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Press review | 15/01/2016

 

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Warsaw defends itself against criticism from Brussels

Beata Szydło will travel to Strasbourg to take part in the EU parliament's debate about Poland next week. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

In response to the EU Commission's decision to open an inquiry against Warsaw Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło has defended the national conservative government's course, saying that Poland has the right to take sovereign decisions. Commentators hope that Warsaw and Brussels will be able to resolve their dispute. But they also criticise the EU for being more lenient with Poland and Hungary than with candidate countries like Serbia.

Novi list - Croatia

Europe needs Poland

The centre-left daily Novi List explains all that is at stake for Europe in the controversy with Poland: "Europe must not lose Poland. And that's why Brussels can't afford to simply look on calmly as the anti-democratic virus spreads from Budapest to Warsaw. Because Poland is not Hungary. Poland, with its 40 million inhabitants, is the largest and most successful of the new EU member states, and with its constructive Europe policy it has taken the leading role in young Europe. For two decades the 'Weimar Triangle' in which Poland, Germany and France discuss and vote on their decisions regarding Europe has been in place. Poland is the most important state in the post-communist world, and too vital a state to be left in the grip of Polish ultra-nationalists who see in Brussels and Europe only what they once saw in Moscow." (15/01/2016)

The Irish Times - Ireland

EU's double standard frustrates accession candidates

The fact that Poland and Hungary are not facing any real consequences even though the rule of law there is under threat is frustrating for countries like Serbia that are making a great effort to comply with the EU's standards, notes the centre-left daily The Irish Times: "Despite the European Commission discussing the ramifications of the new Polish laws at their weekly meeting this week, the possibility of any substantive action is unlikely. ... Turning a blind eye to deteriorating rule of law standards in its own member states opens up credibility questions for the European Union. Already, countries who are on the path to EU membership, such as Serbia, are voicing frustration at having to meet high standards of rule of law, while countries such as Hungary and Poland blatantly breach those standards." (14/01/2016)

Gość Niedzielny - Poland

Rule of law also weak in other EU states

The EU Commission's probe is unjust because constitutional courts in other EU countries are no better off, the Catholic website Gość Niedzielny sniggers: "Let's start with the UK. It doesn't even have a constitution in the sense of a legal act that takes precedence over other laws. So of course there can be no probes into the constitutionality of the laws. And why not? The Brits believe that parliament alone is sovereign. ... The second example is the Netherlands. This state is all the more interesting in that its constitution bans controls of the constitutionality of laws. And then there's Luxembourg: the grand duchy does have a constitutional court, but it's very weak. Citizens or groups of MPs have no right to question the constitutionality of laws, only the courts do. ... The question arises: does the EU Commission also have its eye on the UK, the Netherlands and Luxembourg?" (15/01/2016)

POLITICS

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Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Caliphate's franchise extends as far as Jakarta

The IS terrorist group has admitted responsibility for Thursday morning's attacks in the Indonesian capital Jakarta. At least seven people, including five attackers, died in several explosions and exchanges of fire. The attacks come as no surprise, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 ore comments: "Islamic fundamentalism has deep and indigenous roots in Asia, and the caliphate appeals to those roots by stoking more or less latent phenomena through the franchising of the global jihad. For many splinter groups simply belonging to the IS is a strategic victory that gives them visibility. Moreover, the Islamic State has announced that it plans to set up a province under the caliphate's control in Southeast Asia, even though the Asian Muslims have only subordinate status in the terrorist group's hierarchy." (15/01/2016)

Club Z - Bulgaria

Open conflict between Ankara and IS

In the wake of the attack in Istanbul Turkey is in danger of plunging into a spiral of violence, the news website Club Z fears: "The unofficial truce between Turkey and the IS ended with the arrests of recent months and the destruction of a number of the terrorist organisation's sleeper cells. The attack in Istanbul can be seen as a warning to Ankara to stop hunting down IS people. … However, it could also lead to Turkey starting a real war against the 'Islamic State' by joining the US-led international coalition. Turkey could then send ground troops to Iraq and Syria to fight the terrorists. That in turn would lead to a series of IS attacks in Turkey, especially given that among the jihadists are more than 2,000 Turks with close ties to the Turkish province of Hatay and other regions on the Syrian border." (14/01/2016)

Agos - Turkey

Turkey increasingly fascist

More than a thousand Turkish academics made a joint call on Monday for the peace negotiations with the outlawed PKK to be resumed. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded by calling them traitors and terrorists, the public prosecutor's office launched an investigation against them, and the mafia boss Sedat Peker, who has been convicted several times, threatened a bloodbath. A terrible situation, the weekly of the Armenian minority Agos comments: "Erdoğan's words are a harbinger and a sign that we are heading for, or rather already in, a dark era. As are the investigations launched against the academics and the violent threats of the mafia boss. The AKP and its media know pretty well how they will go down in history, but they don't care. The darkening fascist atmosphere, which is meant to recall the times of Hitler in both a positive and negative way, doesn't bode well for the future." (15/01/2016)

Libération - France

Le Pen appropriates feminism for her own ends

The leader of the far-right Front National, Marine Le Pen, denounced on Wednesday in the liberal business paper L'Opinion the sexual attacks in Cologne, and portrayed her party as a defender of women's freedoms. Now the FN is using feminism for its own ends, the centre-left daily Libération writes in anger: "Is the FN liberal, secular and feminist? Only in as far as that allows it to condemn Islam and immigration, but no further. Such liberal traits (including the party's economic programme) only serve higher objectives: stopping immigration, reintroducing borders and promoting a homogeneous national identity. … What's more, the exploitative character of this 'feminism' is barely concealed in Marine Le Pen's opinion piece. In conclusion she calls for a referendum on a halt to immigration and on exiting the Schengen Area. So we see how for the FN closing our borders - already a panacea for all our country's woes - becomes a guarantee of women's rights." (14/01/2016)

El Periódico de Catalunya - Spain

New negotiators in Madrid and Barcelona

The way the new regional government in Catalonia goes about its plans for secession from Spain will depend among other things on the willingness of the future central government to conduct a dialogue, the centre-left daily El Periódico de Catalunya points out, adding that the current dispute could be defused "if a dialogue could be initiated after years of the PP [with its absolute majority in Madrid] radically refusing to tackle the Catalan problem. New protagonists on both sides could lead to a different perception of the situation, less burdened by preconceptions. If a new governing majority is formed in Madrid, the deadlines set in Barcelona for the envisaged separation from Spain could be relaxed. For that to happen, the politicians in Catalan will also have to start looking for majorities that could agree on more realistic and inclusive goals." (15/01/2016)

Diena - Latvia

New protagonists on Latvia's political stage

Just over a month after head of government Laimdota Straujuma resigned the Latvian president on Wednesday tasked Māris Kučinskis of the Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS) with forming a government. This marks a turning point in Latvia, the liberal daily Diena is convinced: "The protagonists on Latvia's political stage are changing. One can see this as a good thing or a bad thing, but what is certain is that the [liberal-conservative] Unity Party's era of dominance has come to an end. This is harsh, but it is the reality. The party, which was in power for seven years, has suffered a defeat. … In any case the mistakes the Unity Party made provide a good backdrop for showing the potential new prime minister in a positive light. And Māris Kučinskis has already shown that he is a good diplomat who isn't promising major changes and who would even be willing to keep the old coalition." (14/01/2016)

ECONOMY

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L'Echo - Belgium

EU is ideal territory for car lobby

Shares in all carmakers took a plunge on Thursday following rumours of manipulated emissions at French carmaker Renault. Trust in the automotive industry is still at a low, the business daily L'Echo concludes and calls for politicians and carmakers to redouble their efforts here: "In Europe, a compromise that was already decided in October will allow cars to continue emitting emissions. … Two times more azote oxide than the authorized limits. So we find ourselves in what is almost a dream situation for the lobbyists. Either the text is blocked and the new tests that are supposed to reduce the gaps between the laboratory tests and the real traffic conditions will be rejected once again. Or the text is passed and they will have the right to continue to emit twice as much azote oxide as foreseen. A surreal situation, which distances the people even more from the carmakers and the confidence they could accord to them." (15/01/2016)

Der Standard - Austria

Disastrous crisis management at VW

The attempts of Volkswagen boss Matthias Müller to repair the company's tarnished image with a trip to the US have completely backfired, the centre-left daily Der Standard comments: "On several occasions the authorities and customers have been presented with half-baked new proposals that were all rejected. Clearly no one has coached Müller on how to come across as likeable and in control in public while negotiating effectively in the background. When the scandal first broke VW could still have hoped for an expensive but relatively mild solution to the crisis. But under its current management the future of what was once Germany's flagship company is gloomier than ever." (15/01/2016)

SOCIETY

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Suomenmaa - Finland

Vigilantes more dangerous than asylum seekers

In Finland a growing number of so-called vigilante groups are being formed with the declared intention of protecting women against assaults by asylum seekers. A dangerous trend, the ruling Centre Party's mouthpiece Suomenmaa comments: "The voluntary patrols that have already been founded in 20 communities are not the right response. … In a democracy, society is responsible for maintaining peace and order. It pays taxes to finance the authorities set up for this purpose. Only a system that is subject to state controls can be given the right to use violence. Voluntary vigilante groups fuel fears, rumours and prejudices. In the past the establishment of similar groups has only led to stupid acts and violence. They pose more of a threat for the Finns than the asylum seekers themselves." (15/01/2016)

Svenska Dagbladet - Sweden

Sweden must stop being too lax with criminals

Swedes must use the debate about sexual assaults on women by migrants to question their own attitudes towards the perpetrators, the conservative daily Svenska Dagbladet stresses: "Values and morals are not particularly 'in'. This, in combination with a confusing cultural relativism, creates a free fall when reality hits in the form of New Year's Eves and festivals and raises difficult questions. ... The current debate shows the unpleasant traits of Swedish culture: namely our unwillingness to demand accountability and to stress that acts have consequences. We prefer to see criminals as victims of their own past than as culprits who are responsible for their decisions. ... We have values of which we can be proud - and we need more strength of character to stand up for them." (15/01/2016)

Adevârul - Romania

Germany is Europe's therapist

There's a psychological explanation for the gloating on the part of opponents of Germany's refugee policy over the events on New Year's Eve in Cologne, Eugen Hriscu writes on the blog portal of the conservative daily Adevârul: "The malicious glee on the part of some people is more than just satisfaction that their expectations have been fulfilled. It's a defence mechanism against the shame of looking in the mirror and seeing themselves as scared and narrow-minded while others demonstrate courage and generosity. It's a symptom of envy. ... The most bitter attacks a psychotherapist must withstand come from within: from his own fears and doubts, fatigue and envy, anger and revengefulness. In a figurative sense, these processes are taking place in Germany, the only 'therapist' that was ready to take on a patient refused by everyone else." (15/01/2016)

Tportal - Croatia

New PM must finally learn proper Croatian

Croatia's future prime minister Tihomir Orešković grew up in Canada and has only been living in his native country for a few years. His poor knowledge of Croatian is increasingly making him the butt of jokes, the liberal web website tportal.hr observes: "Even during his inaugural speech he said 'buildings' meaning 'citizens', and on Wednesday he declared with aplomb that he wanted to look into how to boost indebtedness in the next couple of years. His language problems are becoming a problem for the public and media, who often have to explain, interpret or simply alter his comments so that the people can so much as understand their future prime minister. Some of his mistakes aren't so serious, but when he makes them when talking about such important topics as debt, economic growth, credit ratings and the like, both he and the nation are walking on very thin ice." (15/01/2016)

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