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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 07/08/2006



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The Polish debate on the death penalty

Polish President Lech Kaczynski has spoken out in favour of the death penalty, and the League of Polish Families (LPR), which forms part of the ruling coalition, is collecting signatures in a campaign aimed at forcing a referendum on the reintroduction of the death penalty. The death penalty has not been enforced in Poland since 1988 and was banned in 1997. The campaign has drawn heavy criticism from both the EU and the Council of Europe. » more

With articles from the following publications:
Le Figaro - France, Życie Warszawy - Poland, Berlingske - Denmark, Delfi - Latvia

Le Figaro - France

"Has the Polish government forgotten that the death sentence is banned in all EU states and that its abolition is actually a condition for joining ?," wonders Arielle Thedrel. "During last year's legislative and presidential elections the Kaczynski brother who championed the fight against corruption and crime made capital punishment a campaign issue. As this autumn's local elections draw closer they doubtless hope that launching the 'debate' will once again prove a winner. Nothing is less certain, however. Although surveys show that a majority of Poles are in favour of capital punishment, they also reveal that more of them (between 53 % and 56 %) trust European institutions than their own government (22 %)." (07/08/2006)

Życie Warszawy - Poland

In a guest commentary Zbigniew Holda, a Krakow-based law professor working with the "Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights" in Poland, is bitterly critical of the calls to reintroduce the death penalty in Poland. "I knew it wouldn't be long before the League of Polish Families started a campaign to reintroduce the death penalty for paedophile offenders. It's probably only taken this long because they were waiting for the right moment – for a spectacular murder to hit the headlines. Thank God nothing like that has happened. The worst thing is that the president and justice minister have also joined the campaign. The reaction was swift: the EU and the Council of Europe have issued warning statements… I congratulate these politicians on their tactfulness, which we have to thank for Poland's increasingly poor international reputation. We're reinforcing the image of Poland as a backwater cut off from Europe's civilised heritage." (05/08/2006)

Berlingske - Denmark

According to the Danish newspaper, Eastern Europe's Right is back the way it was in the pre-communist era: reactionary, nationalistic, frequently anti-Semitic and distrustful of personal freedom and the market economy. The newspaper points to Poland, where it says the increasingly vocal calls for the reintroduction of the death penalty are clear evidence of such an attitude. "The death penalty is an intensely cruel and degrading punishment. It has no place in modern Europe. If President Kaczynski's views really are translated into law, Poland will not only break its ties with good society, it will jeopardise its membership of the EU and the Council of Europe. Despite all its anti-European rhetoric, I don't believe the Polish government will go that far." (07/08/2006)

Delfi - Latvia

Arvids Kalme defends those who want to reintroduce the death penalty in Poland. "Every gardener knows that weeds kill cultivated plants if they're not pulled out in time. This is also true for human society. But the demagogic 'humanists' won't admit it and are forcing us to put up with all kinds of perversions and crimes. Should we really let 'Western civilisation' decline and fall apart like the Roman Empire did?... It's time we come to our senses and impose the death penalty in cases where guilt is irrefutable and there's a danger of re-offending. In Poland this has already been understood and people are ignoring all the outraged protests from the EU." (07/08/2006)


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Élet és Irodalom - Hungary

Laszlo Vegel on criticism of globalisation and populists

Hungarian author Laszlo Vegel of Novi Sad (now Serbia) looks at how the nationalists and right-wing populists of Eastern Europe are adopting the arguments of the 1968 protest movement and the anti-globalisation movement. "The similarity is misleading. The criticism of the West and anti-Americanism of people like Peter Handke is being formulated within a completely different cultural context: in Western Europe anti-Americanism is part of democratic culture, while in Eastern Europe it's simply used in the rhetoric of populist movements… Eastern European conservatives who lack genuine conservative traditions are exploiting old anti-Western populism. Their criticism of globalisation is not aimed at protecting democratic rights but at protecting the autarchy of the nation state… The critical spirit of Western Europe is basically incompatible with the populists of Eastern Europe, but unfortunately this supposed meeting of minds is making an impact." (04/08/2006)

New Statesman - United Kingdom

Neal Lawson on the perverse effects of neoliberalism

Columnist Neal Lawson analyses the effects of neoliberal politics on crime. "So why has crime become so important even at a time when crime rates are falling? In a word, 'neoliberalism'. ... Neoliberalism, with its emphasis on rampant individualism, encourages a culture that is calculating rather than rule-abiding. People will do what they must to get the trappings that define success in today's consumer society. The law of the market is the lawlessness of the jungle. The triumph of markets ensures that the growth of relative inequality becomes a breeding ground for criminal behaviour. As the state is rolled back to make way for more profit-seeking companies, its ability to deal with the causes of crime diminishes." (07/08/2006)

Libération - France

Peter Sloterdijk and the French "microclimate"

German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk shares some of his thoughts on the "French exception" with Antoine de Baecque. "My francophilia is absurdly unconditional, but I must say that when I understood the causes of the youth protest movement against the CPE [first employment contract] France appeared increasingly mysterious to me. France is sealed off from the world around. ... Since the beginning of the 1980s the French have built a 'laboratory of shared social luxury'. They no longer form primitive tribes, but luxury tribes that live in nicely temperate greenhouses of social protection ... . France constitutes a sort of psycho-political exception in its attempt to create a protected space where the winds from the job market and the icy rains of neoliberalism are regulated and heated. It has its own microclimate, its own safety bubble. That's a delusion, yet at the same time, a beautiful delusion." (07/08/2006)

Der Spiegel - Germany

Meir Shalev on the war in Lebanon

Among Israeli authors there is growing criticism of the conduct of Israel's army in Lebanon. In an open letter, Amos Oz, David Grossman and AB Yehoshua have called for an end to its current operations. Meir Shalev comments in an interview with Christoph Schult: "Israel had good reason to go to war, but the way it is conducting the war is not justified. I'm not just referring to the tragedy in Qana, but to what happened in the first days of the conflict: the way it attacked Beirut and killed civilians in Lebanon. From the first day on we should have confined ourselves to attacking Hizbullah's strongholds along the Israeli-Lebanese border." (07/08/2006)


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The Independent - United Kingdom

The naivety of Blair's foreign policy

Columnist Johann Hari explores Tony Blair's foreign policy, as the British prime minister comes in for criticism, accused of towing the US line over the Lebanese crisis. "I think Blair's reading of the battle within Islam is broadly right. So how has it produced such disaster across the world? It comes from a terrible, willfully naive misreading of his allies. Tony Blair seems to genuinely believe that the US is the armed wing of Amnesty International, a state-machinery that will be dedicated benevolently to ensuring the right side prevails in this civil war. He even seems to extend this analysis, at moments of rhetorical overheat, to Israel. But in reality, the US government is motivated by many ugly factors, with Blair's benevolent reading way, way down the list". (07/08/2006)

Sme - Slovakia

Slovakia's pragmatic nationalists

Peter Schutz says there's no need to exaggerate the dangers of "nationalism, xenophobia and populism" in Slovakia just because Jan Slota's nationalist SNS party is part of the government. "Unlike Roman Giertych and his League of Polish Families, whose values are clearly reflected in Kazynski's government policies, the SNS has not expressed a single view that could interfere with the rights of Hungarians or the Roma. It didn't even protest when Dusan Caplovic [the deputy prime minister responsible for European affairs and minority policies] agreed with his predecessor Pal Czaky on a law for financing minority cultures. The previous governing coalition never managed to push through such a law. By signing the government programme Slota has also agreed to the creation of 'a system for promoting the cultures of national minorities'. SNS voters certainly have good reason to be protesting in front of the city hall in Zilina [where Slota is mayor]." (07/08/2006)

Delo - Slovenia

Criticism of Slovenia's environmental policy

Janko Lorencis sums up Slovenia's environmental policy up to now. "Slovenia is quite heavily polluted for a country of its size and development. But it would have been a lot worse if the country hadn't been at least partially de-industrialised following the collapse of Yugoslavia. We signed the Kyoto protocol, but like other developed EU member states, we've failed to meet some of its demands. "Lorenci fears the situation will worsen if the energy sector is liberalised: "The government plans to liberalise the energy sector, which until now had been in state hands – officially for the benefit of the consumer and unofficially as part of its neo-liberal course. Experience in other countries has shown that liberalisation often results in higher prices and poorer service for consumers. The state will lose control of environmentally-friendly policies. This is what happened in the 1990s in certain parts of Europe. Private owners tend to be less concerned about the environment and global warming." (04/08/2006)

La Stampa - Italy

Italy to make naturalization easier

Debate and controversy have been prompted in Italy by the nationality bill the government proposed in July 2006. It aims to make it easier for illegal immigrants in Italy to acquire Italian citizenship. Michele Ainis wonders "whether the Italian government is being too lax by halving the duration of residence the law currently requires before nationality can be obtained and whether the reform risks attracting new, bigger migrant flows that are impossible to stem. ... Current legislation has shown that hardline policies in this field are a failure. ... The switch from jus sanguinis to jus soli might succeed or it might fail. But the reform nevertheless marks a reversal of trends and opens a new chapter in politics which, after favouring expulsion, now encourages integration." (07/08/2006)


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Postimees - Estonia

The problem of full employment in Estonia

Estonia has almost full employment and an increasing number of sectors are having difficulties finding workers and are calling for measures to boost immigration. Ene-Margit Tiit, argues that they should use the workers they have more effectively. "Manpower shortages are not a new problem here. They existed in Soviet times when efficiency was poor – and there was an easy solution to the problem: workers were brought in from other Soviet republics. Mass immigration was politically desirable, but its effects can still be felt today. … In the present situation it would be very short-sighted to try to solve the shortages by importing manpower because it would overstrain social cohesion and stability. … Estonia should concentrate on stopping people from leaving. It may be a good thing for young specialists to spend some time abroad, but the mass exodus of bus drivers, nurses and construction workers who receive better pay abroad is evidence of Estonia's poor economic and social policy." (04/08/2006)

La Vanguardia - Spain

Italy blocks merger between Abertis and Autostrade

On Saturday August 5th the Italian government moved to block the merger between highway operators Abertis from Spain and Italy's Autostrade, which would have produced the world's single largest highway operator -  flying a Spanish flag. The Spanish daily believes "the outdated interventionism of the Italian government is particularly incomprehensible as the Italian prime minister Romano Prodi headed the European Commission until recently and was a committed 'europeist' convinced of the need for greater integration between businesses in the EU. Romano Prodi must therefore be asked to reconsider the decisions taken by some of his ministers, for they could seriously harm the future of the single European market and relations between the two countries." (07/08/2006)


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La Libre Belgique - Belgium

Postmodern design on show in Gent

The Design Museum of Gent is currently showing an exhibition of furniture and glass objects by the Czech architect Borek Sipek. Journalist Guy Duplat  explains how the artist approaches his work. "The motto of Mies van der Rohe and the modernists, 'less is more', was long dominant. Pure lines and perfect functionality went hand in hand. The idea came under attack in the 1970s from postmodernists who declared 'less is bore'. They advocated a mixing of genres and the use of ancient and classical shapes and patterns, but shorn of all their original meaning. Colour ran riot, while shape and form once more became triumphantly baroque. The Italian Allessandro Mendini championed this approach in design, as did  Borek Sipek, a multifaceted Czech artist who first made his name as an architect." (07/08/2006)


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Expresso - Portugal

The government denounces tax dodgers

The weekly comments on the Portuguese government's decision to publish its blacklist of tax dodgers. "The on-line publication of the list brought initial success: ashamed of featuring on the blacklist, tax dodgers quickly paid up what they owed. This response showed that the Portuguse mentality could well be undergoing a change. There is a sense of shame at not paying one's taxes, whereas the dominant sentiment even a few years ago was roguish pride at fooling the system. ... Tax information is thus not confidential. Unlike banking secrecy, where only a court can overrule the absolute confidentiality enshrined in law, paying one's taxes is a duty to society. And the publication of a blacklist is not an act of interference in the private lives of individuals." (05/08/2006)


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Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

The EU versus smokers

Bob Fiedler says "Europe's battle against smoking is not discrimination", but he warns that the European Commission's decision to allow employers to reject potential employees because they smoke will still annoy liberals. "Wouldn't it be enough to confine smoking to certain areas within companies? And who's next for the chop: people who are overweight because they're more likely to get ill? Compulsive gamblers? People who drink alcohol? No, it's not that bad. We're no talking about a general ban here but about giving employers the opportunity not to employ smokers, and it's unlikely that this will be extended to people who have other vices. Compulsive gambling and being overweight have a different status in Europe to smoking, which has been the subject of a systematic campaign over the past few years. And be honest, smokers, has it really made any difference?" (07/08/2006)

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