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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 25/03/2010

 

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Greek crisis overshadows EU summit

 

The dispute over financial aid for Greece will play a key role at the EU summit which starts today, Thursday, in Brussels. The press sees the very future of the Eurozone at stake and calls for greater flexibility and sustainable growth for the EU.

Les Echos - France

Eurozone is at stake

The EU summit could be decisive for the fate of the Eurozone, writes the business daily Les Echos, commenting that much hinges on Germany's attitude: "Even if it sounds somewhat dramatic, it is not forbidden to think that the functioning and the very future of the Eurozone are at stake. ... In truth the crisis has quickly revealed the home-made deficiencies of the Eurozone. The member states have failed to sufficiently coordinate their economic policies and have consequently been unable to find common ground. Must we wait until the storm breaks over other countries like Spain, which could mean the end of the euro? Under such circumstances the crucial question is ... whether Germany is ready to go on leading the euro venture and whether its partners are ready to convince it ... that this is indispensable." (25/03/2010)

Die Presse - Austria

EU must be more flexible

The time has come to restructure the European Union, writes the daily Die Presse, arguing that both loans and sanction options are needed: "The EU and above all its euro are the products of a fair-weather phase during which common policy was shaped by the belief in constant growth and stability. But now it's raining everywhere. Roofs to provide shelter were never built. If today's EU summit in Brussels sees no other recourse but to put together an aid package for Athens, then this will also break with a taboo. For such a decision would reveal that European integration, the joint treaties, rest on shaky foundations. ... The problem has two dimensions. A current one: it has become necessary to provide Greece with loans or guarantees to prevent rising interest rates for the country and damage to the euro. And it has a structural dimension: the European Union must be restructured. If the EU wants to be in a position to help itself in future it needs options similar to the International Monetary Fund." (25/03/2010)

Dagens Nyheter - Sweden

More commitment for success

Commenting on the meeting of EU heads of state and government in Brussels the daily Dagens Nyheter calls for less words and more deeds to accelerate growth in the EU: "The EU must finally be endowed with a common patent system, make headway in the service sector and remove barriers to the circulation of goods. How wonderful it would be if the Union managed to unify Europe's railway network, levy a uniform tax on carbon dioxide and strengthen research in Europe. This would all have a positive impact on growth, employment and green investment. The EU Commission should also be given more power to control and monitor what happens in member states. … There is great unexploited potential for sustainable growth and employment in the EU. We need action now so that Europe can get back on track." (25/03/2010)

POLITICS

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La Repubblica - Italy

Obama successful on nuclear disarmament

The new treaty on nuclear disarmament between Russia and the US is to be signed on April 8 in Prague. The left-liberal La Repubblica hails this as a foreign policy victory for US President Barack Obama: "The meeting in Prague is Obama's first concrete success in foreign policy. The announcement, which came 48 hours after the passing of the healthcare reform, reinforces the impression that a new era is dawning for the US president. Scrapping the plans for the US missile defence shield envisaged by George W. Bush was not enough. The signs of a relaxation in the dossier of sanctions against Iraq were decisive: this is an area where the Chinese government is nowadays a tougher negotiating partner for Washington than Russia. … Obama's goal is to further reduce the number of nuclear weapons and ultimately get rid of them entirely." (25/03/2010)

Népszabadság - Hungary

Failed policies give far right a boost in Hungary

According to current opinion polls the right-wing extremist Jobbik party could gain almost 20 percent of the vote in the upcoming Hungarian parliamentary elections in April. This is no surprise to those familiar with the bitterly poor and backward northeastern region of Hungary, writes the left-liberal daily Népszabadság: "In around two weeks many of these people who no longer believe in anything will decide the future of the country. They live in a region where the argricultural state combines fell to pieces and the factories and mines were closed in the 1990s, and where no alternative employment has been created. Eking out an existence from seasonal, semi-legal or illegal work, these people have been left in the lurch by the political elite, who have also failed to deal with the immense problems surrounding the Roma minority. ... Add to that corruption affairs close to the government involving embezzled sums that defy these people's imagination. The vote in April will allow them to voice their frustration at the continual suffering they have endured since the fall of communism." (25/03/2010)

El País - Spain

Obama must set limits for Israel

US President Barack Obama received Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington on Wednesday. Obama needs to define clear boundaries in the current dispute with Israel, writes left-liberal daily El País: "For Obama, who began his term of office with the intention of becoming thoroughly involved in the conflict and who later called for reconciliation between the West and the Muslim world, the time has come to draw a red line. Washington gives Israel almost 3,000 million dollars annually, in addition to acting as its final guarantor. But Netanyahu's intransigence and the acquiescent stance of the White House undermine US policy in a critical region, fuel anti-Americanism and aggravate its difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan. If Obama wants to justify the US's leading role he will have to jump into the arena with clearly defined outlines for a pact between Israel and the Palestinians." (25/03/2010)

REFLECTIONS

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - Germany

Theo Waigel on the pacifying effect of the euro

The crisis in Greece poses a threat to the euro and European solidarity. Both must be protected, writes former German finance minister Theo Waigel in the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "A common European currency has always been in Germany's national interest. ... True, with the start of the economic and monetary union Germany partially lost the advantage of having comparatively low interest rates. In exchange it has gained substantial competition advantages in the past years thanks to greater stability, lower inflation rates and a measured wage policy. This effective currency devaluation was extremely benefical to the German economy in a difficult environment. It can also be seen as equitable compensation for Germany's achievements since 1989 in the interest of all of Europe in aiding construction in Central and Eastern European and stabilising the successor states of the Soviet Union. ... Politicians should remember the words of CSU [conservative Bavarian sister party of the Christian Democratic Union] founder Josef Müller in 1946 after his release from a concentration camp: 'We need a common European currency because countries with a common currency can never again wage war against one another." (24/03/2010)

NRC Handelsblad - Netherlands

Joschka Fischer on the German-French threat

Germany and France are merely pursuing their own national interests despite the crisis in the European Union, writes former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer in the daily NRC Handelsblad. In so doing they are jeopardising the EU and the euro, Fischer writes: "What Europe needs in this grave crisis isn't domestic politicians, but statesmen and stateswomen of the calibre of [former German chancellor Helmut] Kohl. As one of the countries that have benefited most from the Eurozone, Germany above all must not let the cause of Europe be threatened by a major crisis of confidence, because almost two thirds of its exports go to the EU. Since the fall of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 it has been clear that the global crisis is also putting the EU and the euro severely to the test, because Europe has neither a common government nor a common budget policy. For that reason coordination within the Eurozone - above all between France and Germany, its two most important economies - is all the more important. The Eurozone's crisis management strategy must first and foremost be defined by Paris and Berlin." (25/03/2010)

ECONOMY

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Correio da Manhã - Portugal

Rating agencies a threat to democracies

The international rating agency Fitch has lowered Portugal's credit rating from AA to AA-. According to the daily Correio da Manhã democratic states should defend themselves against such private megalomaniac fantasies: "At the beginning of September 2008 Fitch raised the credit standing of Lehman Brothers investment bank to A+ ... . On the 15th of that very same month Lehman declared bankruptcy with toxic papers totalling more than 100 billion euros. The day before the government is due to present the austerity programme that will make victims of millions of families Fitch lowers Portugal's credit rating, aggravating the Portuguese's problems. There is no democratically elected government that can withstand the manoeuvres of an international agency that is neither regulated nor monitored in any way. An end must be put to these financial putsch attempts." (25/03/2010)

Etelä-Suomen-Sanomat - Finland

Finnish debate on strike rights pointless

After the end of a dockworkers' strike that went on for more than two weeks, Finland has plunged into a debate about restricting the right to strike in sectors that are particularly sensitive for society. The daily Etelä-Suomen Sanomat sees the controversy as superfluous: "The debate is a waste of time because the right to strike is regarded as a sacred right on which many Finnish contracts are based. It would also be difficult, if not impossible, to define so-called 'key sectors'. Intervention in strikes can only be justified when human lives are at stake, not just our purses. … Means should be found to prevent such strikes or keep them within reasonable limits and resolve conflicts more quickly. … We should also think about how much to raise fines for illegal strikes so that they exert a deterrent effect. As things stand now the discrepancy between the financial losses that result from an illegal strike and the fine to be paid is too large." (25/03/2010)

CULTURE

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Latvijas Avize - Latvia

Criticism of Riga's Occupation Museum unfounded

Riga's Museum of the Occupation of Latvia has once more come under attack. Israeli media as well as Jewish and Russian organisations have criticised a one-sided focus on communism and too little attention to the fate of the Latvian Jews. The daily Latvijas Avīze defends the museum's approach: "First of all we must remind visitors from near and far of the theme of the museum: Latvia under Nazi and Soviet rule from 1940 to 1991. What is dealt with, consequently, is the fate of Latvia's largest population groups and minorities over half a century. ... The museum covers two entire generations, so of course the Nazi occupation cannot be the sole focus. The reporters from the Jerusalem Post, and not only they, are irritated by the equal-sized images of Hitler and Stalin that 'welcome' visitors. But the two totalitarian regimes were equally brutal, and Riga also has a public museum on the Latvian Jews and their extermination." (25/03/2010)

Eesti Päevaleht - Estonia

Estonia wants art in its buildings

Estonia is preparing a law under which one percent of the money invested in buildings commissioned by the state must be invested in works of art. This would apply to public buildings like bus stations, prisons, schools and authorities. The daily Eesti Päevaleht is delighted: "The world of art is underfunded in Estonia and the buying power of museums is limited, which poses a threat to the preservation of our national culture. Many works, including those of leading artists, remain unsold as a result. And school children know too little about art. If you ask them to name the great masters of our times they lower their eyes in embarrassment. But if the ministry's proposal becomes law our artists can be better presented to the public, particularly seeing as up to now their profession has not received the respect it deserves and art is undervalued in terms of its price." (25/03/2010)

SOCIETY

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The Times - United Kingdom

British doctors call for totalitarian smoking ban

The British Royal College of Physicians has called for a new smoking ban to protect children from the effects of passive smoking. It says that as well as in public buildings smoking should be forbidden in private homes, cars, parks and playgrounds. The daily The Times sees this as irrational and unfair: "By far the biggest cause of child harm - physical, mental and emotional - is the widespread misuse of alcohol and drugs, which causes a lot more damage than asthma. Funnily enough, no one is calling for a ban on home consumption of alcohol. ... But that's the whole point about this kind of righteous totalitarianism, isn't it? It's selective. Because people in power know that legislation to tackle the real problems would be unenforceable and untenable, they turn instead to easier targets. ...It's reached the point where we are all familiar with the feeling that, although the real villains go free, someone is always scheming new ways to catch us out, or ban something, or oblige us to do unnecessary things." (25/03/2010)

MEDIA

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

Ringier readies itself for purchase

The Swiss media group Ringier and the German media company Axel Springer are consolidating large parts of their business in Eastern Europe. The daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung detects in the plan announced on Wednesday signs of Ringier's withdrawal from the media business: "Ringier may be providing a bigger part of the common enterprise. That is confirmed by the 250 million francs [roughly 175 million euros] Springer will transfer to Zürich on signing. Clearly, nevertheless, and despite the parity in terms of ownership, control and leadership, Springer will have more pull. This once more raises the question of whether the Ringier family are considering slowly pulling out of the media business. President Michael Ringier has firmly rebuffed such speculations on various occasions. Nevertheless the topic has been on the table for the last eight years, since the negotiations over a takeover of Ringier by Axel Springer. ... Together with the Eastern European segment [Springer's international business] already makes up 30 percent of the the company's sales volume. Ringier's room to manoeuvre, by contrast, remains limited in tiny Switzerland." (25/03/2010)

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