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Press review | 29/01/2013



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Allied troops recapture Timbuktu

The allied forces report that they met with barely any resistance from the Islamist fighters. (© AP/dapd)


French and Malian soldiers brought the town of Timbuktu under their control on Monday, leaving only the provincial capital of Kidal in the hands of radical Islamists. Commentators talk of an important victory in a battle that will be a long one and say that now it's time for politics to take the stage.

Público - Portugal

Important victory in a long battle

The liberation of the cities of Timbuktu and before that of Gao is an important victory, but a cautious approach is still warranted, the liberal daily Público warns: "This is the first major victory in this desert war which the French army is fighting practically single-handedly. … But we should not be deceived by these easy military successes. The jihadists were not ready to fight for the cities so they withdrew to the safety of the desert. It won't be easy to drive them out of their refuge. The threat has retreated but certainly not disappeared. Now the regional partners must understand the nature of the threat and make a correct diagnosis of the situation. It will be a long and tough battle that must be fought on several levels. … If the Africans don't make their contribution, there will be no long-term solution to this conflict." (29/01/2013)

Die Tageszeitung taz - Germany

Now politics must take the stage

The recapture of the desert town Timbuktu is not the end of the conflict, writes the left-leaning daily taz and calls for a political concept for establishing peace in Mali: "Mali could still become a 'second Afghanistan' even if the Islamists don't have any cities under their control. No matter how many soldiers the French army deploys, armed groups will always be able to take refuge in the vast desert region in the north. They can make the major roads unsafe and earn money with through trans-Saharan trade while the international troops set up their bases in the cities and the Malian government acts like this is all normal. A concept for restoring peace to northern Mali has yet to be found. The French military intervention has actually diminished the urgency of such a plan in the eyes of the Malian government. The dramatic events in Timbuktu only underscore how inadequate it is to put blind faith in the army. Now politics must take the stage." (29/01/2013)

Aftonbladet - Sweden

Poverty can't just be bombed out of existence

It's not enough to just deploy troops in Mali, the social democratic daily Aftonbladet stresses: "You can't just shoot poverty and powerlessness out of existence. Nor can you bomb economic development and constitutional principles into being from a fighter jet. Creating long-term prospects is a task for civil society, and it will require time, commitment and funding from the EU. This commitment exists already, but how long will it last? The problem is that we're dealing with an interconnected region stretching from Afghanistan in the east over the Gulf of Aden and Somalia to Mali in West Africa, in which drugs and weapons circulate and crime is the order of the day. These lawless countries are an excellent breeding ground for international terrorism. Until now Europe has been pretty much helpless in face of this development. What's now happening in Mali should serve as a wake-up call." (29/01/2013)

Corriere della Sera - Italy

Ravaging culture out of hatred for the West

Before withdrawing from Timbuktu the radical Islamists set fire to the ancient town's library and the priceless historical manuscripts it contained. In the summer they had also destroyed several mausoleums in the town's mosques. These cultural treasures have fallen victim to the fundamentalists' hatred of the West, the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera writes: "Behind the destruction of the tombs and the manuscripts in Timbuktu was more than just the iconoclasm that aims to preserve the uniqueness of the worship of the one God. There was the desire to destroy a cultural legacy that enjoys the protection of Unesco and other 'foreign' institutions which are perceived as alien elements that must be eradicated. No religious prescription would permit the destruction of Koran scriptures or the memoirs of scholars. But anything goes when it comes to burning manuscripts and destroying tombs that the West, and not just the West, is watching over." (29/01/2013)


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Jyllands-Posten - Denmark

Mursi puts paid to Arab Spring

In Egypt, thousands of people gathered on Monday in protests that were at times violent against President Mohammed Mursi's government. Mursi had imposed a state of emergency on certain parts of the country on Sunday. Authoritarian regimes still exist despite the Arab Spring, the liberal-conservative daily Jyllands-Posten laments: "It is an irony of history that Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood have 'celebrated' the second anniversary of the rebellion against Mubarak's regime using exactly the same police state methods that drove the Egyptians onto the streets two years ago. And the demonstrators are calling exactly the same battle cries as during the protests against Mubarak. ... We hope that the authoritarian regimes in the Middle East will fall one day, but there is no sign of this happening any time soon. This is the sad lesson to be learned from the events of the last two years in Egypt." (29/01/2013)

El Periódico de Catalunya - Spain

Spain needs its own Monti

The gigantic corruption scandal that has hit the conservative People's Party led by Spanish head of government Mariano Rajoy has destroyed the Spaniards' trust in the political system, the left-liberal daily El Periódico de Catalunya concludes. The paper sees the election of a non-partisan individual, as was done in Italy, as the only way out of the political crisis: "And who can help us out of this extraordinary situation? Early elections are not the solution. A glance at the surveys published in the press a few days ago suffices to see that the candidate of the biggest opposition party enjoys even less trust than the current head of government - and the latter is barely trusted himself. A problem like this can be solved like it was in Italy, by looking for someone honest for the post. The Spanish parties must agree on appointing someone as prime minister who inspires the citizens' trust." (29/01/2013)


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openDemocracy - United Kingdom

For Kirsty Hughes the UK ceased to play a role in the EU a long time ago

The call by the British Prime Minister David Cameron for a return of competences from Brussels to London strikes journalist Kirsty Hughes as completely behind the times in the blog Open Democracy. She points out that after all Britain has limited its influence in the EU of its own free will in recent years: "The UK looks set to have a shadow debate about times past - a debate that will be in denial about the reality both of the UK's current position in the EU and about the future direction and role of the EU in the world. The UK has in fact already made its choice - it has chosen to be a less influential player in the EU, to sit on its lonely outer-tier more detached than any other member state, with the nice compensation present of having a full seat at the summit table. In that position, the UK will have little influence on where the EU goes next, what sort of economic and political player in the world the Union will become or even how it deals with the problems and challenges it faces at home in Europe. A referendum will do little to change that." (28/01/2013)


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Le Monde - France

IMF needs better forecasting models

The International Monetary Fund admitted at the start of January that it had miscalculated the repercussions of Europe's austerity measures. The left-liberal daily Le Monde calls on the major financial institutions to provide reliable economic models: "It's time to reread the great economists. ... Their works were also written in times of crisis. They must be brought up to date, to develop a new science of applied economics which is adapted to and explains the present world. The IMF, the OECD, the EU must come up with reliable economic models to help our politicians make their decisions in full knowledge of what's at stake. They must show them the way forward, and not lead them into error. Because in the current circumstances, these miscalculations are in fact dangerous conceptional errors. It is urgently necessary to come up with new forecasting models, because to get out of the economic crisis we first need to understand it." (28/01/2013)

Eleftheros Typos - Greece

Greeks must shift focus to exports

The volume of Greece's exports increased by 2 billion euros year on year in 2012 to reach a total of 24 billion euros, according to an estimate by the Association of Greek Exporters. This means exports account for 12.6 percent of the country's gross domestic product. The conservative daily Eleftheros Typos calls on businesses to focus more on exports: "The only way to achieve a quick economic recovery is to bring fresh money on to the market. However not through loans from the troika, but through exports. Unfortunately with the exception of tourism our country has failed to develop an export culture. ... But the 'export economy' must become a compulsory subject in the business world and the state can make a key contribution here through economic diplomacy and making important information available. Greece has the best agricultural products in the world and the Mediterranean diet is regarded as the healthiest. Now is the ideal time to turn our country into an international centre of trade once more - with the focus on exports rather than imports." (28/01/2013)


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De Standaard - Belgium

Only king with symbolic role is legitimate

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced on Monday that she abdicating to clear the way for her son, Crown-Prince Willem-Alexander. Belgium, too, needs to reflect on the future of its monarchy, the liberal daily De Standaard contends: "Hereditary monarchy is no longer in keeping with the times. No one would conceive such a thing today. But since it already exists one can maintain it to fulfil certain functions. The truth is that in the year 2013 the legitimacy of a European royal family is confined to symbolic roles. ... The Belgian royal family has been plagued by scandals in recent times. This is a consequence of its ill-defined role and murky finances. With each new incident it loses some of its function or money, as well as prestige and legitimacy. If the monarchy is to be kept alive, and there are arguments in favour of this, its role and its financing must be clearly defined - to the point where the people consider it to still be legitimate. ... It must symbolise the country, its values and its institutions." (29/01/2013)

Trouw - Netherlands

Monarchy debate unnecessary in the Netherlands

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced on Monday that she will abdicate and hand the crown to her son, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, at the end of April. This change of generation need not reignite the whole debate about the Dutch monarchy, the Christian-social daily Trouw stresses: "Willem-Alexander must be given enough space to define his role as king as he sees fit. He, too, will opt for a personal note, and with him too it remains to be seen whether his constitutional role can be compatible with this personal accent. The social debate about the future of the monarchy is not taboo, but it would be wise to give the new head of state some leeway as he starts out in his new role. The Netherlands doesn't need a master of ceremonies but a head of state who - like Willem-Alexander's mother before him - endows this role with some meaning." (29/01/2013)

Ziare - Romania

Romanians still trapped in communism

Each year on January 26, the birthday of the deceased dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, nostalgic Romanians visit his grave at a public cemetery in Bucharest. Romania must finally break its ties with the communist ideology, the news portal Ziare demands: "Since the bloody December of 1989 Romania has been stuck in a painful transition from communism to capitalism. The devoutly interpreted rules of the free market economy and capitalism have plunged Romania into a crisis - far removed from the global economy. It is a crisis of values and orientation. This is why more and more Romanians mourn the passing of the communist leaders. Forgotten are the degrading times before 1989, which drove them on to the streets to demand freedom. ... The fact that to this day we still haven't met the EU's criteria shows that communism is still not dead. It was simply modified, and its original form is waiting to be revived. Nothing will change in Romania as long as the current generation fails to overcome the nostalgia of its parents and grandparents who idealise communism." (29/01/2013)


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Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

German media love an apocalyptic mood

The debate over the alleged sexist comments by the liberal FDP's top candidate Rainer Brüderle, sparked by an article in the news magazine Stern, continues to rage in Germany. A typically German phenomenon, the liberal-conservative daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung writes in amusement: "Practically everyone is overlooking that Stern magazine wasn't exactly championing female emancipation when it published its article about this less than fresh story. The openly sexist magazine, which wouldn't hesitate to illustrate a cover story on red ants with a nude woman, simply wanted to turn a profit. ... The old German mania of reading a veritable clash of cultures into the slightest convulsion of the zeitgeist is once more raising its head. Yet again, the most colourful take comes from Der Spiegel magazine, which had already felt obliged to announce the 'end of the nuclear age' after the Fukushima catastrophe. This time it presages the end of 'the white man's power', adding in delight: 'Finally'. Women's groups will react to this verdict -  written by a man, of course - with a certain scepticism." (29/01/2013)


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Dnevnik - Slovenia

Slovenia's top athletes can make things happen

Slovenian winter athletes continued chalking up victories on the weekend. Skier Tina Maze won the World Cup slalom race in Maribor, while snowboarder Rok Marguč became world champion in the parallel slalom discipline. The left-liberal daily Dnevnik calls for a strong sense of social commitment on the part of Slovenia's top athletes: "They must be aware that they are not only athletes, but also successful personalities, in whom - in contrast to politicians - the people believe, and whose voice is heard even louder than the voices of demonstrators. In the past there have been several athletes who have stood up for social causes and done much to further the common good. Why shouldn't that also be the case in Slovenia? The time is more than ripe. ... Moreover, top athletes's influence on people is similar to that of creative people in the world of culture, whose critical voices are heard loud and clear." (29/01/2013)

Kaleva - Finland

Finland's ice hockey must stop violence

Unidentified hooligans partially pierced the tire on a Finnish hockey team's bus on the weekend, so that it could have burst while the vehicle was on the road. The liberal daily Kaleva says it's time to curb the growing violence on the part of fans: "Fans have always subjected rival teams to unfair treatment, but this act of sabotage aimed at harming the players is a first. Hopefully this is not a sign of how fans will behave in future. ... In comparison to many other countries, Finnish fans have hardly drawn attention to themselves for their disruptive behaviour. Now, however, such aggressive behaviour is also rearing its ugly head in Finland. ... This development must be stopped, otherwise sports as a whole will suffer. What rational adults will want to introduce their children to a sport that's threatened by violent groups?" (29/01/2013)

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