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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)

MAIN FOCUS | 19/11/2014

Synagogue attacked in Jerusalem

Five people were killed on Tuesday in an attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the attack and ordered the demolition of the homes of the assailants. Hardliner Netanyahu is partially to blame for the escalation, some commentators write. Others call on Abbas to end his alliance with the radical Islamist Hamas.

With articles from the following publications:
The Guardian - United Kingdom, De Telegraaf - Netherlands, Die Presse - Austria, Avvenire - Italy

The Guardian - United Kingdom

Although the attack on the Jerusalem synagogue must be strongly condemned the Israeli government is also to blame for the escalating violence, the left-liberal daily The Guardian argues: "Binyamin Netanyahu has failed to show Palestinians any kind of political horizon. He shows them no route by which they might reach independence or even an end to occupation. In the absence of such a political path, the men of violence prosper. It is true that Netanyahu is surrounded by cabinet hardliners who would go further than he would, annexing large swaths of the West Bank tomorrow. But he needs to think beyond the mere maintaining of his coalition and his own job. He needs to lead, and point the way out of a situation that is intolerable - and lethally dangerous - to both peoples." (18/11/2014)

De Telegraaf - Netherlands

The government in Tel Aviv must keep a level head although the attack on those praying in a Jerusalem synagogue hits right at the heart of Israel, the conservative daily De Telegraaf writes: "Prime Minister Netanyahu sees 'incitement' by Palestinian President Abbas as the cause of the violence. Abbas, however, has condemned the cowardly act of terror. ... Israel would do better to adopt a more moderate tone regarding Abbas, lest he, like his predecessor Yassir Arafat, really does decide to back a new intifada. But the Palestinian president must also show his colours. He has formed a unity government with the terrorist movement Hamas, which has praised the attack and called for more such acts. If Abbas really condemns terrorist acts and seeks to be an ally in peace, he must terminate his pact with Hamas as quickly as possible." (19/11/2014)

Die Presse - Austria

The radical Islamist organisation Hamas has praised the attack on the Jerusalem synagogue and called for further "acts of revenge". That should give the international community pause for thought, the liberal-conservative daily Die Presse comments: "In retrospect the EU, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and also President Obama must face questions about why they were so jubilant in June about the Palestinians forming a Hamas-backed Unity government cabinet. It was an illusion to believe that such an alliance would have a moderating effect on the terrorist group and bring peace closer. It's unreasonable to expect Israel to negotiate with a government which includes confidantes of an Islamo-fascist terrorist group who either fire missiles across the border or spur murderers on. Before the EU starts thinking about how to impose sanctions on Israel it must tell Abbas not to do business with Hamas any more." (19/11/2014)

Avvenire - Italy

The unresolved Palestine issue threatens to trigger a third intifada, the Catholic daily Avvenire warns in view of the attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighbourhood: "The likelihood of a third intifada grows with each hour that passes. But do Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas still have the power to stop the wave of terror and defuse the bombs of an asymmetrical guerilla war? Can Hamas, which is politically isolated but adamant that it won't give up control in the Gaza Strip, really contribute to a peaceful solution to the conflict? ... It is the duty of the major democracies of the European community, America and our country to intervene immediately and contribute to a solution of the conflict over Palestine. Undaunted and in the knowledge that left to themselves the protagonists will never find a solution." (19/11/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 18/11/2014

Iohannis declares war on corruption

After his victory in the Romanian presidential elections, Klaus Iohannis called on parliament on Monday to vote against an amnesty law that would protect party colleagues of Prime Minister Victor Ponta from corruption investigations. With the right people at his side Iohannis can wage an effective war against corruption, commentators believe, and hope European values will be strengthened throughout the region.

With articles from the following publications:
Blog Adevărul - Romania, Standart - Bulgaria, Dagens Nyheter - Sweden, Der Standard - Austria

Blog Adevărul - Romania

By voting for Klaus Iohannis the Romanians hope something will finally be done about the corruption in their country, columnist Ion Ionita writes on the blog of the liberal-conservative daily Adevărul, and beseeches the new president not to fail: "Betrayal, hypocrisy, faked competence and Romanian political Byzantinism [total submissiveness] will not disappear just because Iohannis has won the elections! ... Mr. Iohannis, what you need now is a professional and honest team. ... Your election is the expression of the people's last hope for an end to politicians all cast in the same mould as those who make a mockery of the people. Your swearing in ceremony in December will mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of communism. For many people Romania is still not a normal country. It is your duty to change that, and you must not fail." (18/11/2014)

Standart - Bulgaria

The main question now is whether Klaus Iohannis will be able to hold his own against Prime Minister Victor Ponta, the daily newspaper Standart comments, adding that Romania's president designate fulfils an important criterion in the fight against corruption: "He will be surrounded by people who are well acquainted with the subject. He has the backing of the icon of the fight against corruption, Monica Macovei. The MEP endorsed him unequivocally after the first round of the election. Many now fear that the rivalry between president and prime minister will flare up again. Ponta has already made it clear that he has no intention of stepping down as prime minister although the opposition is calling for the resignation of the entire government over the fiasco with the polling stations outside Romania. If it doesn't resign it will be very hard for Iohannis to push new laws through parliament, and anything else for that matter." (18/11/2014)

Dagens Nyheter - Sweden

As new president, Klaus Iohannis raises hopes that Romania can free itself from a national political tragedy, the liberal daily Dagens Nyheter believes: "Until now it seemed as if the population of the second-poorest EU country was condemned to live in poverty and a sort of semi-democracy. ... The beggars from Romania remind us of the inequality in Europe. But is this inequality the result of the EU's construction? Rather it's a national political tragedy whose most recent chapter began with a bloody uprising 25 years ago. How it will end is not written in the stars. Putting an end to the judicial jungle is Romania's chance to become a more prosperous, more stable and more democratic country." (18/11/2014)

Der Standard - Austria

Iohannis is seen as an objective and competent politician not prone to corruption, the left-liberal daily Der Standard writes approvingly on Iohannis's election as Romanian president, hoping he will strengthen European values: "The fact that such a clear majority voted for him shows that after 25 years of false starts Romania has finally found its place in Europe. Iohannis is also the opposite number to Victor Orbán, the strongman in neighbouring Hungary who is leading his country towards illiberal nationalism à la Vladimir Putin. And he can also play a role in Ukraine's future. Because in those regions which must decide between Brussels and Moscow the citizens are questioning whether the European-Western model really does fulfil the promise of prosperity." (18/11/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 17/11/2014

Putin left isolated at G20 summit

Russian President Vladimir Putin left the G20 summit in Brisbane early on Sunday. According to reports in the Russian media Putin had complained that the leaders at the summit were pressuring him too much over the conflict in Ukraine. The West must stick to its hard line vis-à-vis Moscow even after the summit, some commentators say. Others warn that the confrontation could lead to a deadlock.

With articles from the following publications:
The Observer - United Kingdom, Le Soir - Belgium, Eesti Päevaleht - Estonia, Der Tagesspiegel - Germany

The Observer - United Kingdom

The G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, on the weekend highlighted how hardened the fronts are in the Ukraine crisis, the left-liberal Sunday newspaper The Observer writes, calling for the West to stick its guns: "At least the Soviet Union had a distinct ideology based on ideals, however deluded they proved to be. Putin's only principle seems to be national and personal aggrandisement. ... Increased financial pressure coupled with intensified diplomatic action and bolstered Nato support for European countries bordering Russia could convince Moscow that the costs of its antisocial behaviour are too high to bear. As for Putin, world leaders should stop treating him as if he were somehow one of them. Putin and Putinism are a throwback to a more polarised and aggressive era. He must not be allowed to drag the world back to the past." (16/11/2014)

Le Soir - Belgium

The international community should keep putting Putin under pressure even after the Australian G-20 summit, the liberal daily Le Soir urges: "One may ask why the head of the Kremlin was invited to this G-20 summit at all. Even before the meeting Putin had already been excluded from the G8, which has been reduced to its original seven-member format since the spring. But we have long known that not all those who have been 'ostracised' are systematically excluded from diplomatic meetings because they violate the democratic principles of the rule of law or human rights. ... What is to be done? New sanctions are the order of the day, but they will only symbolically target one or two people, no more. The debate is a sensitive one. Everyone is calculating what they stand to win or lose from the long tug of war that is in the offing. One thing seems clear: Putin will turn any sign of weakness to his advantage. So the priority is to maintain the pressure and keep a cool head." (17/11/2014)

Eesti Päevaleht - Estonia

German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced strong criticism of the Russian president in a foreign policy speech in Sydney and warned that Russia is seeking to enlarge its sphere of influence. The G-20 summit in Australia marked the breakup between Russia and the West, but above all between Putin and Merkel, the liberal daily Eesti Päevaleht writes: "Any head of state who travels to a summit accompanied by four warships is going to receive a cold welcome. In fact it's surprising that reactions to this sabre-rattling were as mild as they have been! But even Angela Merkel, who in past years had special ties with Putin in a wider sense, had to admit in the end that 'enough was enough'. Even her (considerable) patience was at an end. The result is a definitive separation from Russia. ... In its relations with Moscow it seems that even the hitherto idealistic and starry-eyed West is finally seeing the light." (17/11/2014)

Der Tagesspiegel - Germany

After several hours of talks with Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Europe and the US to act together in the Ukraine crisis. The West must find solutions that allow Putin to save face, the liberal-conservative daily Der Tagesspiegel urges: "Neither Merkel's cleverness nor the sanctions have moved Putin to fulfil the promises that he has made on Ukraine. He sees the harm being done to his country, but his geo-strategic goals are closer to his heart. That also gives the EU pause for thought, whose foreign ministers will discuss their strategies today. But if Putin puts so much stock in signs that his country is on an equal standing, precisely this offers a starting point. Without giving up its own position, the EU must reflect about making an offer to Russia from which Putin can also benefit symbolically. In diplomatic language that's called a face-saving solution." (17/11/2014)

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