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Press review | 14/01/2016

 

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EU examines rule of law in Poland

Many Poles have been demonstrating against their government for weeks. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

The EU Commission launched a probe on Wednesday to examine whether Poland's recent reforms are undermining the rule of law and democracy in the country. The EU should beware of imposing sanctions on Warsaw, some commentators admonish. Others call on the Polish government to take Brussels' warning shot seriously.

Fakt - Poland

Warsaw must not ignore warning signal

The EU's move is a clear warning to the Polish government, the conservative tabloid Fakt surmises: "Some commentators have played down the significance of the European Commission's decision. … But this is the first time the EU has ever used this mechanism. And it certainly won't show our country in a flattering light. The Eurocrats have withdrawn our status as the best pupil among the new EU members and basically put us on the penalty bench, so to speak. This is a warning signal for the PiS. It must not use its election victory or the will of the people to justify all its political moves and the way it has gone about pushing them through. After all, the Polish people didn't vote for the PiS because they wanted it to reform the constitutional court. There was certainly no talk of that during the election campaign." (14/01/2016)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

EU must respect Polish voters

The liberal-conservative daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung urges the EU to say yes to dialogue but no to sanctions in handling the situation in Poland: "The launching of the rule of law probe which mainly consists in initiating dialogue between Brussels and Warsaw may be a good way to promote mutual understanding. … EU sanctions against Poland, which would have little chance of being implemented anyway, would be the wrong approach. In all probability they would be counter-productive, firstly because they would provoke nationalist defensive reflexes and legitimise the PiS's questionable policies. And secondly because sanctions would call into question the very fundamental values the EU claims to be upholding. A lack of respect for the sovereignty and the will of Polish voters is hardly in keeping with democratic principles." (14/01/2016)

Delfi - Lithuania

Lithuania faces a dilemma

There is no single correct response to the developments in Poland, political scientist Kęstutis Girnius writes on web portal Delfi: "In the eyes of some Western observers some of the new Polish government's actions stand in contradiction to the principle of the rule of law. The government disregards decisions by the Constitutional Tribunal and is trying to take control of the media. ... The EU can't turn a blind eye when its most important values are ignored. If the attempt to punish Poland fails it will be exposed as a paper tiger. If sanctions are imposed it would humiliate the most powerful state in Eastern Europe, and many Poles would see the EU as an enemy. No matter how Lithuania votes [the decision to impose sanctions must be unanimous] it will draw the ire of either Poland or Germany and Brussels." (14/01/2016)

POLITICS

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NRC next - Netherlands

Turn the tables and threaten London with Brexit

The European Union needs to radically change its strategy for dealing with the UK's push for EU reforms, writes journalist Joris Luyendijk in the liberal daily Nrc.next: "Prime Minister Cameron is hoping for concessions from the EU. But such concessions would be a historic mistake. If the English are rewarded for this attempted blackmail we will end up with such referendums everywhere. That would paralyse Europe. It would be better to resort to threats. … Tell the English how much we will make them suffer if they leave. … The best way to prevent a Brexit is to act as if it had already happened. … It is the job of Europe's politicians and columnists to make it clear to England how powerless and insignificant it will be if it leaves. Even a child could see that the EU needs fundamental reform. But England doesn't want a better deal for all Europeans but only for itself. … 'The English are only in it for themselves'. Well then we should treat them in the same way." (14/01/2016)

ctxt.es - Spain

Spain headed for grand coalition enslaved to EU

In its constitutive session Spain's Congress of Deputies elected the socialist Patxi López as its president on Wednesday. The fact that his election was facilitated by the support of the liberal Ciudadanos party and the abstention of the conservatives points to the formation of a coalition between these previously warring parties, the centre-left news site ctxt.es fears: "The election of the president of the Congress proves that the Spirit of 78 [the dominance of the two major parties since the constitutional reform of 1978] is not dead yet, that the new catchphrase will be 'reform' and that a grand coalition of three parties is the solution preferred by the [Spanish stock index] Ibex and the EU. … This could - what a horrible thought - become the first stable legislature. With a grand coalition that forms a government without sovereignty that accepts all Europe's demands." (14/01/2016)

Le Monde - France

Obama couldn't pull others in his wake

US President Barack Obama delivered his last State of the Union Address on Tuesday. Despite his achievements he has left the impression of dissatisfaction and unfinished business, the centre-left daily Le Monde comments: "Strictly speaking this is the result of his strengths. As David Ignatius of the Washington Post said, Obama tried to govern by reason in troubled times. Not with slogans, unfulfillable promises, or absurd but reassuring statements starting with 'All we have to do is ...'. He's the anti-Donald Trump, the anti-Marine Le Pen. Rather than simple statements of protest and radical solutions, he favours compromise, the oxygen of democracy. That's all to his credit. What he lacked was the ability to pull others in his wake, a gift for concise, harsh statements when the time was right, and the art of political horse trading that could translate the ideas of a wise man into facts in troubled times." (13/01/2016)

ECONOMY

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Trends-Tendances - Belgium

VW chief prefers incompetence to dishonesty

Asked on Monday in an interview with the US radio station NPR whether Volkswagen's behaviour in the emissions scandal was morally correct, the company's new boss Matthias Müller reacted with incomprehension. Rightly so, the business magazine Trends-Tendances approves: "In Europe we've seen the same sort of defence in the banking sector where former CEOs prefer to come across as incompetent if it means avoiding being charged with embezzlement. … You can be shocked by his response, or you can remember that VW has a Sword of Damocles hanging over its head in the United States. While some are talking about a 20 billion dollar fine, others are citing figures as high as 50 billion. Bearing in mind the amounts at stake, it's clear that the new boss's defence strategy will focus on misunderstandings, and certainly not on deliberate lies. Which explains his contortions when facing the American media. Admit guilt, yes. But admit that one has lied, no." (13/01/2016)

SOCIETY

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The Irish Independent - Ireland

IS terror will not force Europe to its knees

The Turkish authorities have blamed the Islamic State for the suicide bombing in Istanbul in which ten tourists were killed. Europeans won't do the terrorists the favour of curtailing their freedoms and changing their way of life, stresses the conservative daily The Irish Independent: "It is the goal of the group to strike at the unprotected and the weak. It seeks to elicit a response which will serve to recruit more people to its twisted cause by provoking a backlash. ... It is the aim of Isil to take away freedom. It was Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi who warned that the only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear. Europe will not give up its freedoms lightly. Terror will be defeated, and each new atrocity will strengthen, not weaken, that resolve." (13/01/2016)

The Times - United Kingdom

Misogyny not exclusive to Islam

The New Year's Eve assaults on women by migrants were more the result of cultural background than of religious beliefs, the conservative daily The Times writes, nonetheless demanding zero tolerance for misogyny: "Certainly many versions of Islam entail a status for women that amounts to a doctrine of inferiority. But the same is true of, say, Orthodox Judaism. And readers will recall the appalling recent instances of gang rape in India. It is not so much a problem peculiar to world faiths as a characteristic of lagging, misogynistic cultures. ... Cultures that teach the inferiority of women, even under the hypocritical guise of 'protecting' or 'valuing' them, are lesser cultures. In those respects, if they're in our countries, they need to assimilate." (13/01/2016)

Die Tageszeitung taz - Germany

Germans not bothered by Nazi violence

More than 250 Nazis went on a rampage in Connewitz, an area in Leipzig known for its alternative scene - on Monday, at the same time as a demonstration by the Leipzig branch of Pegida, Legida, was taking place. The left-wing daily taz is annoyed that the rioting barely registered in the rest of the country: "In comparison [to the debate on the New Year's Eve attacks in Cologne] the nation seems astoundingly indifferent to the excesses of right-wing groups. Leipzig's mayor talked of 'street terror', and some people say they feel reminded of the 1930s. But the nationwide response has been very tepid. Not a single German politician has called for harsher punishment or 'zero tolerance'. … And elsewhere too, Pegida supporters and far-right 'vigilante groups' have been harassing people they think look somehow foreign. This is happening in broad daylight, for example in Cologne. So one would be justified in asking: is violence against those with different beliefs and those who look different so much part of 'our culture' that many no longer consider it scandalous?" (14/01/2016)

Politiken - Denmark

Denmark depriving migrants of chance to integrate

The Danish parliament has approved a tightening of its asylum laws in the first reading. Among other measures, refugees are to be divested of objects worth more than 10,000 kroner [1,340 euros], and the right of family members to join their relatives will be granted only after three years. The centre-left daily Politiken criticises the new legislation: "Whereas the jewellery measure is about material assets, the bulk of the laws hit the refugees where it hurts most: in their state of uncertainty they will not have the sense of security that being close to their families offers. Despite all the protests, for example from the UN, and the EU Commission's assessment that the new legislation may be in violation of EU laws, the proposal was adopted and the period of waiting before war refugees may be joined by their relatives was extended from one to three years. ... The responsible minister is in charge of integration, not debt collecting. And the government would do well to present an effective policy in this area." (14/01/2016)

CULTURE

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hvg - Hungary

Dumb Hungarians annoyed about Golden Globe

Hungarian director László Nemes's film Son of Saul became the first Hungarian film to win a Golden Globe on Monday. In Hungary, however, the fact that a film about the Holocaust won has drawn criticism. In the centre-left weekly hvg commentator Árpád W. Tóta voices annoyance at his countrymen's stupidity: "The film is actually directed against you. Because what is the lesson to be learned from the last 70 years? That a country persecuted, exterminated and expelled people who could have been Hungarians if they had been allowed to. The film is directed against all those who still believe that the path [of ethnic homogeneity in Hungary] can lead to success and national greatness. … With your stubborn and narrow-minded stupidity you, dear Hungarians, are guaranteeing that you will remain frustrated for another thousand years. But no, by then you will all have died out." (13/01/2016)

MEDIA

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Salzburger Nachrichten - Austria

15 years of justified faith in Wikipedia

The online encyclopaedia Wikipedia will celebrate its 15th birthday tomorrow. Four out of five Internet users have rightly trusted its content since day one, the Christian-liberal daily Salzburger Nachrichten comments: "Clearly the mass of users has forced Wikipedia to be more objective - at least regarding big topics that are read every day by millions and poured over by thousands of editors. Added to that is the impressive speed of the Wikipedia community. David Bowie's death was posted on the German version at 7:30 a.m., while the German press agency dpa broadcast the breaking news at 8:12. We can safely put our trust in Wikipedia. But only for preliminary research. You can't gain a deep understanding of a subject simply through an encyclopaedia. That's the way things have been ever since Brockhaus's day." (14/01/2016)

SPORT

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Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Doping world records should be revoked

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will present the second part of its report on doping at the highest levels of international athletics this Thursday. The conservative daily Lidové noviny calls for the world records attained in the 1980s thanks to doping to finally be revoked: "In marathon races no records are set, only international best times, because the conditions of the races vary. The same should apply for stadiums, which are located at different altitudes or in different climate zones. … Not to mention the records set in the times when doping began in the 1980s. For instance the [800 metre] record set by Jarmila Kratochvílová or Helena Fibingerová's [shot putting] record. Back then female athletes grew beards and their voices and muscles were like men's. The conditions were variable there too, as they are with marathons. It is high time and only honest for us to finally say goodbye to these records." (14/01/2016)

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