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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 19/07/2006

 

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Spain confronts its past

Spain yesterday commemorated the 70th anniversary of the July 18, 1936 military coup that overthrew the Second Republic and triggered the Civil War (1936-1939). Plans for a 'law of historic memory' for victims of the Civil War, a pet project of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, serves as a reminder to the country that it has not yet come clean on these painful years. » more

With articles from the following publications:
Le Nouvel Observateur - France, Diario Sur - Spain, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - Germany

Le Nouvel Observateur - France

The historian Joseph Pérez explains in an interview with Alexandre Lemarié what has driven José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to prepare a 'law of historic memory' for victims of the Civil War. "He seeks to placate a part of Spanish public opinion, predominantly left-leaning. ... The political leaders who preceded Zapatero tended to keep mum about this past which, clearly, many find disturbing. Today, naturally, the grandchildren of the soldiers who fought in the Civil War are asking for explanations. The head of the Spanish government wants to take this shift in opinion into account. ... In my view, the descendants of the Nationalists should agree to recognise that atrocities were committed by troops that supported General Franco. This is something, moreover, that the descendants of the Republicans have already done with their mea culpa acknowledging, for example, that the anarchists abandoned themselves to some abominable acts." (19/07/2006)

Diario Sur - Spain

"What happened 70 years ago is now the province of historians, and not politicians," the Spanish daily asserts in an editorial. "This is the first time since the end of dictatorship that the country has felt such a strong urge to look back at its past. If there are still wrongs to be righted, a long-standing injustice to be rectified or dignity to be restored to someone, this must be done as soon as possible. But we must not reawaken age-old hatreds that are long since buried under the pretext of old arguments that there is no sense in judging today. ... But we must above all acknowledge that this war, before being a conflict between between good and evil, was a violent and unacceptable clash between Spaniards. This is why the question of historical memory should be dealt with by academics, rather than parliamentarians." (19/07/2006)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - Germany

According to Paul Ingendaay, 70 years on, memories of the Spanish Civil War are still determined by emotions rather than a genuine understanding of what happened. Ingendaay sees both the glorification of Franco and the distorted image of the Civil War as the product of a "strange aura that still pervades reflections on the Civil War today. Seldom have the victors been so arrogant in the recording of their triumph. Seldom have there been losers whose share of the blame has become so utterly lost in the dense fog of a comforting utopia. While the winners were busy establishing an inglorious authoritarian state, the losers took possession of dreams. Photographs, cinema and literature created the image of a heroic battle fought by the Left, but hardly anyone noticed that the flood of icons – from Ernest Hemingway's 'For whom the Bell Tolls' to Robert Capas' 'The fallen Soldier' – was taking the place of historical analysis." (18/07/2006)

REFLECTIONS

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Le Figaro - France

Ana Palacio on France's influence

"Europe needs France to once again become a beacon for the future," writes Ana Palacio, the president of the foreign affairs commission in the Spanish parliament. "France, in the history of European construction, has wielded great influence by virtue of its ideas. ... This ability to influence Europe's future diminished in the 1990s, due to a failure to grasp the implications of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the consequences of Germany's reunification and the regaining of freedom for Europe as a whole. ... France has also been a model of freedom, innovation and rational clarity. Ideas emanating from France had an irresistible allure thanks to their radiant lucidity. There are many of us who wish to see French politicians once again speaking with clarity to spread evocative ideas." (19/07/2006)

Die Presse - Austria

Burkhard Bishof on instability in Central Eastern Europe

"The present crisis in Europe is above all afflicting the political elite," writes Burkhard Bischof, who sees no sign of a promising candidate to remedy the situation either in Eastern or Western Europe. "Just look at those in charge. In most cases they have been so for years – in London, The Hague, at the EU headquarters in Brussels and in Paris; especially in Paris. There's not another European politician who seems as exhausted, worn out, unproductive and insipid as Monsieur Chirac. However, this description also fits politicians who have only recently taken the helm in other parts of Europe, and who should really be making a fresh and creative impression. But they don't give that impression at all when you look at the events currently unfolding in Central Europe. No, the crisis afflicting the political elite is also evident in the region between the Baltic and the Black Sea – in fact the situation is even more dramatic there than in Western Europe. And you don't need to be a prophet to predict that this region is headed for an era of political instability." (19/07/2006)

Hospodárske noviny - Slovakia

Martin Ehl on Central Europe's dwindling importance

In an analysis following elections in several countries in the region, Martin Ehl notes that "There's not much left of the 'new Europe', as American Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once called the new allies in Central Europe.... The new Polish government has fallen out with its two big neighbours Germany and Russia over the construction of a pipeline and a satirical newspaper article and is raising doubts about its continued loyalty to Europe. The new Slovak government led by Prime Minister Robert Fico is discussing whether to withdraw troops from Iraq. And the Hungarian government is accused of being too passive after joining NATO. It's as if the entire region had lost its capacity to get things done. At a time when the EU is beginning to pump a great deal of money into the development of the countries of Central Europe, they remain on the sidelines of the EU." (19/07/2006)

POLITICS

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Polityka - Poland

German-Polish relations hit a low

Since the German daily newspaper die tageszeitung described Polish President Lech Kaczynski as a potato, what is now being referred to as the "potato war" is raging between Warsaw and Berlin. According to Adam Krzeminski, relations between Poland and Germany haven't been this strained since the Second World War. He recalls that over the years there have been a number of conflict situations between the two countries that always had something of a tragedy and something of a farce. "This is the third German-Polish war since 1989. In 1995 we had the 'bread war' in Frankfurt on the Oder, when the German bakers protested against their Polish competitors in Slubice. And in 1998 there was the 'paper war', which involved an exchange of statements made by both parliaments about the role of exiles and the German minority. That makes three wars in the fifteen years since the conclusion of the 1991 Agreement between the newly independent Poland and the reunified German. Is that too many?" (19/07/2006)

La Stampa - Italy

Romani Prodi's reforms run into opposition

The reforms launched by Romano Prodi's government are running into roadblocks. The taxi driver strike that ended on July 18 with an agreement that proved controversial within the ranks of the majority itself is a case in point. And on July 20, it will be the pharmacists' turn to walk off the job. The writer and philosopher, Claudia Mancina, reflects on the fragile balance of a majority that must find new sources of support in order to enact its reforms. "The fragility of the Senate base is a difficult problem because the centre-left coalition was formed more on the unity of the anti-Berlusconi forces than on a homogeneous governing culture. ... So what can one do given this situation ? One possibility is to attempt a vote of confidence aimed at strengthening the majority. A legal, but risky, manoeuver." (19/07/2006)

The Independent - United Kingdom

Cross-border divorce in the EU

The daily welcomes plans by the European Commission to introduce a law that would make cross-border divorce easier. The Commission estimates 170,000 international couples get divorced annually in the EU - around 16 % of all divorces in the Union. "The idea is not to impose common regulations on the European Union, nor yet to bring the very different national divorce provisions into line. It is accepted that this would be impossible, even if in the long term it might be desirable. The purpose is rather to bring order to the present confused situation and give couples with links to more than one country a measure of certainty about the legal options open to them. ... The proposed new law reflects the reality that, while there was insufficient support in the European Union to permit passage of a single constitution, the European Union has been growing together in very many other ways." (19/07/2006)

Magyar Hírlap - Hungary

The end of the Orange coalition in Ukraine

"It's not the socialist parliamentary president Alexander Moros who has betrayed the Orange coalition but Viktor Yushchenko, the Orange president himself," writes Gyula T. Mate. "Why has this pro-Western head of state now put the ball in the court of Moscow's allies? Because he had no other alternative – firstly for personal reasons: Yulia Tymoshenko has always been his rival…. And secondly because the country's economic oligarchy didn't want a confrontation with Russia or an instable government led by Tymoshenko, who has her own ideas when it comes to energy policy…. Viktor Yushchenko realised that his foreign policy, which focused entirely on the West, was not successful. Neither Brussels nor Washington were prepared to give Ukraine financial backing, EU membership remains wishful thinking and the people of Ukraine don't want NATO membership." (14/07/2006)

El Correo - Spain

Illegal immigrants stranded off the Malta coast

The Spanish lawyer José Maria Ruiz Soroa is indignant about "the situation of the Eritrean illegal immigrants rescued by a Spanish fishing trawler after their boat's engine stalled off the Maltese coast. The island's authorities are refusing to allow them to go ashore. This is reminiscent of the unjust and desperate situation of those who may be considered the disinherited of the sea, whom states habitually treat with the same pragmatism: 'not in my port'. ... According to international maritime laws, states are required to 'cooperate' with sailors who come to the aid of shipwreck victims. In the present case, Malta cannot evade its responsibilities under the pretext that the Eritreans were rescued in Libyan territorial waters. The problem is that the term 'cooperate' is interpreted by states in the same way as before: 'we help, but not in our port'." (19/07/2006)

CULTURE

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Élet és Irodalom - Hungary

Emese Kürti on Hungary's anti-mother society

Art critic Emese Kürti describes how she has suddenly became "invisible" for Budapest's art scene since she started attending openings with her new baby. The doors of the galleries have been shut in her face at the sight of her pram. She complains that in this society young mothers are "temporarily dead in a symbolic sense. They have fulfilled their biological task and their continued existence has become meaningless. They are no longer an economic factor: they no longer produce or consume – their demands are stipulated by their standardised income (the state benefit paid to parents caring for newborns). In terms of profit they are unproductive and indefinable. They may never return to the 'world of employment' (this problematic term requires lengthy analysis), and if they do it won't be easy. The so-called world of employment suddenly thinks it's the very essence of life – the bubbly, beautiful, inspiring life in which the productive childless perceive a cup of coffee after a meeting or another training course as a liberating experience." (14/07/2006)

Respekt - Czech Republic

Milan Kundera and the Czechs

Author Milan Kundera was born in Czechoslovakia but went into exile in France in 1975. Since then he has written only in French – much to the disappointment of the Czechs. His colleague Tereza Brdeckova paints a gloomy picture after reading an "extremely clumsy" unauthorised Czech translation of his book "The Identity" which is currently circulating on the Internet. "Only Kundera himself can translate the books he writes in French into Czech. But this would mean writing the same book twice and an extra year's work. Can a writer full of new ideas really afford to take the time to do this, only to read in newspapers afterwards that the book isn't so good after all?... The sad thing is that the lack of appreciation of Kundera's works in the Czech Republic and his own refusal to write in Czech are causing interest in his works to dwindle. It would be a pity if we lost Kundera, because we don't have any other great writers at present." (19/07/2006)

The Times - United Kingdom

Tate Gallery censured for conflict of interest

"If it had been a company, the verdict would have sent shareholders into a panic," admonishes an editorial after Britain's Charity Commission censured the Tate Gallery for buying several works of art from its own board members between 1997 and 2004. The ruling "leaves the Tate and its director, the formidable Sir Nicholas Serota, looking distinctly uncomfortable. ... The Tate's directors genuinely seem to have believed that they were doing nothing wrong. Indeed, the practice of buying from serving trustees dates back to at least 1959. Today's Tate, however, is a hugely powerful institution that should be an exemplar. Sir Nicholas was genuinely contrite yesterday, saying that changes have already been made and that more will follow. ... Building a world-class art institution is a fine art. But it helps to get the basics right." (19/07/2006)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

Josef Nadj at the Festival d'Avignon

Marc Zitzmann complains that so far most of the plays at the Festival d'Avignon have been mediocre, and says France is mainly to blame: "A rule of thumb confirmed by all-too-seldom exceptions is that the stalest plays come from France." However, he adds that "Asobu" by French director and choreographer Josef Nadj made the journey to the festival worthwhile: "Many aspects of "Asobu" appear to have been inspired by Asia, and particularly ancient Japan – but not the Japan of the imperial courts but that of the people: a nightmare world full of grimaces and contorted faces, rat-like creatures covered in leaves and colourful ghosts. The mood oscillates between bizarre, burlesque and grotesque, and an archaic, explosive energy pulses through the entire piece." (19/07/2006)

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