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Press review | 31/01/2013



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Morsi seeks support in Berlin

Merkel called for a "dialogue with all the political forces" in Egypt. (© AP/dapd)


Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi gave assurances during his visit to Germany on Wednesday that his country was on the path to becoming a civil, democratic, constitutional state. In recent days Egypt has been rocked by the most violent unrest since Morsi took office. His main objective in Berlin was to secure economic aid, commentators say, and demand that the West make any aid contingent on compliance with democratic rules.

Die Welt - Germany

Morsi needs the help of the West

The fact that President Morsi has come to Germany in the middle of renewed unrest in his own country underscores Egypt's dependence on the West, the conservative daily Die Welt writes: "Perhaps he dared to make the journey because he knows that a stable Egypt which does not pose a threat to Israel is valuable to Germany and the rest of the world. The silver lining on this dark cloud is that Germany and the other states of the West can turn the tables. The fading hopes of the Egyptian spring and the return of arbitrariness dressed in new clothes have done much harm to the country. By making itself unattractive it has practically brought to a standstill its most important source of revenue, namely tourism. Morsi knows that this factor, together with the major crisis of the entire Egyptian economy, could be the explosive that puts an end to the rule of the moderate and radical Islamists. ... When Morsi said in Berlin that Egypt will become a constitutional state, he certainly had his reasons. Nevertheless one must take him at his word. And the help he so badly needs can be attached to conditions." (31/01/2013)

Die Presse - Austria

Europe must use its clout

With a mixture of concessions and persistence, Merkel has shown how Europe should deal with the new powers that be in Egypt, the liberal-conservative daily Die Presse writes approvingly: "In her role as host Angela Merkel very politely made it clear that the Egyptian government must stick to the rules of democracy. The unspoken threat was that there would be no money otherwise. Germany only recently postponed debt relief for the country owing to the new repressive tendencies in Egypt. Both on stage and behind the scenes, it's important that Europe uses its leverage and lays out clear terms. The government in Cairo should only receive financial support if it respects the rights of Christians, secularists and the opposition. Any other approach would be a betrayal of all those who have taken to Egypt's streets to fight for freedom and against the establishment of an Islamist majority dictatorship." (31/01/2013)

Dnevnik - Slovenia

Listening to opposition is in Morsi's interest

If Morsi doesn't want to put his power at stake he must listen to the mood on the streets, the left-liberal daily Dnevnik stresses: "The street demonstrations in Egypt have become a part of the political dialogue that gets on the nerves of the current democratically elected government just as much as it annoyed the previous dictatorship. A revolutionary mood prevails in the country again. President Mohammed Morsi, who represents the state, can look for a language that reassures the demonstrators that they will have some say in decisions, rather than just being a cosmetic detail. He can also choose to ignore them. But in doing so he would lose his power over Cairo's streets and open the door for the army, which is dissatisfied with both political options in the country [the ruling Muslim Brothers and the opposition]. The Muslim Brothers need to find a common political language with the opposition, otherwise they will lose their power." (31/01/2013)


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Corriere del Ticino - Switzerland

Israel gets ready for Assad's end

Israeli fighter jets bombarded a Syrian convoy near Damascus on Tuesday night, according to reports in the media. In the meantime the UN is discussing aid for the victims of the Syrian civil war at a donor conference in Kuwait. While Israel is getting ready to fight the international community is simply distributing plasters, the liberal daily Corriere del Ticino writes: "The danger that chemical weapons as well as the conventional, sophisticated weapons of the Syrian army could end up in the hands of Islamist extremists or Hezbollah is real, and therefore also represents a threat for strategic targets in Israel. Given Israel's determination to neutralise threats, the air strike in Syria doesn't come as a big surprise. The Jewish state is the one that in every respect is best prepared for a potential collapse of Assad's regime. ... By comparison the 1.5 billion dollars in international aid for the Syrian population is little more than a plaster on the gaping wound of the civil war. ... Along the borders there is not just streams of refugees, but also the real danger of arms trading." (31/01/2013)

The Independent - United Kingdom

Mission creep in Mali never discussed

Britain wants to support the French mission in Mali with up to 400 non-combatant soldiers, the British government announced on Tuesday. But there has never been any talk of sending ground troops, the left-liberal daily The Independent fumes: "Just a few weeks ago, intervention in Mali was to be a short, sharp, French-only mission. Britain was supplying two transport planes, but only as a nod to cross-Channel military co-operation. There would, the Prime Minister promised, be no boots on the ground. Now, however - with barely a blink and certainly no debate in Parliament - nearly 400 British military personnel are to be sent to the region. True, they will not be in combat; the majority will be training troops from Mali and its regional supporters. But the move looks alarmingly like mission creep nonetheless." (31/01/2013)

Blog Törökgáborelemez - Hungary

Green division good for Orbán and opposition

At the party conference of the LMP, the green opposition party in Hungary, a group called the "Dialogue for Hungary" platform announced on Sunday that it was leaving the party and forming a new left-wing green party. This new party plans to work together with ex prime minister Gordon Bajnai's electoral alliance "Together 2014". The split can be regarded as a positive development by both the ruling party and the left-wing opposition, political scientist Gábor Török notes on his blog Törökgáborelemez: "It's hard to deny that the governing party benefits from the splintering of the opposition. … The ruling party Fidesz can take a relaxed view of the events. The opposition is certainly not signalling to voters that it has overcome its differences and is now ready to rule. On the other hand, the voter movement 'Together 2014' can also be happy about the split. If the rebelling LMP politicians do indeed join the movement they could give it fresh impetus." (27/01/2013)

Respekt - Czech Republic

Cameron puts the EU on thin ice

British Prime Minister David Cameron's speech on Europe has jeopardised further European consolidation, the liberal weekly newspaper Respekt warns, adding that London must nevertheless be met half-way: "London's move verges on blackmail and threatens to set off a chain reaction. Should other states take inspiration from Cameron, the Union could change into a free-trade zone in which everyone can make their own rules to suit their own interests. Such a situation would be untenable. The demands of the British Conservatives stand in blatant contrast to the principles on which the EU is based. It is hard to imagine that such an association would work for long without being reduced to interminable squabbling. But let's be realistic, with this move the British have managed to create a situation in which the other countries will most probably offer something in return. ... If however such a compromise jeopardises the path towards a federation, it would be better to bite the bullet, shake hands with Britain and go our separate ways." (31/01/2013)


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El País - Spain

Joschka Fischer on the foolishness of the British

Europe is less threatened by the insolvency of the southern Europeans than by the unreasonableness of the British, former German minister for foreign affairs Joschka Fischer warns in the left-liberal daily El País: "The entire world quite naturally assumed that any process of EU disintegration would start primarily in the crisis-ridden European south (Greece, first and foremost). But, as British Prime Minister David Cameron has now demonstrated, the European chain is most likely to break not at its weakest link, but at its most irrational. ... Cameron claims that he does not want the UK to leave the EU. But his strategy - 'renegotiation' of EU membership, followed by a British referendum on the new agreement - is the product of two illusions: first, that he can ensure a positive outcome, and, second, that the EU is able and willing to give him the concessions that he wants. In fact, there is good reason to believe that such a course would take on a dynamic of its own, possibly leading to an unintended British exit from the EU. That would be a severe setback for the EU; for the British, blundering through history, it would be a veritable disaster." (31/01/2013)


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Berliner Zeitung - Germany

Environmental standards also apply in Africa

A civil court in The Hague has ruled that British-Dutch oil company Shell must pay compensation for an oil spill in Nigeria after several farmers sued for damages. The ruling sets a precedent for other European companies to be held to account for their activities in the future, the left-liberal daily Berliner Zeitung notes with satisfaction: "This is the first time that a European parent company is being held liable for the mistakes made by one of its subsidiaries in a developing nation. ... The global players can no longer point to lax environmental legislation in the third world, or rely on a negligent judiciary in those countries. In future, multinationals won't just be able to cash in on the profits of their activities, but can also be held responsible for the consequences of those activities - if not in the country where they are carried out, then in their home country. Europe's companies will now have to ensure that environmental and social standards are also adhered to in the course of their business activities overseas." (31/01/2013)

La Stampa - Italy

Politics intensifying Italy's banking scandal

Italy's Economics Minister Vittorio Grilli on Tuesday informed the parliament about the situation of the Bank Monte Paschi di Siena, which is facing losses of 720 million euros after engaging in risky transactions. According to Grilli the bank's plight should not be allowed to jeopardise the reputation of Italy's banking system. But the politicians are ignoring this appeal, the liberal daily La Stampa complains: "Dragging the scandal into the bitterly fought election campaign could cause lasting damage. The political responsibility in this affair must be uncovered beyond all doubt. But this is the task of the investigating state prosecutors. Turning all bankers into scapegoats is not just lumping the good with the bad, it also generates a general sense of distrust regarding Italy. The euro crisis got worse in October 2010 when Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel gave it to be understood that they wanted to hold the banks accountable for the financial difficulties of the struggling countries. This irresponsible statement only worsened the situation for everyone, because the citizens were saddled with even more austerity measures." (31/01/2013)

Rzeczpospolita - Poland

Poland must be part of core Europe

At the start of January the Polish parliament voted on a package of laws aimed at postponing the introduction of the euro. But Poland must enter the Eurozone as quickly as possible, among other reasons to strengthen its position vis-à-vis Russia, the Polish presidential advisor Roman Kuźniar writes in a commentary for the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita: "If we remain on the periphery of the EU, Poland will become unattractive for regional partners, and even more unattractive for the countries of Eastern Europe. Because they would no longer believe they can influence Brussels with Warsaw's help. We would no longer represent an important interface for them in European politics. If we were not represented in the economic, monetary and political union, this would be a source of satisfaction for Moscow. Russia could once more try to ignore us, or negotiate with the political centre of Europe over our heads. For cultural and geopolitical reasons, Poland must belong to the core of the European unification project." (31/01/2013)

Aamulehti - Finland

Same pay for Estonian guest workers

The Estonian Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that that Estonian workers dispatched to Finland must be receive the same pay as their Finnish colleagues. The liberal daily Aamulehti hopes the ruling will be respected: "The decision of the highest court in Estonia does not signify any major change, because the guidelines of the European Union covering dispatched workers have made the same stipulation for over ten years. However they are not always adhered to. The underpayment of dispatched Estonian workers has given their employers an advantage that Finnish companies which respect the wage conditions have had a hard time competing with. Now it must be ensured that the court's decision is put into practice in the EU. The free movement of workers is one of the cornerstones of the EU which should not be undermined through tricks like underpayment." (31/01/2013)


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L'Express - France

Gay marriage highlights French identity problem

The French National Assembly has been discussing a controversial draft law on the introduction of same-sex marriage since Tuesday. If the debate on gay marriage is putting French society to the test it's because the country has deep problems with its own identity, the left-liberal weekly magazine L'Express writes: "France is now so at odds with itself, so desperately in search of what it is, that this innovation can only wreak havoc on the country. Firstly, because the topic of homosexuality poses the arduous question of identity. Secondly because the two camps - or in any case their extreme wings - have more or less deliberately used this debate to put forward their own idea of the national identity. ... The nervous tension surrounding the question of marriage for all first and foremost reveals the fears of a 'lost' country, and the fragile and contradictory certitudes with which it tries to reassure itself." (30/01/2013)


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Ziare - Romania

Media can influence Romanian judiciary

In its progress report on Romania, the EU Commission criticises the media for the first time, accusing it of putting pressure on the Romanian judiciary. The report has met with an outcry from journalists. The news website Ziare also questions Brussels' remarks: "The report hits the hardest when it deals with the press. But here again, responsibility is never clearly pinned on anyone, no specific cases are named, and no concrete situations are described. All it contains is generalised accusations. These, however, will have horrific consequences for certain media, which the politicians, the economic crisis and the quality of their colleagues have long exacerbated. ... If what is said in the report is true, and if a television, newspaper or Internet report - or all of them together - now wield such clout that they can harass or even influence a prosecutor or a judge, it must also be stated in no uncertain terms that we still do not have an independent judiciary." (31/01/2013)


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Diário de Notícias - Portugal

Portugal should ride its gigantic waves

The US surfer Garrett McNamara probably broke his own world record on Tuesday by riding a wave around 30 meters high off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal. The photos of the gigantic wave went around the world. Portugal should use them as an advertisement, columnist Ferreira Fernandes points out in the liberal-conservative daily Diário de Notícias: "McNamara is only the most recent name in an imposing series: Portugal's waves make men great. The London-based Times newspaper impressed its readers [on Wednesday] with a big splash of green on its front page. Inside the paper there was an article about the surfer and his record, but the main story was on the front page: our waves. Tomorrow, more McNamaras will be attracted to our moving Himalayas. ... Our waves are authentic. They carry in them the Portugal which used to appeal to the world. ... They are part of our DNA, even though we thought the relationship had ended. But take a look: they're back again and could become our best advertisement." (31/01/2013)

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