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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 09/01/2013

 

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Unrest in Northern Ireland continues

Pro-British demonstrators see the flag decision as a concession to the Catholic republicans who want a united Ireland. (© AP/dapd)

 

For the sixth night in a row clashes raged between pro-British demonstrators and the police in Belfast last night. The violence was triggered by a decision of the city council to restrict the flying of the British Union Flag on Belfast City Hall to special occasions. Commentators see the violent dispute over the flag as behind the times, and stress that the wounds of the Northern Ireland conflict are far from having healed.

Die Presse - Austria

Ridiculous row over a flag

A conflict over flags is ridiculous and superfluous in 2013, the liberal-conservative daily Die Presse writes, preferring to imagine how the Union Jack can be spruced up: "The conflict between the (predominantly unionist) Protestants and (predominantly republican) Catholics claimed thousands of victims over three decades until the peace agreement of 1998. Today, however, as Ireland and the UK are both in the EU, such a violent conflict over a flag seems outdated and entirely unnecessary. Perhaps the old Union Jack should be given new colours as it often has been in the past: a small peaceful Welsh dragon for St. George, something black for the overseas British and a few golden stars representing the ties to the continent would do such a large community good." (09/01/2013)

La Liberté - Switzerland

Northern Ireland still an explosive issue

The Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland are still a far cry from having reconciled their differences, the regional paper La Liberté laments: "The declarations on the part of politicians (the violence in Belfast has been unanimously condemned ) cannot hide the fact that the psychological wounds and the cultural fracture lines remain practically unchanged. The days of provocation are still very present. So it comes as no surprise that symbols - such as a flag on a city hall - are still as explosive as ever. The affair surrounding the British flag in Belfast illustrates a progressive change in power relations between the two large communities. Britain is distancing itself imperceptibly from all those who continue to consider London the only capital. The only thing that's certain is that in Northern Ireland, the devil will live just across the street for a long time to come." (09/01/2013)

The Guardian - United Kingdom

Politicians must show their mettle

Politicians in Belfast and London must act with resolve to put an end to the violence in Northern Ireland, the left-liberal daily The Guardian urges: "There have been protests for a month. This week there has been nightly violence. This is bad enough in itself, because the rioting causes injury and damage, and raises tensions. The longer-term implications are even more grave. If ever there was a time for Belfast and its civic and political leaders to rise to the occasion and earn their authority, this is it. Yet leaders, not just in Belfast, have been found wanting, with the current increasingly alarming consequences. Numbers in the protests may be relatively small compared with the wider population. But the sensitivities resonate much more widely." (09/01/2013)

POLITICS

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Wiener Zeitung - Austria

Close gap between Northern and Southern Europe

László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, presented the EU report Employment and Social Developments in Europe 2012 on Tuesday. While Northern Europe is doing comparatively well, unemployment in Southern Europe is climbing to record highs and the risk of poverty is growing. The gap between the North and the South is the consequence of an ideological austerity policy, the liberal state-run newspaper Wiener Zeitung notes and calls for a change of direction: "It is no longer about the socialist accumulation of debts or the neoliberal privatising frenzy. These are more like silly political games. The issue at hand is Europe's prosperity. It's no longer a matter of securing it, it's about making sure it doesn't slip even further. Net incomes in Europe have gone down in the past two years. This means that millions of citizens can afford less. The national governments are called on to put their budget targets on the back burner. And the EU Commission should focus on developing a comprehensive industrial policy instead of taking small steps towards liberalisation in bus and railway transport. The challenge now is to create jobs in Europe once more, jobs from which people can earn a living. This should be the ideological guideline - indeed the only one." (08/01/2013)

Svenska Dagbladet - Sweden

New US foreign policy a chance for Europe

US President Barack Obama nominated the Republican Chuck Hagel as the new US Secretary of Defense on Monday. The liberal daily Svenska Dagbladet takes a closer look at US foreign policy under Barack Obama: "This raises the question of how the US will act towards Syria or Iran in the future for example. Hagel should be more open to direct negotiations with Tehran, but if he takes on the job he could become the chief planner of a war as a last resort for stopping Iran from attaining nuclear bombs. … One must also take into account that the US no longer has the clout it used to have in the decades after the fall of communism. In a world that is becoming more multi-polar or non-polar, the US can no longer play the role of the lone sheriff, but must look for new cooperation partners. For Europe this represents both a danger and an opportunity." (09/01/2013)

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

Cyprus's money problems help German SPD

The EU's plan to supply Cyprus with billions in aid could fail owing to the opposition of the German Social Democrats. For the faltering Social Demomcratic Party (SPD) Cyprus's request for aid is a godsend, the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung contends: "Here we have a country that is suspected of wooing money launderers asking for help; a country that wants to overhaul its overblown banking sector with the help of German taxpayers; that lures Western European companies with mini interest rates. If you take all these unappetising ingredients and add the Germans' growing euro scepticism, the biggest opposition group in the German Bundestag simply must reject the government's request for approval of an aid package. … For years the SPD has been looking for the right moment to emancipate itself from the chancellor without coming across as an unreliable partner on European policy. And now that moment has arrived - in the very year when the parliamentary elections take place. … This is an awkward situation for Angela Merkel." (09/01/2013)

Le Figaro - France

France lacks debate on same-sex marriage

Another big demonstration against same-sex marriage is set to take place in Paris on Sunday. France's Council of Ministers passed a draft law on the introduction of same-sex marriage and adoption rights for homosexual couples in November. The conservative daily Le Figaro criticises the lack of social debate on the issue: "'As president of France I will promote thoroughgoing debates.' Has François Hollande forgotten to apply the thirteenth of the fifteen promises he made as Nicolas Sarkozy's challenger to same-sex marriage? Why has he not kept his word on this issue which is so important for the future of our society? Even if the president tried to appease the representatives of the religious communities at a reception in the presidential palace on Tuesday, the harm has already been done. ... As he doesn't quite know what he wants himself, he has pitched the French against each other. He has divided them when he should have sought to unite them." (09/01/2013)

REFLECTIONS

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Tvxs - Greece

Ioannis Germanos criticises Greeks for tolerating illegality

In the affair over the so-called Lagarde list, along with more than 2,000 Greek tax evaders, both the former finance minister Giorgos Papakonstantinou and his successor Evangelos Venizelos are coming under fire. In previous statements Papakonstantinou maintained he had lost the original copy of the list. Columnist Ioannis Germanos condemns the attitudes of Greek society to illegality on the web portal Tvxs.gr: "We are a village in the European provinces, to the south of the Balkans. Everyone knows each other and protects each other at the cost of future generations. We good-naturedly overlook it when people break the law, and call it cleverness. It's as simple as that. 'Sorry, I lost the list, no idea where it is', [says Papakonstantinou]. ... Things simply can't go on like this, we can't go on acting in this way (writing no invoices, taking no receipts). We just can't treat things so casually in our little Gallic village. ... All good things must come to an end, because our indifference is slowly building up a wall around us." (08/01/2013)

ECONOMY

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Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Despite IMF's mistakes the states are to blame

The International Monetary Fund underestimated the negative impact of the austerity policy on the economic performance of the Eurozone's crisis-stricken economies and intensified the crisis as a result, the IMF's chief economist Olivier Blanchard conceded in a working paper released last week. The liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza says the affected countries themselves are mainly to blame for the mess they're in: "This conclusion is pretty unusual. Because up to now the IMF has been well-known for its tough stance and often criticised for it. It has given states emergency loans. But in exchange it demanded reforms and cuts. In many parts of the world people bare their teeth when the word 'IMF' is mentioned. … A good example is Greece. However ultimately the Greeks themselves are to blame. They got the country up to its ears in debt and faked statistics for years on end in a bid to conceal the poor state of their public finances." (09/01/2013)

Cinco Días - Spain

Ruling out bailout could be costly

Spain government plans to get through 2013 without becoming dependent on the European bailout fund, the Ministry of Finance announced on Tuesday. The improved financial situation in the country is above all thanks to the help of the ECB, the left-liberal business paper Cinco Días points out: "Spain's financial situation began to improve six months ago, with the ECB's announcement that it would purchase the bonds of troubled countries if necessary. This move by Mario Draghi was a turning point, changed the attitude of the markets and triggered a wave of purchases of Spanish public debt by foreign investors. The easing of pressure on the bond was also favoured by the expectation that Spain would request help from Europe - a possibility regarding which the government has never made a clear statement. This is now creating reasonable doubts about how the markets will react to the government's ruling out a request for a bailout." (09/01/2013)

Jornal de Negócios - Portugal

Portugal afflicted by heavy tax burden

The tax hikes introduced at the beginning of the year mean that the Portuguese are now paying more taxes than the European average, according to a study published by the auditor network KPMG. The liberal business daily Jornal de Negócios fears that the country could collapse under the weight of its tax burden: "The KPMG study is overwhelming: the Portuguese will face a heavier tax burden than the Germans, French, English and Spanish in 2013 - both on income and on pensions. The government is fixing the budget at the expense of the taxpayers (and destroying the country in the process). … Portugal is like one huge tax authority nowadays. In the next cabinet reshuffle Prime Minister Passos Coelho may as well reduce his government to the minimum, trimming it down to just himself as finance minister and his department for taxes and duties. All for the sake of cutting costs, of course!" (09/01/2013)

SOCIETY

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Elsevier - Netherlands

Europe needs black list for doctors

A neurologist who had been charged with grievous bodily harm in the Netherlands was allowed to go on practising unhindered over a period of several years in Germany. He is accused of having made dozens of misdiagnoses. Europe urgently needs a black list of such doctors, the right-wing conservative news magazine Elsevier writes: "Such a black list has been under discussion for years in the European Parliament and the European Commission. But they haven't got much further than plans and half-agreements over 'warning systems'. … It's difficult to coordinate all the national legal systems, data protection issues, professional requirements, registrations and possibilities for sanctions. But wrong is wrong, suspended is suspended and convicted is convicted. The German clinic had been informed but the directors decided to tread their own path - and the patients should have been protected from this. You could say: finally the guys in Brussels could do something from which everyone would benefit, especially the Europeans, but nothing happens." (07/01/2013)

La Stampa - Italy

Women become victims on the Internet

A fourteen-year-old girl took her own life in Italy on the weekend after naked photos of her were distributed on online social networks. The liberal daily La Stampa denounces a society in which men use the Internet to make women the targets of their frustration: "A girl's vulnerability is just what men who feel the urge to prove their masculinity are looking for. Consumerist machismo needs victims to feed its lack of culture. With Facebook and Twitter a new society of shame has emerged. They serve as uncontrollable digital pillories. However the problem is not just the social networks, but also a culture that kills women with the instruments of the mind before it kills them physically. This is done by stripping them, turning them into objects and subjecting them to verbal and physical attacks simply for the fact of being a woman." (09/01/2013)

România Liberâ - Romania

Private company influences Romanian mayors

Twenty-eight mayors in the Romanian district of Alba have called in a memorandum for the resumption of gold mining, which was stopped after an environmental disaster in 2000. A local referendum held on the issue in December came to nothing. Mircea Kivu writes in the daily România Liberă that local politicians have been influenced by the Canadian firm RMGC:"These men can voice their private opinions when they're no longer mayors. But their current functions oblige them to represent all members of their communities, even for example the organisation 'Alburnus Maior', which opposes gold mining by the company RMGC. ... When I heard about the referendum two months ago, I assumed that a PR campaign for the gold company was being started up with tax money. Because questions concerning the mining of raw materials are not decided in local referendums, as they are of national interest. This memorandum, which completely ignores the referendum defeat, shows once again how the district council puts the interests of a private company above its own." (09/01/2013)

Nordschleswiger - Denmark

Educators must not be subject to general suspicion

In order to avoid suspicions of sexual abuse, a growing number of childcare services are introducing rules forbidding male educators from having children sit on their laps. Glass walls are to offer a permanent view of the goings-on in recreation rooms. But that's taking things too far, writes Der Schleswiger, the daily of the German community in Denmark: "This entire discussion is putting our society in a strange light. ...  We want absolute safety, no germs, no sharp edges, no risks. And so we subject men to all-encompassing suspicion. ... Yes, life is dangerous. Yes, there is sexual abuse, it does destroy the tender bodies and souls of children, and it must be punished very severely. But we must also deal with this topic on the basis of common sense. Most educators are not guilty of abuse and just want to do their job well. And that can't be done in a germ-free, contact-free way." (09/01/2013)

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