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Press review | 21/02/2013



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Bulgarian government resigns

Following Borisov's resignation parliamentary elections are planned for April. (© IPG/dapd)


Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boiko Borisov announced the resignation of his centre-right government on Wednesday, citing the nationwide protests against rising electricity prices and rioting as the reason. Some commentators believe Borisov has fallen victim to his own lust for power. Others predict that as a cold strategist Borisov will make a triumphant comeback in the upcoming elections.

Dnevnik - Bulgaria

Bulgaria's prime minister stripped of power

Borisov's lust for power sealed his fate, the daily Dnevnik writes: "Borisov put the presidency, the judiciary, the media and the economy under his personal control, and in so doing thought he had all state power in his hands. From the outside, that made him look like a sort of colossus, but in truth it only weakened him. ... When the people withdrew their trust in him, he immediately collapsed. The state failed to maintain order as it should do because he had stripped it of its power. And while Borisov still believed the power was in his hands, it suddenly turned up somewhere else: among the people. ... Powerless, Boiko Borisov has shown himself to be exactly what he is: a limited human being, insecure but pompous, fearful but brash, uneducated but somehow likeable. In former times these qualities made him look like a hero. Now they only work to his disadvantage." (20/02/2013)

Der Standard - Austria

Borisov is a streetwise gambler

With the resignation of his government Prime Minister Boiko Borisov is hoping he will win the next elections, the left-liberal daily Der Standard comments: "Some people are talking about a 'Bulgarian Spring', as if this were all about toppling a dictator and his corrupt family who've held power in Sofia for decades and finally bringing democracy to the country. But most of the protesters want nothing to do with such an idea. They seem to be clearly delimiting their call for more social justice. Because the coalition led by the Socialists, which went down in the maelstrom of embezzled EU funds in 2009 is a bad memory for Bulgarians, as the polls have shown. Borisov may also have a plan: tossing in the towel at the height of the social crisis and then coming back in style. Bulgarian doesn't have statesmen, it's got gamblers." (21/02/2013)

Adevârul - Romania

Government's resignation must rouse EU

Social protests like those in Bulgaria could well spread to other EU countries if the pressure from the streets goes unheeded, the liberal-conservative daily Adevărul cautions: "These events clearly show how unsuitable some economic programmes proposed by the troika for the crisis-stricken countries of Eastern Europe have been. No one has wanted to face up to the fact that too many - and too harsh - austerity measures can constitute the biggest obstacle to economic development. The national and European decision makers must understand how important it is not only that the money from the structural funds  continues to be paid out with the new 2014-2020 EU budget, but also that the procedures are simplified to give countries easier access to these funds. Failing that, the danger that events like those in Bulgaria will spill over into other countries will only grow. And that will lead to the loss of investor trust, destroying what we've accomplished so far on our European path." (21/02/2013)

Hospodářské noviny - Czech Republic

Bulgaria's underlying problem is corruption

The Czech Republic is indirectly involved in Bulgaria's government crisis since the protests of tens of thousands of Bulgarians are also directed against the price policy of the Prague energy group ČEZ. But for the liberal daily Hospodářské noviny widespread corruption is the real root of the crisis: "After four years in office the government can boast a few victories, but it didn't solve the main problem, namely rampant corruption. Corruption is the reason why so few foreign investors come here, why growth is so minimal and the country still isn't part of the Schengen zone. Together with Romania the country is still under the guardianship of the EU. … The control mechanism from Brussels was originally introduced for five years. But last year an extension was already agreed. The latest EU Commission assessment from last July wasn't exactly encouraging. It testified to Bulgaria having a unique level of organised crime in the EU, which has a major influence on the entire Bulgarian economy." (21/02/2013)


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Spiegel Online - Germany

Italy needs a grand coaltion

In the upcoming parliamentary elections on February 24 and 25, the Italians have the choice between a clown, a billionaire, an apparatchik and a professor who has no clue about politics, Wolfgang Münchau notes with amazement in his column on Spiegel Online. He puts his hopes in a grand coalition: "A sweeping victory for the Left would be good for Italy, as would a sweeping victory for the Right. But a narrow victory, no matter for whom, would be the worst possible result. Given this situation, from a European point of view the second-best outcome would be a tie - [apparatchik] Bersani wins in Congress while [billionaire] Berlusconi wins in the Senate. Then there would be a grand coalition under Bersani or Berlusconi's secretary general Angelino Alfano. ... This would be the best outcome because grand coalitions are more likely to undertake major reforms and are often more stable. This would leave [professor] Monti's supporters and [clown] Grillo in the opposition, with their respective pro-euro and anti-euro positions effectively neutralising each other. And in turn this would produce a strong government and a divided opposition - instead of the other way round." (21/02/2013) - Spain

Spain's prime minister avoids explanations

During the debate on the state of the nation in the Spanish parliament, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy avoided the subject of his party's former treasurer, Luis Bárcenas. The latter had 22 million euros stashed away in Swiss bank accounts and cheekily gave journalists the finger when they questioned him about this on Sunday. Ignacio Escolar voices his outrage in his blog with the left-leaning online paper "Rajoy called for corruption to be hunted down 'as soon as it appears', although the prime minister didn't explain whether he wants to catch the corrupt only to give them a 200,000 euro per year salary, as he did with the accused Luis Bárcenas for three years. The ex-treasurer of the PP shined by his absence from the discourse, even though his stink hangs in the air. Rajoy avoided the subject - describing the incriminating accusations against himself as 'slanderous'. It was as if he was ignoring an enormous elephant in the middle of the room, weighing 22 million euros and giving the citizens the finger." (21/02/2013)

Nasz Dziennik - Poland

Poland must not submit to EU

The Polish parliament ratified the European fiscal compact on Wednesday with the votes of the governing parties. The ratification is a further step in Poland's European integration, but this integration is only weakening the country, the nationalist Catholic daily Nasz Dziennik manitains: "The prime minister's standpoint ultimately shores up his government's political dogma: namely that we must be 'part of Europe' at all costs. With every political and economic change within the EU institutions, and with every decision on the part of Europe's leaders, the government sees a chance to relinquish power and sacrifice its interests to those of Europe. Its aim is to introduce the euro, integrate Poland further into the community and subordinate itself, particularly to Germany. ... As Tusk stresses, he puts his faith in a strong Europe with Poland. But in so doing he is robbing us of the prospect of a strong Poland in Europe." (21/02/2013)


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Público - Portugal

Pliant Portuguese entitled to ask for extension

Portugal's Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar on Wednesday requested once again an easing of the deficit reduction targets agreed on with the troika. If he can do this it's only because the country has stuck firmly to the austerity policy, the liberal daily Público writes: "The finance minister admitted that the economy will not shrink by one percent as expected, but by two. Yet he still wants the deadline for reducing the huge public deficit to be extended. …. Is this in any way realistic? Yes. But only in the warped world in which EU crisis management has developed and which pays little attention to the economic facts. … Lisbon has gained credibility not because it has met the adjustment targets but because it applied the prescribed terms - sometimes with excessive stringency. … The whole thing had to go wrong. … Now we can use this fiasco to demand what should have been demanded long ago." (21/02/2013)

Les Echos - France

France needs no lessons from the US

A letter by Maurice Taylor, CEO of the US tire producer Titan, to the French government has sparked a wave of outrage in France. In it Taylor is highly critical of the "so called workers" in the French Goodyear plant whose jobs Paris had asked him to help save. The liberal business paper Les Echos, which published the letter, is not amused by Taylor's comments: "We don't need him to realise that we have a competitiveness problem. We don't need him to see that the social dialogue is ineffective and that the judgements of the courts are often hostile to business. And another point on which he's wrong: it is in fact possible to be French and world leader. Michelin, which is worth ten times more than Titan on the stock markets and is infinitely more profitable, furnishes ample proof of that. ... Above and beyond the stereotypes, it is clear that France's image as a business nation has deteriorated considerably. ... And it's not with the mentality of a Gaulish village that we will win the globalism race." (21/02/2013)


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Corriere del Ticino - Switzerland

Benedict doesn't trust the Curia

Pope Benedict XVI is considering bringing forward the conclave to elect the next pope, according to spokesman for the Vatican Federico Lombardi. The announcement made on Wednesday is further proof that Benedict's fear of a power struggle in the Curia was the true reason for his resignation, the liberal daily Corriere del Ticino writes: "The power struggles within the curia are no dark legend but a fact. This is about more than just rivalry between different groups within the Church, as Vati-leaks has shown. … The revelations have opened the Pope's eyes to the situation: the Curia is too divided for him to grow old peacefully in its shadow, because it lunges for power when the pope is weakened, as was the case at the end of John Paul II's papacy. Although Benedict is resigning because he lacks the energy to continue, with this step he has also stripped the curia of its power and protected the Church from falling under the control of an institution that doesn't really seem to have the Church's best interests at heart." (21/02/2013)

To Vima Online - Greece

Greeks want to rebuild rather than protest

With the first general strike since the start of the year, thousands of Greeks once again protested against cuts and layoffs on Wednesday. But not as many people took part as expected, the left-liberal online daily To Vima writes, reasoning that the Greeks are now beyond the protest phase: "The unions and party leaders haven't grasped - or have underestimated - the fact that for a long time now most people have been in a phase of rebuilding their lives. They've realised that the time for unreasonableness is over, that the Greek state won't make it as long as it's excluded from the international markets and the international financial system, and that without rolling up their sleeves they'll never get ahead. ... It may be that when the time comes to vote, they will punish all the politicians. Now, however, most people are putting their energy into finding work, rebuilding their lives and securing a better future for themselves and for their children." (21/02/2013)

The Irish Times - Ireland

Irish owe Magdelene women apology

In response to criticism of his previous statements on the issue Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Tuesday issued a formal state apology to the women who were sent to the Magdalene laundries. The left-liberal daily Irish Times says this is not enough given that Irish society as a whole condoned the injustice: "Many of the women were denied or disowned by their families and to the outside world they almost ceased to exist. It wasn't as though the existence of these laundries was a secret. Advertisements for the laundries regularly appeared in the newspapers.. ... It is not just the State that owes thousands of women subjected to such cruelty, loneliness and neglect an apology. Irish society at large owes an apology but then it is not just to these women to whom Irish society owes apologies and it is not only for past injustices and humiliations." (20/02/2013)

Komment - Hungary

Orbán wants to bind graduates to Hungary

Hungary's government wants to amend the constitution to the effect that all higher education graduates who received financial support from the state for their studies must spend at least twice the time they spend studying working in Hungary afterwards. A large number of students have protested against the plans in recent weeks. Journalist József Makai also describes the government's strategy as pointless on the website Komment: "The government is ready to use its heaviest weapon, which offers a solution to all problems, the constitutional amendment. According to [Prime Minister] Orbán society has a legitimate claim: if the state provides someone with financial support it expects to receive something in return. But it's obvious that this 'state yoke' has nothing to do with love for one's country, constitutional principles or social justice. ... The government simply wants to evade its responsibilities in higher education." (15/02/2013)

De Volkskrant - Netherlands

Integration agreements won't help Netherlands

Lodewijk Asscher, the Dutch Minister of Social Affairs, has called for migrants to be made to sign an integration agreement in future. The left-liberal daily De Volkskrant sees no point to such a measure: "The lesson that poorly prepared immigration causes many problems has been learned by both Left and Right. The same applies for the realisation that here in the Netherlands we are protecting a culture that we rightly consider superior to cultures that suppress freedom and equality. … The question is what Asscher hopes to achieve with his participation agreements. It's good that all new immigrants be instructed about their rights (minimum wages, decent accommodation), their obligations and the basic principles of our society. But as long as Asscher must concede that this entails no further conditions, clauses or consequences, such an agreement is merely symbolic in value. And we shouldn't expect symbols to perform miracles." (21/02/2013)


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Expressen - Sweden

Defend Sweden's quality journalism

A Swedish Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld the conviction of three journalists - including the chief editor - at the the tabloid Expressen. In 2010, at the time of a series of fatal shootings in Malmö, the journalists purchased a semi-automatic pistol illegally to show how easy it is to do and then submitted the gun to the police. The daily is concerned for the freedom of the press: "This judgement will create a culture of prudence in the media. Which journalist will dare to test the limits of the law if he risks winding up in front of a judge? Quality journalism in Sweden is menaced by many factors. Economic pressure is growing. ... The Swedish tradition of the press controlling itself as far as ethical questions go is also being threatened by Brussels and by legal beagles who want the courts to decide whether personal integrity has been damaged by a media report. ... Sweden must oppose this European development." (21/02/2013)

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