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UN votes to upgrade Palestine's status

The UN status upgrade was received with enthusiasm in the Palestinian territories.  (© AP/dapd)

 

The UN General Assembly resolved by a large majority on Thursday evening to upgrade Palestine to the status of observer state. Although not a full member, Palestine will now have the right to take part in committees and address the General Assembly. Commentators say the time is ripe for new peace negotiations, which must not be torpedoed by violence or desires for revenge on either side.

Blog Aktuálně.cz - Czech Republic

Symbolic progress in the Middle East

The Czech Republic was one of the nine states that rejected Palestine' elevation to the status of an observer state at the UN General Assembly. For his part Šádí Shanaáh, a Czech-Palestinian political scientist who lives in Prague, welcomes the decision made by the great majority of international community: "President Abbas needs all the support he can get, even if only symbolic, to show the Palestinians that a conciliatory stance makes sense. Hamas, which rules in Gaza, remains determined to sabotage the whole peace process. The same goes for the Israeli hawks led by Prime Minister Netanyahu. ... Abbas' diplomatic initiative can be seen as an opportunity to avert a disaster in the Middle East. As an opportunity for the global community to negotiate as long as there is still something to negotiate instead of just waiting. This is also in the interests of the peace-loving Israeli politicians like ex-prime minister Olmert, who are aware that peace can demand painful compromises." (30/11/2012)

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

UN vote strengthens moderate Palestinians

The result of the vote is a step in the direction of peace, the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung writes in satisfaction: "The success at the UN strengthens the moderate forces in the Palestinian camp. President Abbas can finally appear before his people as victor, and even his rivals, the Hamas extremists, haven't dared to torpedo the diplomatic process this time round. Still not at eye level but at least a bit taller after the status upgrade, Abbas could now begin fresh negotiations with Israel as announced. ... The current unusually conciliatory tone from Jerusalem leaves room for hope that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is resisting the reflex to take immediate revenge - or at least has received a clear message from Washington on that score. Because the US's leadership role is the third indispensable precondition for a new start in the peace process. At the beginning of his second term, President Barack Obama must once again put peace in the Middle East at the top of his agenda just as energetically as he did four years ago." (30/11/2012)

Trouw - Netherlands

Palestinians now bear more responsibility

Palestine's upgrade to the status of observer state is a move in the right direction, but in future the Palestinians must refrain from all aggression against Israel, the Christian-social daily Trouw warns: "The fact that since 1948 there has been a Jewish but not a Palestinian state is not just an injustice but also one of the factors preventing peace. The imbalance between the two parties encourages a dangerous victor mentality in Israel. ... Under pressure from his right-wing liberal coalition partner [Dutch Foreign Minister] Timmermans opted for a stance that isolates the Netherlands from most other European countries [for abstention]. ... The great majority of the UN member states recognise Palestine as a state and call on Israel to sign a peace agreement with this state. The message also has another side to it: the recognition of Palestinian rights entails a responsibility. There is no longer room for violence against Israel in the new UN 'observer state'." (30/11/2012)

Die Presse - Austria

Austrian neutrality would have been better

Days ahead of the vote at the UN General Assembly Austria had made it clear that it would support the Palestinian bid. In view of the country's historical responsibility such a clear-cut position was inappropriate, the liberal-conservative daily Die Presse warns: "Austria's taking the lead on this may be the continuation of [former Austrian chancellor] Bruno Kreisky's Middle East policy. The relationship with Israel, which has repeatedly come under strain in the last decades, is not exactly beneficial. ... Even if such a thing as collective guilt should not exist, in the awareness of a collective, state responsibility Austria's leaders should always bear this in mind. Rejecting the Palestinian cause out of hand would likewise not have been a solution. But perhaps a little more of the frequently evoked neutrality would have been a good approach in this particular matter: other states also had the intention of abstaining." (30/11/2012)

POLITICS

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Die Zeit - Germany

Mursi and his opponents must draw closer

Two important Egyptian courts stopped work on Thursday in a bid to move President Mohammed Mursi to repeal his controversial decrees. Several judges accused him of disempowering the judiciary. The president, the judiciary and the opposition should work together to prevent an escalation of the conflict, the online edition of the liberal daily Die Zeit advises: "The Supreme Judicial Council has already built a golden bridge for Mursi when it proposed limiting his decrees to concrete protection for the Constituent Assembly and the upper house of parliament. Secular powers and churches, in turn, could stop boycotting the Constituent Assembly if they were given an effective vetoing minority against the desire of the all-powerful majority to introduce Sharia law. And as a sign of good will a certain number of Islamist deputies could also lay down their mandates in favour of secular successors. Or President Mursi could add two dozen constitutional experts to the 100-head body, pushing the Islamic predominance below the two-thirds threshold." (30/11/2012)

Hospodárske noviny - Slovakia

The double standards of The Hague

The UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague acquitted the former prime minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, for the second time on Thursday. According to the ruling there is no proof that he and two former commanders also on trial were guilty of the mistreatment and murder of Serbs, Roma and alleged Albanian collaborators. The business paper Hospodárske noviny accuses the judges of having double standards: "When in 2008 the Serbs handed over Radovan Karadžič, the chief culprit of the bloody war in Bosnia, the West outstripped itself with promises in return. Three years later when he was followed by the butcher of Srebrenica, Ratko Mladič, Serbian accession to the EU was supposedly just around the corner. Nothing remains of these promises. ... Legally speaking, Haradinaj's acquittal was perfectly in order. ... For the Serbs, however, it leaves a bitter aftertaste. They no longer have the feeling that they are being accorded justice, and that could spur them to take revenge. The Balkans remain a powder keg, and with the ruling from The Hague, Europe has just laid another fuse." (30/11/2012)

Libération - France

Afghanistan still needs development aid

France officially ended its mission in Afghanistan after eleven years last week. But the war-torn country will have a hard time surviving without international aid, ethnologist Bernard Dupaigne warns in the left-liberal daily Libération: "President Karzai does not want foreigners to control his country, especially with an eye to the elections in April 2014. Nevertheless, ever since the 1950s - and even long before that - his country has been dependent on foreign aid. No industry has been re-established, no dams or irrigation systems have been repaired. ... Everything is imported and nothing is produced, apart from fruit and vegetables. Priority is given to private initiatives. In a country that has been ruined by 30 years of war, government control of infrastructural projects would have been necessary. ... What will we leave behind us as a souvenir after a military intervention that cost two billion euros? Now a far more modest budget will be allocated to help improve local living conditions, which can be very harsh in these valleys, many of which are situated 2,000 metres above sea level." (30/11/2012)

Kathimerini - Greece

Help doesn't boost Greeks' confidence

The IMF stressed on Thursday that it would not disburse Greece's next bailout tranche until the country completes a voluntary buyback of its bonds. It is presumed this will have taken place by December 13. In Greece, great fears about what the future holds continue to predominate, the conservative daily Kathimerini laments: "Even if the debt reduction programme goes according to plan - and there are doubts whether it will, especially due to questions over the bond buyback scheme - Greece will still have to contend with a debt of 124 percent of GDP in 2020. ... The Brussels debt deal appears to be far from the conclusive answer to Greece's debt-related problems. There have been concessions on all sides and the potential is there for a more decisive intervention in the future. As things stand, though, it does not provide a cast iron guarantee that Greece will remain in the eurozone. It provides a flickering light at the end of the tunnel rather than total illumination and leaves a huge amount of work for Greece, and its partners, to do over the next few months and years. Will they succeed? Of that, we can be uncertain." (29/11/2012)

REFLECTIONS

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Der Standard - Austria

Thomas Mayer sees potential of the Barroso plan

EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso on Wednesday presented a three-stage plan for the further development of the European economic and monetary union. In it he takes up some good ideas presented by Jacques Delors, Europe commentator Thomas Mayer notes approvingly in the left-liberal daily Der Standard: "The 'Barroso plan' harks back to the concept of former EU commission president Jacques Delors - rightly described by many as one of the founding fathers of the euro. In 1988 he was given the task of examining the possibility of a monetary union (the common currency was still called the ecu at that stage). ... The Delors Plan saw the creation of genuine, profound political union as the ultimate goal of the project. The money was just a means to this end. But it was never realised because the EU states insist on (too) much sovereignty - to this day. Barroso is now proposing a detour: the euro states are to form the core Europe and allow other members to join - and put Delor's ideas into practice with the Commission and EU Parliament. Whether this can be achieved will be clear by around 2018. Delors, closely watching the events from Paris, will then be 93 years old. Let us hope he lives to see it." (30/11/2012)

La Repubblica - Italy

Delors and Vitorino spur on the EU to political union

The euro crisis has enhanced solidarity in Europe, Jacques Delors and António Vitorino, founder and president of the Notre Europe - Jacques Delors Institute, assert in the left-liberal daily La Repubblica. They call on the member states to stick to this course: "The crisis of the Eurozone has accelerated the progress towards a political community of Europe. The basis for this is increased solidarity and greater control for the EU institutions, for which the stability mechanism and the fiscal pact stand. ... The further integration of the Eurozone which is open to all those countries that want it must go hand in hand with steps at a European level: initiatives aimed at increasing social and fiscal equality within the European single market, advancing the project of a 'European energy community' and creating new unity in foreign and security policy. If the EU member states unite the double perspective - Eurozone and EU - they can lend more force to their actions in all common areas of interest and therefore promote the political community." (30/11/2012)

SOCIETY

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Gândul - Romania

Education minister yields to Ponta

Around 1,600 Romanian university employees, artists and people involved in culture have called in a letter for Prime Minister Victor Ponta's doctoral title to be revoked amidst suspicions of plagiarism. The Minister of Education Ecaterina Andronescu on Wednesday rejected this demand, saying that in her capacity as education minister she was not responsible for dignitaries. The left-liberal daily Gândul condemns this as a cowardly stance: "The education legislation contains no special paragraphs applying to dignitaries. And if it did, as Andronescu claims, the law would indeed be discriminatory. ... But all doctoral candidates are equal before the law and subject to the same stringent academic principles. The minister is simply fabricating differences in obeisance to politics. ... Her moral standards and sense of responsibility towards the citizens don't go far enough [to withdraw the doctor title]. She is incapable of disobeying the PSD [Ponta's party, of which she is also a member] and she doesn't feel a bit embarrassed about having to clean away the dirt that her party leader has left behind." (30/11/2012)

MEDIA

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The Times - United Kingdom

Leveson report rendered obsolete by Twitter

The British judge Brian Leveson on Thursday presented the report by his commission, which was set up in reaction to the wire-tapping scandal at the now defunct tabloid News of the World. The conservative daily The Times calls the demand for a press regulation body unrealistic since nowadays news is mostly spread via online channels like Twitter that cannot be controlled in this way: "It would take a Chinese-style firewall to truly regulate the news, and happily there's no prospect of Britain becoming that country. Lord Justice Leveson's proposals are not stupid; they're elegant and deft, and a decade and a half ago they might even have worked. But now? What matters today is content, not the media that delivers it, and there's frankly something quite depressing about a nine-month inquiry that fails to figure this out." (30/11/2012)

The Irish Times - Ireland

Phone-hacking scandal far from over

Although the Leveson Inquiry presented its report in the UK on Thursday, the British phone-hacking scandal is far from over, the left-liberal daily Irish Times writes: "What is being recommended by Leveson is a form of regulation, which like the Irish system is underpinned by legislation. However, the opposition to legislative underpinning is such that the real battle is only beginning. Already it is clear that the British coalition is split, and some newspapers, including those which have recognised the Irish system and have been actively involved in the Press Council, such as the Sun and the Mail, are totally opposed. Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations do differ significantly from the Irish system. He is suggesting a much higher legal form of enforceability and also fines, up to 1 million pounds. The system here does not have power to fine miscreants. If anyone thinks Leveson's report will bring an end to the debates about phone hacking, press intrusion, privacy and regulation, they are deluded." (30/11/2012)

LOCAL COLOURS

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La Vanguardia - Spain

Watch out for the "Air Liberation Front"

Police in the northern Spanish city of Vigo have arrested a man who had gone around piercing holes in car tires for days. Upon his arrest the man claimed he had only wanted to release the air from the tires. Writing in the daily La Vanguardia columnist Quim Monzó sees parallels with the Garden Gnome Liberation Front: "I know of children who free canaries from their cages out of pity. ... And I have also heard of the Garden Gnome Liberation Front, members of which kidnap these little figures from suburban gardens and move them to their true destination: in the middle of the forest, surrounded by nature. But freeing air from tires? With his argument that there is 'too little air in the world and too much in the tires of cars' the perpetrator assumes that tires are not part of this world. Otherwise he would understand that the air 'in the tires' is already 'in the world'. Just like the air in the tires of motorbikes and bicycles, in hot air balloons, footballs, handballs and basketballs and in inflatable mattresses and the inflatable giant Father Christmases that stand in the entrances of some stores." (30/11/2012)

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