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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 15/11/2012

 

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Mass strikes paralyse Southern Europe

The strikes brought many economic sectors to a standstill. (© AP/dapd)

 

Hundreds of thousands of people went on strike in five EU States on Wednesday to protest against their governments' strict austerity policies. Riots broke out in Spain, Portugal and Italy. The general strikes were economically irresponsible and are not the harbingers of an enduring protest movement, commentators write, lamenting the escalation of violence.

Delo - Slovenia

Austerity alone just causes trouble

The tough austerity measures aimed at fighting the crisis won't solve the problems in the crisis-stricken countries, the left-liberald daily Delo comments in view of the protests across Europe: "The crisis countries that were able to take out cheap loans in the past decade or neglected their reforms must do their homework now. Demonstrations and strikes won't solve their economic problems. On the other hand the so-called euro saviours should be honest with themselves. Even at the IMF, the bastion of neoliberalism in the eyes of its critics, people are realising that exaggerated austerity is detrimental. The pressure from the streets and the demands of the financial markets may destabilise the political situation in the individual states and also poison relations within Europe. … The current approach to crisis management is characterised less by solidarity and justice than by an unfair distribution of the burden and dictates from abroad." (15/11/2012)

Expansión - Spain

Government must get Spaniards on board

To weaken the already critical economic situation with a general strike is irresponsible, the conservative business paper Expansión writes, but adds that following the mass demonstration it is now up to the government to revise its policy: "We are living through a genuine depression. Our public debt has doubled since 2007. Our banks are not doing the job they are meant to do: lending the money they have in their safes, preferring to wait for better times. … Calling a general strike in such a situation is a useless temerity. Nevertheless the observations made above should not prompt us to trivialise what has happened. The general strike is not an alternative to the current problems. The government must propose a project attractive enough to convince the unions and other groups that still cling to the myth of the general strike to participate in the common enterprise that Spain should be." (15/11/2012)

Público - Portugal

Lamentable escalation of the protests

For the first time since the crisis began, the protest rallies in Portugal have turned violent. The liberal daily Público laments this development: "The situation in front of the parliament building resembled very much that on Syntagma Square in Athens or Cibeles Square in Madrid. Not long ago we were assured that the country would be able to cope with far more austerity measures. A certain section of the population however no longer seems willing to keep showing the same patience and resignation it has in the past 18 months. The government, the trade unions and the security forces that stoically endured the provocations for hours on end will be able to distinguish between those who protested while adhering to the rules and a peripheral group that deliberately set out to cause confrontations. … Without political answers to the growing social tensions we will no doubt have to live with repetitions of such images which until recently seemed an impossibility on our streets." (15/11/2012)

NRC Handelsblad - Netherlands

Not a genuine protest movement

Wednesday's declarations of solidarity were just a flash in the pan because the crisis is simply too complex for a lasting protest movement, the liberal daily NRC Handelsblatt asserts: "The proletarians of the different countries have not united. This old fashioned terminology betrays the answer to the question of why this has not occurred. The crisis is a financial crisis. The bank bailout operations and the stimulus policies of the governments managed to cushion the impact of the financial crisis for a few years, but since this has plunged them into debt major problems are now surfacing. Reorganising companies and increasing productivity are only a partial solution to the recession. The crisis is affecting almost every citizen through their mortgages, their pensions or their unemployment benefit. The different factors are intertwined to such an extent that an Occupy-style movement cannot provide relief, or even satisfaction. So the strike day yesterday was not a harbinger of sustained protests but merely a signal of discontent." (15/11/2012)

POLITICS

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La Stampa - Italy

Israel's PM escalates Middle East conflict

For the second day in a row Israel launched attacks against the installations of the radical Islamist Hamas group in the Gaza Strip today, Thursday. Hamas has now announced it will retaliate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will stop at nothing to win the parliamentary elections in January, the liberal daily La Stampa writes in outrage: "The 'Pillar of Defence' operation exposes Netanyahu's real intentions: he is aiming for a propaganda coup that will strengthen his position at home. At the same time he wants to fan the tense situation in the region to promote national unity and hinder the formation of a coalition within the divided opposition. … Unfortunately this attack could be interpreted by the Arab public as an indirect answer to the Arab Spring. The storm of the revolution may combine with the despair over the humiliating and systematic violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, with the result that the region is hit by a political tsunami." (15/11/2012)

Polityka Online - Poland

Berlin will deny Poland additional EU funds

At the EU special summit on November 22 and 23, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk wants to push for a rise in the funding earmarked for Poland in the seven-year EU budget. Instead of 67 billion euros Tusk wants 95 billion euros for Poland. Germany will hardly go along with that, the left-liberal news website Polityka Online predicts: "Anyone who thinks Prime Minister Tusk's good relations will secure him Angela Merkel's support for additional Polish funding is in for a big disappointment. There is little chance that one of the largest net payers in the community will willingly go along with an increase in disbursements, because that would mean a rise in its own contributions. ... Our western neighbour wants cuts that can be sold to the German public as concern over the fate of German taxpayers. It feels exploited by the countries of the South that threaten to be consumed by the crisis. No German politician wants to put off voters by calling for an increase in the EU budget. And certainly not Merkel, who is currently doing very well in the polls." (15/11/2012)

Sme - Slovakia

Not the state's job to set women's quota

The EU is pushing ahead with the women's quota. According to a draft law presented by the EU Commission on Wednesday, publicly listed companies are to reserve 40 percent of the seats on their boards for women by 2020. The liberal daily Sme is unhappy with the present low percentages of female board members, but doubts that a quota is the right approach: "There is no doubt that women have a harder time rising to leading positions than men. Across Europe they represent only 15 percent of board members. In addition to that, statistics show that companies with a higher percentage of women board members perform better. But as lamentable as the current situation is, it is the result of free decision-making. Changing that will incur enormous problems. The EU's proposal is first and foremost another state intervention in an area where it has no business interfering. It's possible that we will see a breakthrough in this area. But there is no doubt that should that be the case the prejudices will grow according to which women in top positions got there just because of the quota and not because of their skills." (15/11/2012)

Libération - France

France's Left has lost courage

France's President François Hollande stated at his first official press conference on Tuesday that for the time being he has no plans to push for local voting rights for foreigners from non-EU countries. The fact that Hollande has dropped this electoral promise shows how fainthearted the French Left has become, the left-liberal daily Libération complains: "The president said that it makes no sense to push ahead with this initiative in the absence of a three-fifths majority that would agree to it in parliament, also because a referendum on the issue would be tantamount to political suicide. ... The government believes the country must calm down and do all it can to avoid such sensitive topics. It is afraid of starting a debate that divides France and ultimately benefits the Right, with its battered super-ego. Certainly, calm and serenity are political virtues - above all after five years of Sarkozyism. But courage is even more important. Unfortunately, as far as topics like voting rights for foreigners or racial profiling by the police are concerned, the Left seems to have lost its courage within the space of six months." (14/11/2012)

Gândul - Romania

New EU budget may penalise Romania

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta wants to reach an agreement today with President Traian Băsescu over who will travel to Brussels next week for the EU budget summit. Ponta has stressed that he is not seeking another confrontation with Băsescu. The daily Gândul approves: "Ponta has learned that making rash decisions and breaking the law doesn't make him any more manly in the public eye, but rather hurts his image in the EU and at home. ... Moreover, the prime minister has nothing to gain from travelling to Brussels - on the contrary. Romania could well be penalised in the 2014-2020 budget for its extremely low absorption of EU funds (under ten percent from 2007 to 2013) and for the repeated suspensions in disbursements of EU funds owing to fraudulent management. ... For Ponta it would be better if someone else travels to the summit and then explains to the people that Romania will receive less EU funding this time around because the government tolerated theft, waste and laziness." (15/11/2012)

ECONOMY

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Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

Gift for Athens would spell disaster for Merkel

According to reports from sources following the negotiations on Wednesday, the Eurozone countries are now considering using their national budgets to provide Greece with additional support because the bailout package planned for the country won't be enough. A disastrous scenario for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the left-liberal Süddeutsche Zeitung comments: "Up to now the chancellor has signalled that there will be no additional money for Athens. If it does come to a situation in which in addition to waiving interest revenues or similar measures, real holes are wrenched in the federal budget, there will be a huge outcry in parliament. Government circles are no longer even trying to deny that the question of a debt restructuring of some form will arise. But not now please! The parliamentary elections take place in ten months' time! And one doesn't even like to think about the impact the prospect of debt relief would have on the Greeks' willingness to implement reforms." (15/11/2012)

The Irish Times - Ireland

EU must consider debt default option

Europe's politicians should seriously consider the possibility of the countries worse hit by the crisis defaulting on their debt because that may be the only hope of saving the monetary union, economist Ashoka Mody urges in the left-liberal daily Irish Times: "Procrastination is costly. The high debt ratios will perpetuate vulnerability, and episodic surprises will ignite new crises. In pursuing the elusive debt problem, European institutions will be undermined and uncertainty and slower growth will be imposed on the rest of the world. The default option is economically efficient, it is fair, and it is politically sensible. It may be the only way to hold together an unsustainable structure that threatens to drive deeper divisions and set back the magnificent integration project on which Europe has embarked." (14/11/2012)

SOCIETY

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Blog Gazikapplani - Greece

Greek policy paves way for neo-Nazis

The Greek Constitutional Court declared a citizenship law that was approved by the socialist government in 2010 unconstitutional on Tuesday. Under the law second-generation immigrants whose parents had been living legally in Greece for at least five years can apply for Greek citizenship. The Albanian-born columnist Gazmend Kapllani criticises in his blog that Greek policies are promoting the ideology of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn: "With his decision the council of state has ratified the 'philosophy of the modern national bankruptcy'. The social and constitutional model he proposes is officially that of Apartheid. So why are we surprised to see that Golden Dawn has gained so much support and is massacring people on the street? … In a country where children are taught that you cannot be Greek if you are not born to Greek parents, and where this is anchored in the country's constitution, it's only natural that in times of crisis Golden Dawn's ideology about the 'purity of the race' is gaining ever more supporters." (15/11/2012)

MEDIA

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

Without money the media paradise is lost

The left-liberal long-established German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday. The liberal-conservative Neue Zürcher Zeitung worries about how quality journalism and pluralism of opinion are to be financed in the future: "Never in the history of mankind have such vast quantities of information been so quickly, cheaply and easily available. Given this abundance it's easy to forget that the information paradise can't be taken for granted. It can only prosper and thrive as long as it can be financed. The digital enthusiasts should not carelessly ignore the fate of key providers of information. After all, so far no one has found a viable answer to the question of what measures can guarantee or rather finance the production of information of acceptable quality in the future. Moreover, in small markets like Switzerland the preservation of a pluralistic media is also at risk. And with it, the continued functioning of a well-informed democracy." (15/11/2012)

LOCAL COLOURS

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Lietuvos rytas - Lithuania

Lithuanian politicians ham it up

The last session of the old parliament took place in the Lithuanian Seimas on Wednesday. The liberal daily Lietuvos rytas can only shake its head in dismay at the spectacle: "What was that, the MTV Music Awards or the Lithuanian Seimas? ... The last note of the last session lasted longer than even the most persistent virtuoso could have managed - roughly two hours. A ceremony infused with self-aggrandisement and tears. ... Anyone who wasn't too lazy got up and took the floor, poems were read out, kisses distributed, goodbyes were said to everyone there to hear them. But the most important thing: everyone fawned over everyone else and of course thanked everyone in Lithuania's name. ... Clearly these people have problems with their self-image. They simply forgot who they are: employees hired with our money for four years who will either have to look for another job after that or have their contracts renewed." (15/11/2012)

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