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Press review | 26/02/2013



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Political stalemate in Italy

Pier Luigi Bersani could be Italy's next prime minister. (© dapd)


The centre-left alliance led by Pier Luigi Bersani has won Italy's parliamentary election by a razor-thin margin against Berlusconi's camp. But both Berlusconi and comedian Beppe Grillo's protest movement will be able to block Bersani's policies in the Senate. The jittery Italians have voted against Europe and turned the country into an unpredictable partner, commentators criticise, putting their hopes in new elections.

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Grand coalition, new elections the only way out

Both in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, Bersani's centre-left coalition has a razor-thin lead against Berlusconi's centre-right alliance. The only way out of this stalemate is a grand coalition, the liberal-conservative business daily Il Sole 24 Ore admonishes: "The formation of a leftist minority government is unrealistic. ... The international community would not be keen on the idea. This leaves the option of a grand coalition. This is generally regarded as taboo. [Bersani's] PD and [Berlusconi's] PDL striking a deal for governing the country together? Impossible. But an agreement could help to push through a number of reforms, first and foremost the reform of the electoral law, so that fresh elections can be called after a reasonable amount of time has passed. But if the deal [between the parties] is simply aimed at keeping things afloat, we may as well start coming to terms with the definitive triumph of Grillo [who obtained the third-largest number of votes]. By contrast a transition pact with clearly defined goals would be a sign that the chronically diseased system is getting ready to strike back." (26/02/2013)

De Volkskrant - Netherlands

Europe is the big loser

Above all Europe has come out the loser in the Italian elections, the left-liberal daily De Volkskrant writes: "Instead of giving a mandate for further reforms, as the EU countries had hoped, Italy's voters have given their leaders an impossible signal: forwards, but backwards at the same time. ... The advance of Berlusconi and Grillo's protest party must be a source of concern for  Europe's leaders, also because in Spain too the poisonous combination of anger at the austerity measures and corruption is becoming visible. Until now the Italians and the Spaniards have always had a positive image of the European Union: they were glad that Brussels was ready to keep an eye on their not always trustworthy politicians. This mood is now slowly changing as a consequence of rising unemployment. That will put  increased pressure on Brussels to slacken the austerity measures." (26/02/2013)

Hospodárske noviny - Slovakia

Election result unnerves Italy and Europe

The tie in the Italian elections is disappointing, not just for Italy but for Europe as a whole, the liberal daily Hospodářské noviny comments: "Never before has the rest of Europe followed events in Italy so closely. It's clear that a reform government in the highly indebted country is a prerequisite for the recovery of the Eurozone. But the outcome has only deepened the country's instability. The euro has gone down. ... The shares on European stock exchanges fell and gobbled up all the profits that had been made in the course of the day. The fears of investors result from the fact that discredited ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi now has the chance to have his say in politics again. Without the Senate under its control the centre-left alliance won't have enough power to push through reforms. [Its leader] Bersani may become prime minister, but with very limited room for manoeuvre. ... This means Italy, the third-largest economy in the Eurozone, remains an unpredictable partner." (26/02/2013)

Die Presse - Austria

Berlusconi blocks sensible moderate right

The only thing that can save Italy is a stable centre-right government, the liberal-conservative daily Die Presse comments. But it believes there can be no hope of that as long as Berlusconi is in the running: "Berlusconi, who has always had his eye on what he can get out of his position, will go down in history as a destructive, blocking influence. Despite his remarkable results in these elections, he has also harmed his own party. If Berlusconi hadn't run, a new power could have formed that is capable of building a coalition with Monti to the right of the centre, one the European People's Party would not have to be ashamed of. Italy needs a respectable moderate right option with economic expertise, an alternative to Bersani's backward-looking centre-left alliance. But as long as Berlusconi's up to his antics, there can be no chance of that. Poor Italy." (26/02/2013)

BBC - United Kingdom

Grillo will have a say

The protest Five Star Movement under comedian Beppe Grillo has emerged from the Italian parliamentary elections as the third-strongest force. The BBC's Europe editor Gavin Hewitt is impressed by this success, especially since Grillo managed it "without giving any Italian TV interviews. His is an internet-based campaign. He draws momentum from the crowds and the streets. ... This comedian could become a player, a broker in determining Italy's next government.  He himself will not be in parliament. He is barred from standing, having been convicted of manslaughter for a car accident. So the next parliament may have 70 or 80 inexperienced MPs without the guidance of the man who has built this movement. Mr Grillo could well have a say over Italy's future. He may demand electoral reform as the price of supporting any coalition government." (25/02/2013)


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Ta Nea - Greece

Turkish EU accession increasingly unrealistic

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for greater support for his country's join the EU the EU during a visit to Ankara by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But the obstacles to Turkey's accession are growing, observes the left-liberal daily Ta Nea: "Turkey is not only faced with the EU's reluctance to expand further and the lack of enthusiasm among the French and German public. The Turkish people themselves are no longer so keen on the European idea. ... The prospect of joining Europe has not moved Ankara to resolve the Greek-Turkish disputes. ... Things have changed. Turkey is no longer the same country as it was in 1999, and our country is no longer the strong Greece is was under [former prime minister] Kostas Simitis. As far as the EU goes, it is no longer the club everyone wants to join. And with good reason." (25/02/2013)

Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Ukraine is a country of last chances

The EU has told Ukraine it has until May to implement constitutional reforms. Only if the country complies can an association agreement be signed, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy explained after the EU-Ukraine summit on Monday in Brussels. Europe must be forbearing towards Ukraine, the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza urges: "The press in Kiev gave yesterday's summit in Brussels the dramatic title of 'the last chance'. ... Either the country turns towards the East, where Putin is waiting with his bait of cheap gas, or it must reach an agreement with Brussels so that Ukraine can sign the association agreement with the EU this autumn. ... The European train is leaving because Kiev has failed to use its last chance? But how could it? With its very specific culture Ukraine is a 'country of last chances'. ... After all, the Ukrainian president must listen to his oligarchs because they are the true rulers of the country. For this reason we must be very patient with Ukraine and not be put off by the fact that this country fails to take advantage of the 'first', the 'second' and even perhaps the very 'last' chance." (26/02/2013)

Público - Portugal

Free Portugal from austerity dictates

The troika formed by the IMF, the EU Commission and the ECB began its seventh evaluation of Portugal's reform efforts on Monday in Lisbon. The liberal daily Público makes a vehement call for Portugal's economic adjustment programme to be revised: "The programme has failed miserably. Portugal is caught in a downwards spiral and the adjustment targets are simply unreachable. ... It's time to give up the illusions. ... The programme must be reformulated, corrected and finally adjusted to reality. Any attempt which overlooks the seriousness of the situation, any decision which fails to review the stipulated terms, reveals a lack of courage and far-sightedness. The austerity policy won't alter the recession scenario. But if this nightmare can't be ended one should at least attempt to open up a loophole that offers the country a glimmer of hope." (26/02/2013)


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Deutschlandfunk - Germany

Organic egg scandal destroys trust in farmers

Roughly 150 German producers have reportedly sold eggs as organic or free-range eggs, even though their chickens were not kept or fed accordingly. This is a blow to the image of German farmers, who aimed to keep foreign suppliers at bay with claims of a better animal welfare policy, the public radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk criticises: "At the start of 2012, the German egg producers complained bitterly about unfair competition from European neighbours, who keep their hens closely packed together like in the old days of cruel mass egg production. Back then a good few consumers made the decision to strengthen local production by buying free-range eggs, and felt they were doing something for animal welfare in the process. After scandals over excessive use of antibiotics in poultry farms and horsemeat in Bolognese sauce, distrust of agricultural products and the food industry is once more on the rise. And the gnawing question remains: ... What form of agricultural production really deserves to be supported - whether it's by consumers or by billions in subsidies from Brussels?" (26/02/2013)

Irish Examiner - Ireland

Horsemeat at Ikea shocks consumers

The Swedish furniture group Ikea announced on Monday that horsemeat had been detected in the "Köttbullar" meatballs sold at its outlets in several European countries. The left-liberal daily Irish Examiner fears that the food industry has lost consumer trust for good, drawing a parallel with the banks: "We seem to be approaching the point where it will be easier to identify the meat plants that have not been embroiled in the horsemeat fraud than it will be to list those that have. ... It is terribly sad, and foolish, that we must now be so suspicious of food producers. Just as we did with the banks, it seems we will pay a very high price for not being far more vigilant." (25/02/2013)

Cinco Días - Spain

Digital economy needs regulations

In a speech given at the opening of the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, César Alierta, president of the Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica, warned of the dangers of an unregulated digital world. The left-liberal business paper Cinco Días supports the call for more competition rules: "At the same dizzying pace of developments in the digital and Internet era, huge monopolies are forming which, like all monopolies, pose a grave threat to free competition and growth. ... Telefónica boss Alierta was right to warn yesterday at the Mobile World Congress that the rules of the digital world have yet to be written, while the operators which the new [Internet] monopolies take advantage of are subject to restrictive rules, particularly on the European market. Something is indeed wrong here. A symmetrical system of rules is needed that applies equally to all the agents in the communication technology sector." (26/02/2013)


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Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

Oscar goes to Europe

Three prizes went to Europe at this year's Academy Awards on Sunday evening, with Oscars for the actors Christoph Waltz and Daniel Day-Lewis and the Austrian director Michael Haneke. That's a record, and shows that Hollywood only stands to benefit when it works in tandem with the Old Continent, the liberal-conservative daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung writes: "In these times of disappearing cinemas and dwindling audiences, Hollywood has recognised that it neither can nor wants to live without the European market. For that reason it exports its films early enough to benefit from the media hype created by the Oscars. And it's a win-win situation, because audiences here are also delighted that they can so to speak cast their votes at the Oscar ceremonies with a visit to the cinema. Added to that, since film production is so cheap in some European countries like Germany for example - also thanks to generous subsidies -, a growing number of American filmmakers are seeking to benefit from these advantages, which they don't have at home." (26/02/2013)


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Le Nouvel Observateur - France

France's school reform just diplomacy

France's government plans to extend the school week from four to four and a half days starting with the next school year. Now the Minister of Education Vincent Peillon has announced in an interview that he wants to shorten the summer holidays from eight to six weeks as of 2015. That is a diplomatic tactic, the left-liberal weekly magazine Nouvel Observateur contends: "Why has the minister dropped the bomb now? He risks provoking the ire of parents and teachers alike, the former because they fear changes to the summer programme and the latter because they don't want to give up their long summer holidays. But perhaps he's just trying to save what's left to save by bringing fresh impetus into the stagnating debate about school reform? ... Or he's trying to appease the local authorities that are upset up about the additional costs an extra half day per week will mean for them? Because by shortening the summer holidays by two weeks they can save money on holiday camps and sports schools, since these institutions would open later." (25/02/2013)

Eesti Päevaleht - Estonia

Car sharing complements free rapid transit

The Estonian capital Tallinn introduced free rapid transit at the start of 2013 in a bid to decongest its streets, which are often clogged by commuter traffic. But car sharing agreements can also help, the liberal daily Eesti Päevaleht recommends: "Because what happens when a family wants to do a major shopping trip or leave the city for the weekend? In this case a car is the only solution. For that reason car sharing is becoming a viable alternative in a growing number of Western European cities. These cars can be rented out for a limited period of time, and can be picked up at different locations in the city. The people who rent them out pay for fuel and maintenance. And for the most part the whole thing can be organised with a single telephone call. This idea can solve traffic problems without people having to give up owning a car altogether." (26/02/2013)


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Duma - Bulgaria

Bulgarian media drop Borisov like a stone

Since the resignation of the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, the television station TV7 and other media that supported the government until very recently have done a U-turn in their reporting, the opposition daily Duma observes: "Without the slightest warning, Borisov's media flagship has suddenly changed direction completely. ... Even Borisov's most fervent lickspittels are now acting as if they were his fiercest opponents. And the TV screens now show for the most part the 'faces of the people', the 'civil society' and protesters. What happened? Last week everyone was happy with the government. They loved Borisov and [his party] Gerb. Now they seem to have woken from hibernation. ... That's what paid love is like. It soon vanishes once the money tap runs dry. Now it's time for others to take the helm. Well, don't forget the money bags!" (26/02/2013)

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