the Croat national player Joe Šimunić tried to provoke just such feelings of hatred after the Croatia-Iceland game [with his fascist salute]. To say nothing of the commonplace chant 'Kill the Serbs' in Croatian stadiums. No one has a monopoly on nationalistic hatred on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Nationalistic hatred and distrust are what all the nations of the former state have in common, as the last elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina demonstrated in which the nationalist parties triumphed." (16/10/2014)

The Guardian - United Kingdom

The scandal over the Euro 2016 qualifying match between Serbia and Albania bears the typical signature of former conflicts in the region, Bosnian author Andrej Nikolaidis writes in the left-lliberal daily The Guardian: "The flag incident came at the worst possible moment. There had been a glimpse of hope for the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Albania. It was announced that on 22 October Edi Rama will visit Belgrade and meet Aleksandar Vučić, the Serbian prime minister. It was supposed to be the first visit of the Albanian prime minister to Belgrade in 70 years. ... This 'football war' ended like every other war in Balkans. It was a goalless draw. There is never a clear winner. There is always more than one historical truth about who started it. And at the end of every single war, it says: to be continued." (15/10/2014)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Uefa should have prevented Serbia and Albania from playing in the same group, the conservative daily Lidoé noviny criticises: "Was this a political provocation on the part of the Albanians? Well, yes. Just as the Serbs have never been able to get used to the loss of Kosovo, dreams of a greater Albania are still alive in Albania. But the real mistake was made when the groups were chosen by lot. In the past Uefa has taken account of the tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan or Spain and Gibraltar by not putting them in the same group. And that's what it should have done this time, too. Was this due to a lack of knowledge of the political situation on the Balkans? Hard to say. The comment by Uefa boss Michel Platini that football should unite and not divide peoples just sounds naive. Now there are nothing but losers: the Albanians, the Serbs, and football." (16/10/2014)

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