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Press review | 19/01/2016

 

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Gap between rich and poor widens

The collective wealth of the poorest half of the world shrank by 41 percent in the past five years, according to Oxfam. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

The 62 richest people in the world are exactly as wealthy as the poorest half of the global population. This is the result of a study put out by the British aid organisation Oxfam. Some commentators call for more stringent taxation and an end to tax havens. Others believe the economic system is too complex to be made more fair.

Der Standard - Austria

Completely out of proportion

A debate about the fair distribution of wealth is needed, the centre-left daily Der Standard stresses: "Now it is nothing new that in capitalism, productively invested wealth, or in other words capital, creates more wealth, and so there is a natural tendency for the rich to get richer. That's why we have taxes - to balance this out. But the Oxfam data makes it clear that things have gotten completely out of proportion at the global level. The balancing systems are failing. Because most of the superrich haven't accumulated their wealth through dubious methods in some dictatorial country. On the contrary, these are people who are benefiting from the profits and increasing value of their investments, particularly in the financial sector. … So it's high time for a broad debate about fair distribution of wealth. The two central questions are: how to get rid of tax havens and how to tax wealth more fairly?" (19/01/2016)

Avgi - Greece

Poor people can't be free

The gap between rich and poor contradicts human rights and undermines democracy, the left-leaning daily Avgi believes: "Such fundamental inequality destroys any and every notion of human rights. Everyone - and this is also one of the basic values of European societies - is supposedly 'born free and equal in dignity and rights'. But how free can you be when you have nothing to eat? And how can you guarantee equal opportunities when people are simply born in the wrong corner of the world? This inequality also results in further collateral damage. It undermines democracy. Wealth means power: the power to buy laws that make it possible to become even richer, to evade taxes legally and to change working conditions at will." (19/01/2016)

La Libre Belgique - Belgium

Economists also at their wits' end

How can effective measures against social inequality be taken when even economists don't have a complete grasp of the economic system? asks the liberal daily La  Libre Belgique: "People say today that economic remedies are worse than the ills they are meant to cure. Overly high interest rates are a cause of concern? Well, rates that are too low for too long stand to provoke the next financial crisis. So what's to be done? Entrust the future to experts! That's not a sure remedy by a long shot. Two economists predicted the price of oil would rise to 380 dollars per barrel in 2015. It's now dropped to below 30 dollars. Those who criticised expensive oil are now saying cheap oil is just as bad for the global economy. But no doubt these experts are also wrong when they say exactly the opposite of what they said just a year earlier." (19/01/2016)

POLITICS

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The Guardian - United Kingdom

Time for a new Geneva Convention

Setting an upper limit on the number of refugees a country takes in is not compatible with current asylum law, Koen Lenaerts, President of the European Court of Justice, said in an interview on Monday. Then the asylum law must be changed, writes the centre-left daily The Guardian: "What is needed is a new Geneva refugee convention. It could limit the group qualification for refugee status, or the right of those fleeing to seek refuge outside their home region, or the length of time they may stay. It could try to guarantee places of safety for civilians in war zones. Historically the UN-approved 'responsibility to protect' clause was that shield, but that too is failing. Another reason to rethink the whole thing." (18/01/2016)

tagesschau.de - Germany

Berlin must cooperate with Maghreb states

The government in Berlin wants to speed up deportations of asylum seekers from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia whose applications have been rejected. Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel threatened in an interview to suspend development aid for countries that refuse to take back refugees. Cooperation based on an egalitarian approach would be better, public-service news website tagesschau.de admonishes: "Algeria and Morocco are important partners for Europe and Germany when it comes to cooperation on security - and in particular on counter-terrorism measures and exchange of information. And both governments tend to react badly to external pressure. Threats are no good here. … Spain has shown how one can work more closely with Morocco and considerable improve collaboration: there are regular consultations between the governments. … Pointing your finger at other countries in televised interviews is not the way to do successful politics." (18/01/2016)

Cumhuriyet - Turkey

Ankara should have cracked down on IS and PKK

According to media reports 961 foreign IS fighters were apprehended in Turkey in 2015. The current terrorism problem is the result of the ruling AKP government being too gentle on its opponents, the Kemalist daily Cumhuriyet believes: "Just three years ago the AKP was on moderate terms with everyone: it was sitting down at the negotiation table with the PKK; it accepted it. … The IS was - carefully formulated - neither friend nor foe. Its fighters could receive medical treatment in Turkey and IS-affiliated groups were even free to hold meetings. … The moderate relations of yesterday have turned into all-out war today. Because the IS is at least as brutal and inhumane a terrorist organisation as the PKK. They use the same methods. ... The one organisation beheads people with swords, the other with bombs. Yesterday's moderate relations with the IS and PKK have paved the way for today's atrocities and chaos." (19/01/2016)

Jutarnji list - Croatia

Bosnia can confidently seek to join EU

Bosnia and Herzegovina has announced it will submit its official application for EU membership by the end of the month. Brussels' reservations should only reaffirm the country's resolve, comments the liberal daily Jutarnji list: "So far Sarajevo has lacked the courage for this step because the politicians were aware of the chaos into which they have plunged the country. And Brussels also has always warned that it was 'too early' for membership negotiations. However, the EU itself is largely to blame for this, because Bosnia has been a so-called international protectorate for too long for the international community to reject all responsibility for the current desolate state of the country. All other states in the region are now on course for EU membership. … The fact that the expansion process as a whole is stagnating should not deter Bosnia but rather encourage it to put in its application as soon as possible so that it can be all the more resolute when it comes to introducing the necessary reforms." (19/01/2016)

Expresso - Portugal

Portugal's 35-hour week a mistake

The Portuguese parliament voted in favour of a return to a 35-hour week in the public service sector at first reading on Friday. The liberal weekly Expresso sees this as the wrong decision: "Why should public servants work an hour less a day than those who work in the private sector? Of all the wrong measures this government has adopted so far this is the most symbolic because it shows how the government is once again kowtowing to the unions as it's done on other measures, for example in the education and transport industries. … We will see what this kind of policy brings and what surprises await us when our finance minister presents the draft budget." (16/01/2016)

REFLECTIONS

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Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Kofi Annan and Kishore Mahbubani on the disadvantages of sanctions

The global community must rethink the use of sanctions against states, the former UN general secretary Kofi Annan and diplomat and political scientist Kishore Mahbubani urge in the liberal daily Il Sole 24 Ore: "Today, the United Nations Security Council has more sanctions regimes in place than at any time in its history. Judging by this escalation, one might conclude that sanctions have proved a remarkably effective tool in promoting international peace and security. Unfortunately, that is far from being the case. In fact, academic studies suggest that sanctions have had limited success. But the potential problems with sanctions regimes extend far beyond ineffectiveness. There is also evidence that sanctions can be counterproductive, such as when targeted regimes enrich themselves by controlling black markets in prohibited goods. … Given the disputed impact of sanctions, a new approach is needed. After all, public policy should be guided by evidence, not intuition and emotion. And the evidence indicates that, in order to achieve success and avoid unintended consequences, carefully calibrated sanctions must be pursued in tandem with political engagement." (19/01/2016)

Le Courrier - Switzerland

Benito Perez warns against punishing social protest as a crime

Eight former employees of the tire manufacturer Goodyear were sentenced to nine months in jail last week. They had taken two managers of their factory - which was menaced with closure - hostage for 30 hours. Benito Perez, editor of the Christian-social daily Le Courrier, is worried that protest actions are being criminalised: "This gagging of social protest is all the more insidious in that it is based on a dangerous illusion: that of a society where only criminals commit violence. However violence is everywhere and can potentially surface in any social relationship. The task of society does not consist in getting rid of it, in controlling and properly channelling it. Social clashes, demonstrations, strikes, occupations, and pickets all have a more or less symbolic violence and a more or less physical violence to them. Just like the power relations between a boss and an employee, a landlord and a tenant, a police officer and a protester. In this context a zero-tolerance policy leads primarily to disarming citizens - who already are not sitting in the driver's seat." (19/01/2016)

Göteborgs-Posten - Sweden

Alice Teodorescu calls for a debate about men on the losing side

The debate about sexual attacks is helped neither by blaming them specifically on refugees nor by placing all men under suspicion, writes social commentator Alice Teodorescu in the liberal daily Göteborgs-Posten: "The most recent discussions of the attacks in Cologne and Stockholm have started an interesting debate about gender and norms, as well as winners and losers. Some say that the lowest common denominator is the sex of the perpetrators. Others stress that this is all about values and cultural background. But there's yet another aspect: even if most of those who grope women are men, that doesn't mean that most men go around harassing women. And the argument that women are groped and harassed all over the world doesn't mean that all cases of harassment have the same cause. Some assaults occur in harmony with the social and cultural context, others in violation of it. For that reason we have to ask how we can best deal with this specific group of men who are at risk of being excluded from society - both as job seekers and family founders." (19/01/2016)

ECONOMY

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Wirtschaftsblatt - Austria

EU should issue refugee bonds

The budgets of those countries that are bearing the brunt of the burden in the refugee crisis are suffering, the liberal Business paper Wirtschaftsblatt stresses, proposing the introduction of "refugee peace bonds" as a solution: "The flood of refugees can hardly be controlled with money alone, but without money it will be even harder. In view of the lack of solidarity with countries like Germany or Austria what we need is a solution for the EU. ... It should simply borrow money from private investors who in any event are looking around desperately for somewhere to place their money. For 30 years the ESM bailout fund would currently only have to offer 1.6 percent interest per annum. But this burden would only be carried by countries that don't take in refugees. Of course the US could also participate - but on a no-interest basis and without refunds." (19/01/2016)

Rzeczpospolita - Poland

Warsaw to blame for poor rating

The Polish government has accused the US rating agency Standard & Poor's of downgrading Poland for exclusively political reasons without taking into account the country's for the most part positive economic development. Economist Jan Czekaj disagrees in a commentary for the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita: "The political risk and the risks that stem from a political system are among the most important factors for rating agencies in assessing an investment location. The fact that S&P has taken Poland's political situation into consideration isn't an accident, but rather corresponds to the norm. ... If we want to be treated sympathetically in the future we simply have to make our country's politics more confidence inspiring. We have to spend less time stressing that events in Poland are being deliberately misrepresented or misinterpreted." (19/01/2016)

SOCIETY

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La Vanguardia - Spain

Swedish police becoming a laughing-stock

In an internal circular letter issued last autumn by their press office police in Stockholm were banned from passing on details to the press regarding the origin or skin colour of offenders or suspects. Columnist Quim Monzó mocks the measure in the daily paper La Vanguardia: "No doubt soon they will start withholding information about whether the offender was thin or fat because if the latter is the case the Association of Overweight Individuals might issue a letter of protest. They'd also better hush up whether the attacker was over sixty, or else some old folks' home or another will get up in arms. And in cases of sexual aggression they won't state the attacker's gender so as not to be sexist. Newsreaders will report that in some place (the name of which  they prefer not to mention) a person (whose physical characteristics they also prefer not to mention) has just committed a crime the details of which they choose to withhold. And that will be followed by a call on anyone with information that could lead to the criminal's arrest to get in touch with the police and then not say anything at all." (19/01/2016)

MEDIA

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Politis - Cyprus

Charlie Hebdo's new Alan cartoon goes too far

The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has triggered a fierce debate on the social networks with a cartoon on the New Year's Eve attacks in Cologne that depicts an older version of the dead refugee boy Alan as a molester. The magazine has really gone too far now, the liberal daily Politis criticises: "Unfortunately the cartoonists have lost all sense of proportion. Their black humour has turned into meanness and become personal. Imagine how Alan's father will feel if he sees this cartoon. You can't 'exploit' a picture of a drowned boy and hope that the readers will see the sense behind this. … Satire should not and cannot be censored. But a certain internal balance is necessary. You have to set your own limits to prevent satire from getting nasty or turning into a crude joke." (18/01/2016)

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