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Lietuvos Žinios - Lithuania | 24/04/2015

Putin ignoring Russia's economic crisis

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev admitted on Tuesday before the Russian parliament that the country's economy is in a worse state than ever before. Vladimir Putin, however, refuses to acknowledge this, political analyst Vytautas Dumbliauskas notes with concern in the conservative daily Lietuvos žinios: "Medvedev said things that completely contradicted what the president said [on April 16 in a televised call-in session]. The prime minister has thus pretty much dismissed Putin's economic optimism. According to Medvedev the crisis is a major one and by no means short term. ... He named the price the country has already paid for Crimea and added that there's still a lot to come for Russia on that count. ... Putin, however, still won't listen to these warnings. He's probably obsessed with the idea of forcing the leaders of the West to sit down at the negotiating table and divide the world into spheres of influence - like the Yalta and Potsdam agreements did." (24/04/2015)

Berlingske - Denmark | 24/04/2015

Fight against Google and Gazprom justified

EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager is right to challenge the monopoly positions of Google and Gazprom in Europe, the conservative daily Berlingske applauds: "This struggle is currently one of the most important in Europe. The EU's decision to liberalise the energy market must be backed. However we must not tolerate the Russian power game in which one country is played off against another. It is essential for free competition and the principles on which the EU and the single market are built that the formation of monopolies and the abuse of a dominant position are countered. For that reason the Commission must also ensure that sufficient resources and personnel are made available to demonstrate authority." (24/04/2015)

The Irish Times - Ireland | 23/04/2015

Airline mergers stifle competition

Ireland's government has been negotiating with the International Airlines Group (IAG) for several weeks over the sale of its shares in the state-run airline Aer Lingus. The mergers in Europe's aviation industry are detrimental to consumers, the left-liberal daily The Irish Times warns: "In a worst case scenario, the ongoing consolidation of the European airline market has the potential to create three regional monopolies, with the Lufthansa group taking the east, Air France/KLM taking the centre and IAG taking the western coastal European market. ... EU lawmakers need to revisit European competition law to ensure it is robust enough to deal with the new market situation emerging and, where necessary, update the law to make it fit for purpose and then strongly enforce it to keep the aviation market open to real competition." (23/04/2015)

Diário de Notícias - Portugal | 22/04/2015

Portugal's Socialists succumb to economic utopia

Portugal's opposition Socialists presented their "Economic Outlook" in preparation for the elections next autumn on Tuesday. The economic agenda promises an end to "blind austerity" and more investments to boost the ailing economy. The liberal-conservative daily Diário de Notícias doubts the feasibility of many of its plans: "The Socialists aim, among other things, to triple investments: between 2015 and 2016 they are to climb from 2.9 percent of the GDP (as predicted by the European Commission) to 7.8 percent. But how is this feat supposed to be achieved in a context of brutal sovereign debt - and at such a rapid pace? … It looks like the impetus that public and private investments are supposed to give to growth is simply being overrated." (22/04/2015)

Le Courrier - Switzerland | 22/04/2015

Hope for stricter rules for multinationals

More than 60 human rights and relief organisations initiated a petition for a referendum in Bern on Tuesday, and will gather signatures until October 2016 on a vote to oblige multinational companies to do more for environmental protection and human rights. There is every reason to persevere, the Christian-social daily Le Courrier believes: "The activists will also be able to evoke a certain Swiss legal notion stressing an ethic of equity before the law. The slowness of direct democracy could also work to its advantage. Because this federal initiative will be closely watched from abroad. If enough people sign it in Switzerland - a bastion of transnational commerce - it could have a significant effect on other countries that are hesitant to take the first step. The hope is certainly slim, but it deserves to be maintained. We cannot simply accept that companies that rule over the lives of hundreds of millions of people remain above the law." (22/04/2015)

Aftonbladet - Sweden | 23/04/2015

Sweden has enough sun for energy

Sweden's social democratic Energy Minister Ibrahim Baylan wants to raise the tax on solar energy production as of July 2016 in accordance with EU regulations. For the left-liberal daily Aftonbladet this sends a very negative message: "While the rest of the world is switching to alternative energies the Swedish government wants to make them more expensive. … Solar panels are an important component of the energy mix of the future, one which we can both use and produce. Solar energy is renewable, and unlike wind energy and bioenergy doesn't generate conflicts with environmental interests or annoyed residents. … We are hopelessly behind in terms of using of solar energy. In southern Sweden the sun shines roughly as much as in Germany, but Germany generates 170 times more electricity from solar energy." (23/04/2015)

Kaleva - Finland | 23/04/2015

Finland's forest industry in good shape again

The Finnish forest industry group Metsä-Group announced on Tuesday plans to build a large pulp mill in central Finland. This is proof that Finland's forest industry still has good chances on the global market, the liberal daily Kaleva contends: "The plan in Äänekoski produces long-fibre pine pulp from which for example cardboard boxes and paper tissues are made. There are growing markets for both products. … Moreover, thanks to innovative production processes, the valuable by-products of pulp production can be put to good use. In Äänekoski these are refined bio-products, above all textile fibres, bio-composites for strengthening plastics, fertilisers and sulphuric acid. There is high demand for these expensive refined products on the global market. … Finland, which in the last decade mainly owed its success to the IT sector, now relies more heavily on its forest industry. But not as one-sidedly as one would assume." (23/04/2015)

Delo - Slovenia | 22/04/2015

Food giant crushes Slovenian farmers

As of Tuesday, the Croatian food company Podravka owns 52 percent of the privatised Slovenian manufacturer of baked goods Žito. Given that Žito had regularly purchased around half of the grain grown in Slovenia, the takeover represents a painful defeat for the country's farmers, the left-liberal daily Delo explains: "[Agriculture Minister] Židan must explain to the farmers why the food company Žito now belongs to a company that has an abundance of grain. In addition, Podravka has announced that it will fight for shares of the food industry in the whole region of the former Yugoslavia. ... This is another defeat for independent farmers." (22/04/2015)

Ziare - Romania | 22/04/2015

Romania's laughable tax lottery

The Romanian government plans to introduce a lottery to encourage consumers to ask for a receipt when they make purchases and thus curb tax evasion. The lucky winners will receive prizes after sending in their sales slips. The news portal Ziare is unconvinced by the plan: "The tax authorities face a colossal task: every receipt must be checked. Instead of investigating illegally acquired assets or going after tax evaders, they will have to check the 9,000 cash registers that issued the receipts. To be finished by July 12 as planned, the officers will have to check 150 tills a day - assuming they work weekends too, that is. Or will they only do random checks? Then they run the risk of letting someone who cheated on their taxes win the lottery. That would be the height of irony." (22/04/2015)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland | 21/04/2015

TTIP window of opportunity is closing

With tens of thousands of EU citizens out in protest and no sign of agreement on contentious issues, tensions were running high as the ninth round of negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) kicked off on Monday in New York. Time is running out for the negotiators, the liberal-conservative daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung fears: "The US presidential elections will take place in November 2016. If it wants to present successes in trade policy, the US administration under President Barack Obama will have to conclude its major projects as quickly as possible. Once the official campaign has started, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans will want to bother voters with unpopular trade policy issues. Free trade is such a hot potato that politicians are reluctant to touch it for fear it could detract from their own success. The problem is that bickering over details - chlorine chickens are the classic case - tends to make people completely forget the advantages of free trade." (21/04/2015)

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