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MAIN FOCUS | 26/11/2014

Francis appeals to Europe's conscience

In view of the widespread poverty, unemployment and suffering of refugees, Pope Francis called on Europe to remember its fundamental values in an address to the EU Parliament on Tuesday. In Strasbourg the pontiff made an appeal for more European integration and encouraged politicians to believe in change, commentators write.

With articles from the following publications:
Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany, Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland, La Stampa - Italy, La Croix - France

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

Europe should be thankful for Pope Francis's well-meant appeal, the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung comments: "The Pope did not speak as a politician or head of government. He made no comments on European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's tax-saving models, nor did he present an alternative to the Frontex operation in the Mediterranean; ... Francis, as the pope, spoke in terms of truths: refugees are drowning in the sea. People are being treated like goods and are just a nuisance when they don't function. The planet is being plundered. But precisely this made his message political: those who allow themselves to be moved by these truths won't find a moment's peace. ... But European politics, with all its steps forwards and steps backwards, needs the scraping of a utopia. ... This too was one of the Pope's messages to Europe: the terrible news of this year is not the whole truth. Europe and the world don't have to stay like they are now. Could there be any better consolation for Europe's politicians?" (26/11/2014)

Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Pope Francis has strengthened the idea of Europe with his first appearance before the European Parliament, the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza writes in delight: "The most important message of his visit was less his words than his very presence in the heart of the European Union. Of course John Paul II was the very first pope to address the European Parliament in 1988. However the relations between the EU and the Vatican steadily deteriorated thereafter. The Polish pope welcomed Poland's joining the EU but overall the Vatican has often been sceptical about the Union. ... One of the reasons was the dispute over whether the draft preamble of the EU constitution should contain the statement that the European Union has 'Christian values and roots'. ... And now Francis has clearly stressed that the Church supports European integration." (26/11/2014)

La Stampa - Italy

The Pope was right to remind Europe of its international responsibilities, the liberal daily La Stampa comments in praise: "Europe, before whom the Bishop of Rome spoke when he addressed the representatives of the continent's more than 500 million citizens, is no longer the centre of the world. It is a weary continent that has gone from being 'Mother Europe' to 'Grandmother Europe'. A continent that has not only lost its identity and Christian roots, but also seems to have forgotten the reasons for its unity - the very same reasons which have given nations and peoples who fought each other for centuries such a long period of peace. A Europe that is shirking its responsibility on the international stage, that is incapable of speaking with one voice and of using its diplomatic 'weapons' where necessary. ... Europe may no longer be the centre of the world. But the world needs Europe more than ever. The pope from Argentina reminded us of this yesterday." (26/11/2014)

La Croix - France

Pope Francis appealed to Europe's historic responsibility in his speech on Tuesday. Europe can draw much strength from its rich history, the Catholic daily La Croix believes: "Above all he reminded his listeners of their historic responsibility: just as a tree needs a solid trunk and deep roots to grow, Europe needs a memory, courage, and a sound and humane utopian vision. … Europe can find in its cultural heritage the intellectual and spiritual resources it needs to face the challenges of the present: accepting migrants, poverty, unemployment and the solitude of the elderly. ... Many of these topics have to do with human dignity and an ideal inherent to European culture which has been profoundly shaped by Christianity, and which Europe must continue to defend if it is to remain true to its universal vocation." (25/11/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 25/11/2014

Pentagon chief Hagel resigns

US President Barack Obama announced the resignation of his Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday without giving any reasons. According to a report in the New York Times Obama forced the Pentagon chief to step down. Some commentators see an internal dispute over the strategy against the terrorist IS as the reason. Others believe Chuck Hagel was no longer viewed as the right man to tackle the Herculean tasks in the Middle East.

With articles from the following publications:
Radikal - Turkey, Deutsche Welle - Germany, Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Radikal - Turkey

Chuck Hagel was obliged to resign because his strategy for Syria was incompatible with Obama's, the liberal Internet portal Radikal believes: "According to information leaked from the White House, Obama too was against a Syria with Assad. But in the fight against the IS he would not have been able to work towards having Assad toppled for two reasons: Firstly the Congressional mandate wasn't against Assad but against the IS. Secondly Iran played an important role - though only behind closed doors: when the IS appeared and conquered Mossul and Iraq was on the verge of collapse, Iran and the US suddenly had a common enemy. This shared position brought them together. ... At the same time Obama, who had declared his satisfaction with Hassan Rohani's taking power in Tehran, ensured that the nuclear talks with Iran were resumed. ... And he shied away from declaring Assad and the IS as equally important targets, as Hagel had proposed." (25/11/2014)

Deutsche Welle - Germany

Chuck Hagel clearly wasn't the right choice for a US Defense Secretary facing new challenges in foreign policy, the public state broadcaster Deutsche Welle writes: "Like Obama, Hagel is deeply sceptical about the use of military force to solve international problems. ... Obama's rationale to hire Hagel to finally end the other war started by his predecessor - the one in Afghanistan - and trim down the Pentagon made sense at the time. But reality quickly took priority over their foreign policy plan to decrease America's military footprint in the Middle East and beyond. ... Meanwhile in Washington, the Obama administration has struggled to adapt to the changing geopolitical landscape. It still hasn't fully. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was not the right man for that task. Perhaps Obama now needs someone at the helm of the Pentagon who, in some ways, is less like himself." (25/11/2014)

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

The resignation is a sign of President Barack Obama's growing weakness, the liberal business paper Il Sole 24 Ore notes: "After the defeat in the midterm elections Obama is already viewed as a lame duck. Now he also threatens to become a mute duck if he doesn't take over the reins again in foreign policy. ... Hagel is a convenient scapegoat for the crisis that the White House has suffered on the [Middle-]Eastern front. The question is crucial: Obama must say who he wants to make peace with and against whom he wants to wage war. Above all in the Middle East, where US and Western policy appear rather contradictory. That must be part of the reason why the war veteran Hagel, eyewitness to various US debacles, from the Vietnam War to the era of George W. Bush, prefered to step down as Secretary of Defense." (25/11/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 24/11/2014

Iran wants more time for nuclear deal

According to diplomatic sources, Iran is considering extending the deadline for nuclear negotiations with the UN veto powers and Germany. Tehran has until midnight today, Monday, to abandon its controversial nuclear programme. In exchange the West promises to ease economic sanctions against the country. A deal is necessary, but not at any price, commentators write.

With articles from the following publications:
The Times - United Kingdom, Dagens Nyheter - Sweden, De Telegraaf - Netherlands

The Times - United Kingdom

If Iran is not prepared to make real concessions the West would be better off leaving the negotiating table, the conservative daily The Times warns: "Failure to strike an accord today, say Mr Obama's advisers, might increase the risk of strategic instability. Striking a bad deal would however be far worse, both reckless and dangerous. It would promote an unapologetic sponsor of terrorism into the role of a major regional power. ... Iran should be obliged to make a full declaration of the military aspects of its nuclear project and this too should be open for verification. If a deal fails to improve western and global security or dispel justified suspicions about Iran's strategic intent then it is not worth signing." (23/11/2014)

Dagens Nyheter - Sweden

The nuclear talks with Iran must produce results, the liberal daily Dagens Nyheter demands: "An agreement would support the reformists in Iran. But in the end it's Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei who calls the shots. He allowed the election of the rather moderate President Hassan Rohani, but the pendulum could also swing back in favour of the reactionary forces. In the US Congress the Republicans - but also many Democrats - distrust President Obama's negotiating skills. ... Russia doesn't want more nuclear powers to contend with, particularly not on its southern border. ... But President Putin's isolation after his incursions in Ukraine could bring him to join forces with Iran. ... Just one year of reprieve could give Iran nuclear weapons. So the negotiations must continue. A military alternative would have serious consequences." (24/11/2014)

De Telegraaf - Netherlands

Iran cannot be trusted, the conservative daily De Telegraaf warns commenting on a potential agreement in the nuclear dispute: "A deal will be worth little if it is still possible to produce nuclear weapons secretly. Why for instance would the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency still have no access to a military complex where shady nuclear activities are perhaps going on? And then we must bear in mind that the inspection teams are not allowed to have contact with nuclear scientists. ... And unless it contains watertight agreements on controls, inspections and reducing the incredibly high number of centrifuges, an agreement won't do the West any good. No deal would be better than a bad one." (24/11/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 21/11/2014

Ukip clinches second seat in parliament

The Eurosceptic Ukip party won a second seat in the British House of Commons on Thursday in a by-election in the southern English town of Rochester. Voters wanted to punish the established parties, some commentators write. For others, Ukip's success is due to widespread xenophobia.

With articles from the following publications:
The Guardian - United Kingdom, Pravda - Slovakia, Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

The Guardian - United Kingdom

The success of the right-wing populist Ukip in the southern English town of Rochester is in the view of the left-liberal daily The Guardian just as much a result of immoral protest votes as a failure on the part of the established parties: "[Voters] may accept the vileness of much Ukip does but nevertheless take the view that this is of less consequence than the party's usefulness as a stick with which to beat the other parties. That is a practical decision. But let's not pretend that it is a moral one. ... In the aftermath of Rochester, mainstream politics must reconnect with alienated communities. People have deep concerns. Politics must work harder to address them, or to at least make it plain that they understand the depth of those concerns. But they must not pander, as they have been pandering, and they should not infantalise the electorate." (21/11/2014)

Pravda - Slovakia

The fact that the Eurosceptic Ukip won another parliamentary seat in a byelection in Rochester on Thursday doesn't surprise the left-leaning daily Pravda: "Immigration from the new EU member states has been a main political topic since the start of the year. The media and public discourse have revived the old phantom of hordes of immigrants lurking on the borders, intent on abusing the British social welfare system. ... Ukip picked up the theme first, and this ensured its success in the European elections. Prime Minister Cameron, whose votes Ukip is stealing, proposed new limits on immigration but met with fierce resistance, above all from Germany. But at the start of the week Labour too sided with the Tories on this issue. ... The idea of Eastern Europeans plundering the welfare coffers is fixed in people's heads and reflects an increasingly xenophobic attitude." (21/11/2014)

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Ukip candidate Mark Reckless is already the second Tory MP to have defected to Ukip and secured re-election to a parliamentary seat. Prime Minister David Cameron triggered this trend himself with his anti-EU rhetoric, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore criticises: "Stopping the advance of Ukip is the top priority for Cameron. But he has adopted the stoniest, most dangerous and misguided approach to doing this. ... With relatively moderate language he is aping those who campaign for the UK's independence and engaging in a risky game with the British people's weak support for Europe. ... He is thus strengthening Euroscepticism in a contest in which Ukip is systematically outdoing him. Meanwhile the party is a magnet for all those who want a future outside the EU. A dynamic that hasn't gone unnoticed in the governing party. ... A growing number of people are ready to jump on [Ukip leader] Farage's bandwagon." (21/11/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 20/11/2014

Steinmeier seeks dialogue with Moscow

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday. Putin's invitation came as a surprise as German Chancellor Angela Merkel had recently voiced harsh criticism of the Kremlin chief. Merkel has done major damage to relations between Russia and the West, some commentators write. Others believe Steinmeier could thaw the frosty mood in the Ukraine crisis.

With articles from the following publications:
15min - Lithuania, Frankfurter Rundschau - Germany, Postimees - Estonia

15min - Lithuania

With her criticism of Moscow and her warning about expansionism German Chancellor Angela Merkel also played a sizable role in cooling relations between Russia and the West, journalist Vytautas Plečkaitis writes on the news portal 15min: "Vladimir Putin flexed Russia's muscles and tried to instil fear in the West [ahead of the G20 summit] with his four warships on the Australian coast and his bombers on the US border. ... However all this failed to impress the Western heads of state. Their coldness towards the Russian president was evident. ... Germany [too] has slowly gone from being Russia's friend to its enemy since it started playing an active role in the attempts to discipline Russia in the Ukraine crisis." (20/11/2014)

Frankfurter Rundschau - Germany

With his modest and reserved attitude in the Ukraine conflict the German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier ensures that the Russian leadership is always willing to talk to him, the left-liberal daily Frankfurter Rundschau writes in praise: "The likeable thing about the German foreign minister's diplomatic style in the last few months of the Ukraine crisis is its modesty. ... It conveys a serene attitude in the midst of an increasingly bellicose environment. It displays no trace of what the Russian president ceaselessly complains of: it is neither brash nor triumphant. And it takes Russia very seriously - regarding its legitimate interests as well as its behaviour." (20/11/2014)

Postimees - Estonia

Vladimir Putin responded to Angela Merkel's attacks at the G20 summit saying that personal friendships do not count when Russia's interests are at stake. Columnist Ahto Lojakas analyses the reasons for Russia's rigid foreign policy in the liberal daily Postimees: "Although Russia exists alongside us in the 21st century, the main impulses that drive its leaders stem from the 19th century: enlarging its sphere of interest by all possible means. ... The last century added the motive of revenge after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which is viewed [by Russia] as the biggest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century. In this light the shocking ease with which Putin is destroying the political certainties of the 21st century is easier to understand. In the same way it should be clear that there's no sense in wringing our hands. ... Putin's Russia owes nothing to the 21st century; quite the contrary." (18/11/2014)

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