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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 14/09/2012

 

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Dutch vote for Europe

According to the preliminary results Mark Rutte's right-wing liberals have won 41 out of a total of 150 seats. (© AP/dapd)

 

The formation of a grand coalition seems increasingly likely in the Netherlands. The right-wing liberal VVD party led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte edged out the Labour Party in the early parliamentary election on Wednesday, while the party of the anti-European right-wing populist Geert Wilders suffered major losses. Commentators celebrate the election as a victory for Europe but fear that euroscepticism could make a comeback given the poor state of the economy.

NRC Handelsblad - Netherlands

Europe triumphs in parliamentary elections

Europe has emerged as a winner from the Dutch parliamentary election, the liberal daily NRC Handelsblad writes: "The two major parties should be clever enough to form a government quickly. Perhaps together with one or more partners. ... It is in the interests of the Netherlands, which in recent years has experienced too many political crises, that the government is ambitious enough to seek a sustainable solution to the financial crisis. This must be done in cooperation with the European Union, which can certainly be regarded as the other victor of the Dutch elections after the defeat of the [right-wing populist] anti-European PVV party. Whether this will push populism to the margins for good is not certain. It would also be premature to write off the Christian democrats entirely, even if this party has lost 28 seats in the space of two years." (14/09/2012)

Frankfurter Rundschau - Germany

Crisis doesn't topple every government

Lessons can be learned from the re-election of right-wing liberal Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the left-liberal daily Frankfurter Rundschau comments: "Rutte focused on economising, but also on development policy, tax breaks 'for hard-working Dutch' and a verbal anti-euro course. [The left-liberal alliance] D66 and its top candidate Alexander Pechtold were the only ones who called for more Europe during the campaign. ... What do the results of the Dutch election mean for Europe? German Chancellor Angela Merkel can look forward to continued cooperation with her right-wing liberal comrade-in-arms Mark Rutte - although nowadays he sounds even more Merkelist than the original. One message from the Netherlands for the chancellor is: not every government is automatically replaced in the euro crisis. Yes, you can even win elections with austerity policies. With an eye to Holland's economy the other message is: the crisis has now reached the north. That is a disquieting one." (14/09/2012)

Cinco Días - Spain

Dutch remain eurosceptical

Following the parliamentary elections in the Netherlands a grand coalition between the pro-European right-wing liberals and Social Democrats seems to be taking shape. But this return to pro-Europeaness is not necessarily a long term development, the left-liberal business paper Cinco Días warns: "The Dutch government has found its way back to its usual centrist and European stance. After a prolonged flirt with the anti-austerity and anti-euro groups the majority of voters decided to back the country's main political parties. … But it would be a mistake to conclude that Dutch enthusiasm for Europe has been renewed. The potential bailouts of Spain or Italy could unleash a new wave of scepticism, above all if the Dutch economy doesn't manage to recover from its current problems. The Dutch voters have taken the pragmatic decision that the country is better off within the monetary union than outside it. But a return to centrist policies can't be taken for granted." (14/09/2012)

Die Presse - Austria

Wilders frightens away his voters

Right-wing populist politician Geert Wilders' was unable to convince the Dutch with his anti-EU rhetoric, the liberal-conservative daily Die Presse writes: "For the first time it is obvious that for the right-wing populists it does make a difference whether they stoke up resentment against immigrants or against the joint Europe. For many people (unfortunately) immigrants are still a key source of frustration. But the latter's marginalisation doesn't affect voters as directly as an exit from the euro or even the European Union would. They are very much aware that if that were to happen they would all feel the side-effects. Therefore they prefer to keep the EU with all its imperfections rather than see it destroyed. This new pragmatism vis-à-vis Europe should not be mistaken for a positive mood. But it provides a great opportunity for governments to introduce the reforms necessary for preserving the EU and the euro." (14/09/2012)

POLITICS

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

Violence in North Africa weakens the US

Several people have been killed during violent protests at US diplomatic posts in Islamic countries in recent days, among them the US ambassador to Libya. The liberal-conservative daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung sees the events as a shock for the US, since "these four countries are the very states that toppled their leaders during the 'Arab Spring'. The Americans didn't try to prevent these changes, and even facilitated them to varying degrees. However their position in the region wasn't strengthened as a result, as is becoming ever clearer. ... The violent death of an ambassador, a country's highest representative in the host state, has an enormous symbolic impact. The last time the US suffered such a blow was in Afghanistan in 1979, followed by the traumatic hostage crisis in the US embassy in Iran. So it's no coincidence that people are now reminded of the Carter era, a time of foreign policy weakness in the American collective memory. Should Obama be burdened by such an image it would be disastrous for his re-election prospects." (14/09/2012)

Kaleva - Finland

Belief versus freedom of opinion

The attacks against US diplomatic posts in reaction to a film that is supposedly critical of Islam demonstrates once again the major differences in values between Western and Islamic countries, the liberal daily Kaleva notes: "The Mohammed cartoons a few years ago already highlighted the differences between Western values and those of the Islamic world, which in practice are incompatible. ... In many Islamic countries the erroneous belief seems to prevail that Western leaders could simply put the freedom of opinion under lock and key. Or perhaps they know that's not how things are but refuse to accept it. ... In secular Western states, by contrast, people seem to have forgotten what a central role belief plays in the lives af many people in large parts of the world. This seems to have surprised many people in the West during the dispute over Pussy Riot in Russia as well." (14/09/2012)

Diário Económico - Portugal

Consensus in Portugal crumbling

Portugal's Socialists are no longer prepared to back the new austerity measures. The main opposition party announced on Thursday that it would vote against the proposed budget for 2013. The liberal business paper Diário Económico voices annoyance at the carelessness with which the government has lost a broad consensus on the austerity package: "Prime Minister Passos Coelho has managed to undermine the key prerequisite for the success of the austerity programme: fundamental political and social consensus. ... Not only did the government announce an audacious of economic policy, it is dabbling in political experiments that are difficult to comprehend: the political cohesion of the coalition is at risk, the support of the main opposition party has been lost and the Portuguese are taking to the streets. Passos Coelho has no choice. He must make adjustments to the announced measures and this will cause many problems. … The Portuguese accepted the austerity measures for 2012, integrated them into their daily lives and tolerated impoverishment. But now they want to see results." (14/09/2012)

Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

German judges decide Europe's fate

The EU member states eagerly awaited the German Constitutional Court's ruling on the ESM on Wednesday. The court now plays a key political role in the EU, the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza concludes: "The constitutional judges have become the fourth key institution on the entire continent, after the European Parliament, the EU Commission and the European Council. They play a role in deciding Europe's future. Without the participation of Germany, the largest economy in the EU, the ESM could not exist. ... Experts warn that the German constitution of 1949 is not applicable to the current situation. ... Therefore a new constitution is needed that provides clear regulations for Germany's European policy to avoid the need to constantly wait for new rulings by the Constitutional Court. But at present the chances of a change are minimal. The Germans' enthusiasm for Europe has waned and the major parties are increasingly making use of anti-European sentiment." (14/09/2012)

hvg - Hungary

Mandatory voter registration undemocratic

Hungary's national conservative government under Vikotr Orbán plans to introduce mandatory voter registration. Voters who fail to register at the latest 15 days before an election will be uneligible to vote in the respective election. The opposition has condemned the plan saying it will truncate democracy, and ex-prime minister Ferenc Hurcsány went on a hunger strike on Monday in protest. Political scientist Róbert László writes in the left-liberal weekly Heti Világgazdaság that the government is trying to get rid of undecided voters: "According to studies, one in ten active voters waits until the last two weeks before an election to decide how they will vote. ... It looks very much like the governing party Fidesz is most afraid of these undecided voters who show little interest in politics, and are consequently unpredictable. ... The fact is, however, that these are the very voters who ensure a democratic competition. If there were nothing but voters with stable preferences, then electoral campaigns, votes and even democracy itself would be superfluous." (13/09/2012)

REFLECTIONS

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Právo - Czech Republic

Jiří Pehe hopes for an end to Czech Euroscepticism

The three bits of good news this week - the German Constitutional Court's decision on the ESM, the proposal for a banking union and Barroso's vision of a federation of European states - have as expected met with criticism from the top politicians in Prague, politicial scientist Jiří Pehe writes in the left-leaning daily Práv, commenting that in fact Czech Euroscepticism may soon be a thing of the past: "The first piece of good news is that President Václav Klaus only has six months left in office. The second is that Prime Minister Petr Nečas, to the extent that his government survives the current crisis, may only be able to have a say regarding the proposal for a banking union. When the topic of a European federation comes up later, his government is likely to be a thing of the past - even if the Eurosceptic wing of his party is doing all it can to bring down any such project. While reservations regarding the EU are a permanent feature in the UK, in the Czech Republic they are rather an expression of the current political constellation in Prague. Nevertheless there is hope that in future our country's top politicians will be less guided by scepticism and nationalist prejudices regarding Europe." (14/09/2012)

Kathimerini - Greece

Pantelis Boukalas on the vengeful god of debt

Columnist Pantelis Boukalas finds the way in which politicians and creditors talk of Greece's mountain of debt disconcerting. He writes in the conservative daily Kathimerini: "The debt was presented to us almost like a god that had supposedly protected us all and to whom we all had to pay tribute silently and without complaint. And now the troika represents this god on earth, and this god is turning out to be merciless, perhaps even evil and vengeful. Some of his apostles say that they pity us and that their 'heart bleeds' [a phrase used by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in August] for us. But that is all, because the decision has already been made: we must be punished for all we have done so that we grow sensible and stop living our dissolute and parasitic lives. And our punishment will only end when not only our pockets, but also our souls are empty. When we are on our knees confessing that we have committed grave sins and that our mere existence was a crime." (13/09/2012)

ECONOMY

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Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Growth package can help Italy beat recession

Italy's gross domestic product dropped by 0.8 percent from April to June, meaning that the economy contracted for the fourth quarter in a row, as the statistics office Istat announced on Monday in Rome. To fight the recession Italy must pass a stimulus package in addition to reducing its debts, the liberal-conservative business paper Il Sole 24 Ore warns: "Spending cuts in public administration and the sale of public assets can help to reduce the public debt. But economising doesn't mean dispensing with reforms and measures to stimulate growth. On the contrary, Europe has persistently called for guarantees that we will introduce reform - even after the Monti government ends. ... Consequently it makes sense to introduce a stimulus agreement that is binding both for the current government and the one to come. In this way we can coordinate the recovery programme with the EU Commission and the ECB and pave the way for the austerity package that is a pre-requisite for ECB purchases of government bonds." (14/09/2012)

Les Echos - France

Merger of EADS and BAE would be dream wedding

The European aerospace giant EADS and the British armaments firm BAE Systems announced plans for a merger on Wednesday. Such a move would create the world's largest armaments company. The liberal business paper Les Echos anticipates an economic boon for all of Europe: "With their merger plans the two aerospace and defence champions have demonstrated remarkable pragmatism. ... Precisely because both companies are so different, they would complement each other perfectly. The new company would have a wide range of products, it would make half its turnover in civil aviation and the other half in military contracts. The firms are also complementary geographically. The tandem would be both a key player in Europe and a heavyweight on the US market. And finally a new giant that trumps Boeing would be good news for all of Europe. Because this marriage in European industry would mean new jobs and new exports." (14/09/2012)

SOCIETY

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Pravda - Slovakia

The fatal greed of alcohol adulterators

According to official figures, 18 people have died in the Czech Republic in the last few days from the effects of drinking adulterated, poisonous alcoholic beverages, while dozens more have been hospitalised. The case demonstrates the lengths people will go to to make a profit, the left-wing daily Pravda observes: "People drink alcohol, they always have done and always will, even though adulteration has always been a common practice. In Ancient Greece and Rome, wine was stretched with water. ... But nowadays the motivation is different: namely profit. It's one thing to 'spice up' new fermenting wine with a little sugar, but using methanol instead of alcohol is an entirely different matter. All the more so when it is done deliberately. You would think it's only in backwards countries that people die from the effects of poisonous alcohol. But even in Austria there was a scandal a few years back involving wine that had been adulterated with anti-freeze substances. ... Czech and Slovakian consumers tend to look at the price first, then the quality. The retailers are therefore always looking for ways to keep the prices low. But in this particular case the price has been deaths among consumers. The perpetrators must be harshly punished to deter others from such crimes." (14/09/2012)

LOCAL COLOURS

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Lietuvos rytas - Lithuania

Beat-up dolls for Lithuania's politicans

A proposal has been submitted in the Vilnius local government that a room shoud be set aside in which officials can let out their growing tensions in times of crisis. Mayor Artūras Zuokas joked that the room should feature a blow-up doll in his likeness. The liberal daily Lietuvos rytas takes the idea a step further: "You may smirk, Mr Mayor, but you shouldn't! This is in fact an excellent idea, one that should be introduced not only in your local government offices but also in national institutions. ... This type of room must be set up as quickly as possible in the [national parliament] Seimas. Or even better, two such rooms: one for the coalition and one for the opposition, with as many realistic blow-up dolls as possible, depicting representatives from the opposing camp. Oh, and the government also needs at least one such room - with a doll representing the perpetually dissatisfied people. And then we'll see: tensions and chaos in politics will be a thing of the past." (14/09/2012)

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