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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 26/11/2012

 

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EU budget summit a failure

The budget negotiations are scheduled to resume at the start of 2013. (© AP/dapd)

 

The negotiations on the EU budget for 2014 to 2020 ended without an agreement on Friday, among other things because of British Prime Minister David Cameron's opposition to a budget hike. Some commentators agree with Cameron's demand that the EU must adopt the same austerity policy to which he himself must adhere. For others, the EU has again shown just how helpless it is.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung - Germany

Cameron says what everyone is thinking

Whether the subject at hand was asylum laws, Schengen or the fiscal compact, the British have always managed to wring concessions from the other EU states - and it's a good thing too, the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: "In truth the British are seldom really on their own. Several Union members eschewed the euro and the Schengen system, while the EU constitution was scuppered by core Europeans. And at the most recent EU summit too, David Cameron was simply the one to say clearly what the other net contributors were thinking: that it's strange when you're busy cutting jobs and saving billions at home to see money being liberally distributed in Brussels. Germany only stands to gain here: the only reason Chancellor Merkel can play the good cop is because the prime minister is playing the bad cop. ... Traditionally Berlin is situated between London and Paris. The former wants more investment in research and growth, while the latter wants to keep the farmers happy. In the end it's always been possible to find a compromise - and reduce the agriculture budget. So what would Europe be without the Brits? A most sedate and self-satisfied Union." (25/11/2012)

Elsevier - Netherlands

France blocking budget, not Britain

Not the UK but France is to blame for the failure of the EU budget negotiations, writes the right-wing conservative news magazine Elsevier: "France is doggedly insisting on maintaining its huge chunk of the European agricultural pie and is blocking the entire budget as a result. ... The French mountain farmer as a symbol of modern Europe - the French diplomats did a marvellous job of that. But the worst thing about it is that in Brussels rather than President François Hollande it was British Prime Minister David Cameron who was seen as the bad guy. Cameron wants to cut down on European expenditure because he is doing the same at home. Any European citizen can understand that. The likelihood of a compromise, with the European budget being frozen instead of reduced is therefore the only positive signal sent by this summit." (25/11/2012)

Corriere della Sera - Italy

Yet another failure for the EU

The row over the EU budget is yet another letdown in a series of setbacks that are leaving the EU looking increasingly helpless, Italian diplomat Antonio Puri Purini writes in the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera: "The failure of the summit should not be seen as an isolated event. The negotiations for a debt restructuring for Greece are being delayed to an unreasonable extent. New obstacles are constantly emerging on the path to the banking union, even though it is vital that the EU shows the markets that it is capable of tackling this difficult enterprise. No less worrying is the fact that one is left with the impression that the EU is concentrating solely on the financial crisis. Its silence on the Middle East conflict was shocking. ... Taken together the slowness in overcoming the crisis, the deafening silence on global events and the inability to communicate with the public represent explosive problems that endanger European unity." (26/11/2012)

Dnevnik - Slovenia

Agreement comes with time pressure

There's no reason to panic after the unsuccessful budget summit, the left-liberal daily Dnevnik writes, confident that time pressure will force the EU countries to reach an agreement on the new budget in January: "It's nothing unusual for the Brussels negotiations on the 2014-2020 budget to have been unproductive. If the EU heads of state and government can reach a compromise when they sit down again in January, there will still be time enough to prepare the new budget. ... The fact that they didn't immediately come to an agreement should not be seen as proof that Europe's politicians are unable to reach a consensus. And there's also no point in drawing immediate parallels with the ineffectual euro bailout. Budget debates have always been difficult, including those in each of the individual EU states. Normally the clock forces the participants to come to an agreement - in this case in January at the latest." (26/11/2012)

POLITICS

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El Huffington Post - Spain

Madrid should reach out to Catalonia

The Catalans elected a new regional parliament on Sunday. The Catalan president Alberto Mas brought forward the election in the hope of achieving an absolute majority for his goal of secession from Spain. Although his party remains the strongest force in parliament (with 30.7 percent), it lost votes compared to 2010, while the radical separatists became the second-largest force. Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy should now aim for reconciliation, the left-liberal online paper Huffington Post advises: "Rajoy should not savour Mas's defeat too long. Because the first and second-strongest political forces in Catalonia want to hold a referendum asking the Catalans whether they want their own state. ... Rajoy's strategy of leaving them to sort out their problems on their own could prove extremely damaging. ... The prime minister now has the unique opportunity to prove his flexibility and statesmanship. He could win the weakened Mas as an ally instead of casting him as a radical enemy, as [Rajoy's] People's Party has done in recent weeks." (26/11/2012)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Catalonia's independence would be unstoppable

In the regional election in Catalonia the pro-independence parties, the separatist Catalan Republican Left, known as the ERC, and the national-liberal ruling party the CiU have won two-thirds of the vote in total. Opponents of the separatists argue among other things that an independent Catalonia would not automatically remain a member of the EU. But that argument is unconvincing, the conservative daily Lidové noviny writes: "It would be difficult to find a reason for denying this highly civilised corner of Europe EU membership while at the same time seriously considering allowing Turkey to join, a country with regions where for example polygamy still survives. ... No EU membership for Catalonia just because Spain doesn't want it? Spain will have to receive subsidies for some time to come. It is hardly in a position to forbid anything or exercise its power of veto. We know from our Czech-Slovak experience that statesmen who are unwilling to adapt to border changes are powerless when a society intuitively strives for independence." (26/11/2012)

Kurier - Austria

The US will even back autocratic Mursi

Protests against Mohammed Mursi spread in Egypt over the weekend. On Wednesday the president passed several decrees making his decisions legally unassailable. The opposition will not be able to achieve much here, the liberal daily Kurier fears, particularly since the US is giving Mursi its support: "The Muslim Brothers reacted uncompromisingly to the protests - with police power and tear gas  ... Who can stop them? No one, really. Seventy percent of those entitled to vote in the parliamentary elections cast their ballots in favour of the Muslim Brothers or the even more radical Salafists. So it's clear where the broad majority stands. And for the US, Mursi is indispensable in the Middle East conflict. Yes, Cairo is dependent on financial aid from Washington, but as long as Mursi doesn't turn Egypt into an Islamic theocracy and continues to play a constructive role in the Middle East cauldron, political aspects will remain secondary for the US. That's how it was under Mubarak, and that's how things stand with Mursi now." (26/11/2012)

Magyar Narancs - Hungary

Sarkozy's comeback pre-programmed

In France the conservative opposition party the UMP elected Jean-François Copé as its new leader last Tuesday. In the online edition of the left-liberal weekly Magyar Narancs, journalist Attila Ara-Kovács is convinced that this paves the way for ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy's political comeback: "Since last Thursday it has once again become worthwhile to keep an eye on Sarkozy, because the new UMP leader Copé is said to be the ex-president's most dedicated supporter. ... Everything points to Sarkozy making a comeback. The French Left is currently in a crisis. It may have conquered the Elysée this year, but it has been incapable of achieving anything more. Sarkozy has the great fortune that the current president is called François Hollande. ... The latter is not only arrogant, he lacks any authority. ... And worse still, he hasn't got a clue about the current economic crisis." (26/11/2012)

Le Temps - Switzerland

Swiss lose interest in referendums

Only 27 percent of those entitled to vote cast their ballot in Switzerland's most recent referendum on Sunday, the lowest turnout since 1972. The liberal daily Le Temps sees the institution of the Swiss referendum in peril: "The ridiculous issues [a new animal epidemic law] have left the citizens bored, disgusted and confused. What does the low turnout tell us about our democracy's most popular achievement, the referendum? That there are limits below which voter turnout should not fall if the entire institution is not to be discredited. The Swiss don't want their civil rights to be curtailed. The price they must pay for this is the banality of some referendums. On the other hand the nation was not consulted on key issues like scrapping banking secrecy or pegging the Swiss franc to the euro. Even in Switzerland those problems are too important to be left to the voters. This fact, as well as the sad spectacle on Sunday, should teach us a lesson in humility regarding the virtues of our system." (26/11/2012)

REFLECTIONS

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La Repubblica - Italy

Ulrich Beck hopes for a European Spring

In the first pan-European general strike on November 14, tens of thousands of people demonstrated against the harsh austerity measures in their countries. The protests could be the seedlings of a "European Spring", sociologist Ulrich Beck hopes in the left-liberal daily La Repubblica: "The social question has become a European question to which there is no national answer. Whether this view prevails will be decisive in the future. ... What is needed is an alliance among the different social movements: Europe's Unemployed Generation and the trade unions on the one side, and the architects of Europe in the European Central Bank, the political parties, the national governments and the European Parliament on the other. This would create a new, powerful movement. ... This movement could win two further allies: firstly, and paradoxically, the agents of the global markets who, faced with a clear commitment to a social Europe, rekindle their confidence in Europe and start investing in it once more. And secondly the increasingly nationalist and xenophobic populations of the debtor states, who in the clear understanding that it serves their own interests could become active for the project of a social and democratic Europe. For a European Spring." (25/11/2012)

SOCIETY

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Irish Examiner - Ireland

Fewer and fewer abortion opponents in Ireland

Following the death of a young woman at the end of October who had been denied an abortion, it is becoming increasingly clear that radical opponents to abortion are in the minority in Ireland, the liberal daily Irish Examiner writes: "The tragedy of Ms Halappanavar's death has brought the moderate voices to the fore. The demonstrations in our cities have shown that people who refrained from involvement now want the State to act in a grown-up manner. People on what might neutrally be described as the 'anti-choice side' have genuine beliefs. But they represent a minority view, if opinion polls are to be believed. It is no longer sustainable, in a Republic, that their religious beliefs dictate policy to the citizenry. Not just that, but their attitude to doors being opened in the future to liberal abortion suggests they see themselves as the moral police for tomorrow's citizens as well as today's." (26/11/2012)

Berlingske - Denmark

Denmark must rethink its prostitution policy

In Denmark the centre-left government decided on Sunday not to criminalise clients for paying for sex, in opposition to the coalition agreement. A reasonable if inadequate decision, the conservative daily Berlingske writes: "This resolution fails to answer the question of what society can do to prevent involuntary prostitution, and above all to hinder the sexual exploitation of many women from other countries. Should Denmark adopt the policy of Germany or the Netherlands, where prostitution is accepted and prostitutes are integrated into the economy [through registration and taxation]? ... The decision not to ban the purchase of sex must not stand alone. Our government must continue its fight against prostitution while orienting itself on the real world and refraining from hypocritically pointing its finger, the policy that has dominated so far." (26/11/2012)

MEDIA

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Aftonbladet - Sweden

Death of newspapers endangers democracy

The death of the newspapers in Sweden is shaking democracy to the roots, the left-liberal daily Aftonbladet writes, calling on politicians to take swift action: "These times offer great opportunities for journalism. Information is easily accessible and media can work together with readers in new ways. But not everyone is a journalist. Social media cannot replace the processes, structures and knowledge that are the foundation for investigative journalism. And nothing is happening on the political side. The minister of culture and education points to current reports that are to determine whether online media should also receive state funding. A new system is to be developed, which however will only come into effect in four years' time. ... Journalism does not necessarily have to exist on paper. But one thing is for sure: a strong democracy needs strong news desks. Now is the time for deeds to follow words, across party boundaries and in cooperation with the big media players." (26/11/2012)

15min - Lithuania

President is taboo for Lithuanian television

In Lithuania two television programmes that were critical of President Dalia Grybauskaitė were scheduled to be aired in recent weeks, neither of which were shown. That smacks of censorship, the portal 15min writes: "When in a democratic county two of the largest TV stations take the scythe of censorship to political programmes on the president, it can only mean that our Republic is very much on the rocks. Censorship will only slit the throat of democracy, and the first blood of the Republic has already been spilt. In the first case - before the parliamentary elections - a programme wasn't shown because it contained an audio recording in which the [then] parliamentary speaker [Irena Degutienė] says what she thinks about the president's authoritarian style. Now the censorship has hit a programme on the president's origins and her not particularly patriotic youth [and her ties with the Communist Party]." (26/11/2012)

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