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Press review | 19/02/2013



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Berlusconi unsettles Europe

Italy's policy towards Europe has played a key role in electoral campaigning. (© dapd)


Leading German politicians have voiced concern that Italy's ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi could return to power. In the run-up to the country's parliamentary elections on February 24 and 25, Berlusconi's right-wing coalition has been rapidly gaining ground against the leading left-wing alliance. In view of Italy's economic entwinement in the EU, commentators see such intervention in Italy's election campaign as entirely legitimate, charged as it is with populist overtones.

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

Elections concern all of Europe nowadays

The rule about not interfering in the election campaigns of other countries is completely obsolete in these times of total economic interdependence, writes the left-liberal Süddeutsche Zeitung: "Berlusconi himself has shown how outdated this rule is by portraying Angela Merkel as the enemy. Germany doesn't need to get any more involved in the Italian election campaign - it's already been involved for some time and no amount of dignified restraint can change that now. In view of the situation Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and other German politicians have decided to express their concerns about a potential Berlusconi comeback. This is not telling people how to behave. It is simply supplying the Italians with information they should have before they cast their votes. Those who want to remedy the democratic deficit in the EU should think first about habits, not treaties. Within the Union, goods, services and norms have long been transcending borders. It's time to allow political confrontations to do likewise." (19/02/2013)

Corriere della Sera - Italy

Unobjective campaign fuels distrust

The unobjective way in which the election campaign is being fought is causing the distrust of Italy to grow, the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera criticises: "The attention we are attracting from abroad should fill us with pride. But unfortunately not all the looks cast in our direction are favourable. Little clues testify to scepticism and fear that the elections will produce an ungovernable Italy. ... For example according to Bloomberg a loan granted by Mercedes-Daimler contains a guarantee clause stipulating that when upon maturity in 2015 it must be paid back in the currency valid at that time in Italy. In other words, either in euros or in a national currency. So in lira? … We don't deserve this lack of trust. We don't deserve it either as a country or as citizens. Our efforts to keep Italy in the EU and to repay our debts despite the intolerable tax burden must not be destroyed by an election campaign that is being fought with bickering and promises instead of programmes and resolutions." (19/02/2013)

Libération - France

Italy's clown politicians deserve criticism

The warnings voiced by some European politicians against several leading candidates in the Italian election campaign are well justified, the liberal daily Libération contends: "Do Italian politicians deserve the negative image which their European partners have of them? ... Of course, the eternal comeback of Silvio Berlusconi, who is now running for the sixth time, and his recent rise in the opinion polls attest to a sick country that continues to put its faith in this corrupt and corrupting buffoon. He has based his demagogic campaign on tirades against the euro and Germany, not forgetting to praise Mussolini in passing. Another ambiguous buffoon is the comedian Beppe Grillo, who fulminates 'against the politicians', who are of course all corrupt. And he too is a staunch defender of Italy against Europe. Finally, like all the magistrates before him who have gone into politics, the judge Antonio Ingroia confuses the judicial and the political realms, to the detriment of both." (18/02/2013)


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Kapital Daily - Bulgaria

Bulgarian government on its last legs

The Bulgarian Finance Minister Simeon Djankov stepped down on Monday in response to the continuing protests against rising electricity prices and Boyko Borisov's government. A desperate last-minute attempt on the part of a government on its way out, the newspaper Kapital Daily comments: "If I dismiss the finance minister, the entire government will fall', Borisov said back in 2010. ... Now he's doing it anyway, although he's well aware of the consequences. Clearly the fear of the protesters under his window was greater than his political reasoning powers. Nevertheless this blood-letting is no more than a futile attempt to appease the popular anger. Because for a long time now this anger has been directed at far more than just the high electricity prices. The people are protesting against the general decline of the state, the lack of rules and the sense of hopelessness. A host of problems that can by no means be solved by the finance minister's resignation." (18/02/2013)

Delo - Slovenia

Borisov is role model for Slovenia

After several days of mass protests, the Bulgarian Finance Minister Simeon Djankov resigned on Monday. Demonstrations have been going on for months in Slovenia, and according to the most recent monthly polls put out by the left-liberal daily Delo, only 14.4 percent of respondents support the government. Nevertheless there's no sign of anyone resigning. For the daily this is indefensible: "According to news agency reports today [Monday], Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov announced he would reshuffle the cabinet just a day after a protest by tens of thousands of dissatisfied Bulgarians who accuse the government of corruption and monopolism [on the energy market]. The government of this poorest of the EU countries is just as unpopular as our own. But one thing is clear: the Bulgarian leader is far more sensitive to the opinion of the Bulgarian voters than our government is to the concerns of Slovenians. Bulgaria's voters at least elected politicians who govern, and who are ready to take their responsibilities somewhat seriously." (19/02/2013)

Népszabadság - Hungary

Hungary and Romania in childish flag dispute

A fierce dispute has flared up between Hungary and Romania over whether the Hungarian-speaking Székely minority in eastern Transylvania should be allowed to hang its highly symbolic flag from the buildings of local Romanian authorities. For the left-liberal daily Népszabadság the whole flag debate, accompanied by diplomatic tensions, is simply childish: "The government of Prime Minister Orbán comes across like a malicious little boy testing his limits. … Because how else can this insult on the part of the Hungarian government - hoisting the Székely flag in front of parliament, allegedly to show solidarity with the Székely - be interpreted? … Does the government really believe that it is helping the Hungarian minority in Romania to achieve more regional autonomy with such gestures? … How would Europe react if for instance Germany were to fly the (fictitious) flag of the Kaliningrad Germans on the Reichstag building?" (18/02/2013)


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Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

Joachim Günter says horsemeat scandal gives lessons in cultural history

The pan-European scandal over wrongly labelled horsemeat has also provided us with a number of lessons in cultural history, journalist Joachim Günter comments in the liberal-conservative Neuen Zürcher Zeitung: "Before the horsemeat labelled as beef turned up in ready-made lasagnes and made the headlines, no one knew that Pope Gregory III ordered his highest-ranking missionary to the Germans, Boniface, to forbid the consumption of horsemeat. Incidentally, Gregory's justification for doing so was similar to that of the Jewish and Muslim clergy in making the consumption of pork taboo: 'For doing so is unclean and despicable.' Unclean? Why unclean? … In Thailand rats are considered a delicacy. The Chinese like to eat dogs. Southern European cooking pots have a reputation for containing cat meat instead of 'rabbit' nowadays. The globalisation of the traffic in goods means that Europeans can now enjoy fillets of ostrich and zebra, crocodile and python. The menus of the future have yet to be composed." (19/02/2013)


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The Independent - United Kingdom

Average Brit can't afford to buy own home

The British opposition leader Ed Miliband argued on Monday for the introduction of a tax on real estate with a market value of over two million pounds, or roughly 2.3 million euros. The conservative daily The Times is dead against the idea: "The true problem here isn't that our wealth is sheltered in our houses but that our houses require too much of our wealth. Our high house prices are a disease, infecting everything. Young people cannot start their lives because the houses they need to live them in are out of reach. The gap between rich and poor grows because the rich own or inherit houses that grow in value and the poor never will. ... Meanwhile, our brightest and best are less inclined to teach, invent, create or even heal, and more inclined to become bankers, or lawyers for bankers. Because if they want to live a sensible family life in the hub of our country, then they're going to struggle increasingly to find the money, frankly, if they do anything else." (19/02/2013)

ABC - Spain

British Airways is root of Iberia's problems

The employees of the Spanish airline Iberia staged the first of 15 planned strikes on Monday to protest mass dismissals and salary cuts. For the conservative daily ABC the merger with British Airways is the cause of all the trouble: "The alliance which produced the parent company IAG [International Airlines Group] is not just hurting the Spanish airline's interests after ceding its routes to the British one, it is endangering Iberia's very survival. Spain cannot afford this strike, much less the dismantling of its main airline. … If the conflict is not resolved, the government must intervene. Firstly because through Bankia it is one of the main shareholders in IAG, secondly because it is obliged to guarantee the smooth functioning of air traffic, and finally because the tourist industry, a key sector, is at stake." (19/02/2013)

Ta Nea - Greece

Greek violence scares off foreign investors

Presumably in protest against a mining project, several dozen unidentified persons launched an attack on Sunday against the Skouries site of the Hellenic Gold company in the Greek Halkidiki peninsula. Two security guards were threatened during the attack. The left-liberal daily Ta Nea fears that the escalating violence will scare away investors: "This brutal attack has two aspects that are equally grave. First, violence is taking over increasingly large sections of Greek society. Environmental concerns, no matter how serious, cannot justify the despicable act of dousing an employee with fire accelerant! The second aspect has to do with the negative repercussions of such actions. … A country where such attacks take place is certainly not attractive for investors. The perpetrators must be caught and punished. Greece urgently needs foreign investors. Otherwise its already far too high level of unemployment will rise even further." (18/02/2013)

Iltalehti - Finland

Home cooks keep horsemeat at bay

The horsemeat scandal could lead consumers to revise their eating habits, the tabloid Iltalehti hopes: "The scandal has once again revealed the dark side of global markets. Trade controls have become laxer in the EU, and more and more of the food we eat travels thousands of kilometres before reaching our tables. ... But the own brands of the supermarket chains compete above all through pricing mechanisms, meaning that the production conditions and origin of their ingredients often remain in the dark. ... The eating habits of the industrial countries must improve. Hopefully all of the hype over horsemeat will lead consumers to become more active and rediscover their love for home-cooked meals. Because only those who prepare their meals from scratch know what they're putting in their mouths. And only they need not worry about unnecessary additives." (19/02/2013)


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Pravda - Slovakia

Don't pitch young unemployed against seniors

To lower youth unemployment in Slovakia, the opposition has proposed laying off seniors who work in government positions and hiring unemployed youths in their place. But that could fuel a generation conflict, the left-leaning daily Pravda warns: "It sounds like a tempting idea, but it's prompted by the wrong motives. No one can tell anyone else how long he should want to work for. And quite apart from that, the elderly employees are mostly qualified experts. A proposal that pits two social groups against each other is bad even in principle. It conveys the impression that the elderly are stealing work from the young. From there, it's not far at all to the claim that foreigners are stealing our jobs from us. And what that leads to is clear to all. Certainly, young people need jobs like cooks need salt. But that doesn't justify a proposal that stirs up hatred between the generations." (19/02/2013)

Mladá fronta dnes - Czech Republic

Not all Danes run riot in Prague

The Czech police have boosted their security operations because large numbers of young Danes use the spring breaks to make cheap visits to Prague and frequently cause trouble after consuming too much alcohol. The liberal daily Mladá fronta Dnes cautions against collectively condemning all Danes: "Instead of getting into a panic about the Danes as some people are doing we should clean up our own act first. Naturally, the police must intervene when necessary. But there are a number of Czechs who make a good living thanks to our Danish visitors. After all, they bring good money into the country. And the youths only make up a small proportion of the 200,000 Danes who visit Prague each year. So we shouldn't brand all Danes as lager louts. Many young Czechs end up in the drying-out cells each weekend too. Broad generalisations can soon lead to a kind of collective guilt." (19/02/2013)


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Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Polish media on a witch hunt

A court in Katowice, Poland, on Monday admitted the media to the trial of a young woman who is accused of having killed her six-month-old daughter. Journalist Dominika Wielowieyska harshly condemns the tabloids' advance condemnation of the woman in the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza: "The lawyers who comment and explain the legal background can't be criticised. Nor can most of the journalists who are covering the trial. But what many commentators and reporters are doing here is a kind of mob justice. They are already convinced that Katarzyna W. is evil personified, and that therefore they can write anything they like about her. … I don't know whether she is guilty. I only know that if this spectacle becomes the standard, the media will be able to lynch anyone who is condemned in advance by the popular press. According to Article 13, Paragraph 1 of the Press Law, the media is not allowed to make any assessments before a judgement has been delivered at first instance. Consequently all those who have even merely suggested that Katarzyna W. is guilty have violated the law." (19/02/2013)

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