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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 15/01/2013

 

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France's bold offensive in Mali

The French air force attacked rebel bases in northern Mali on Sunday. (© ECPAD/AP/dapd).

 

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Monday welcomed France's military intervention in Mali. The French armed forces joined the fight against the Islamist rebels on Friday at the behest of the Malian government. Commentators admire the courage of the French President but note that the intervention entails great risks.

Le Figaro - France

Hollande showing due resolve in Mali

France's military intervention against Islamist rebels in Mali is entirely warranted, the conservative daily Le Figaro writes: "In helping Mali to prevent the Sahel zone from becoming a terrorist sanctuary, France is adopting the role cut out for it in its immediate environment. The determination which President Hollande has demonstrated in taking military action deserves praise. It makes clear that our country will not cede to Islamist blackmail and will not abandon its allies in the face of external aggression. This is about adhering to our principles without being distracted by those who ceaselessly question our intentions in Africa. In addition, the actions of our forces have been condoned by all of our partners. It would be saddening if the legitimate concerns sparked by all armed intervention were to result in the resolute action generally being called into question in our country." (15/01/2013)

De Volkskrant - Netherlands

Military deployment the lesser evil

France's intervention in Mali is a necessary evil, the left-liberal daily De Volkskrant writes: "President Hollande quite rightly fears that a Salafist, terrorist state that is only a five-hour flight away would pose a threat for all Europe. Because the entire region could fall into Salafist hands after Mali. A 'Sahelistan' on Europe's doorstep would be unacceptable. ... 'Operation Serval' was inevitable. How dangerous the initiative will be for French hostages in Mali remains to be seen. France will have factored in this risk, as with the risk of terrorist attacks in France. But sometimes there is no alternative and intervention is the lesser evil. No one wants another Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya. ... The biggest question now is: who will rebuild Mali and how once the Salafists have been driven out?" (15/01/2013)

La Vanguardia - Spain

Intervention with uncertain outcome

With their military intervention in Mali the French have averted the danger of radical Islamists assuming power for now, the liberal-conservative daily La Vanguardia points out, but says the risks of such combat operations are not controllable: "The risky French intervention - which has been criticised as neo-colonialist by the Algerian press - is being conducted under the pretext of helping secure a failed state. But with such operations you only know how they begin, not how they will end. However it is also true that non-intervention would have led to the extremists taking over the country, with all the repercussions that would have for the region. The first few days of combat have prevented this for the time being, but truly saving the country will be a tremendously difficult task." (15/01/2013)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

France may intervene, but not the US

France now has the backing of the UN Security Council for its military operations in Mali. The conservative daily Lidové noviny finds it strange that no one is objecting to this intervention whereas the US is always faced with protests when it undertakes such action: "Since 1960 the French have intervened more than 50 times in Africa. They fought in Chad and in the undeclared war with Libya, protected the regimes in Djibouti and in the Central African Republic against rebels, prevented a coup in the Comoro Islands and fought in Ivory Coast. Whether it was about defending economic interests, protecting French citizens or demonstrating France's strength as a major power, the tenants at the Élysée Palace, both on the left and on the right, have often revealed a propensity for unilateral action. ... But no one has ever protested. ... If the US intervened with such vehemence there would be never-ending protests in Europe. And the US embassy would be besieged by infuriated diplomats - above all French ones." (15/01/2013)

POLITICS

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Blog Nick Robinson - United Kingdom

British EU referendum with question marks

British Prime Minister David Cameron stressed on Monday in a televised interview that he wants to change Britain's role in the EU in a fundamental way, but that he does not want the UK to exit the Union. BBC political editor Nick Robinson doubts on his blog that it will actually come to a referendum: "[Cameron] has set out how we might get that referendum on Europe after the next election, but there is a series of ifs: If he wins the next election alone (in other words doesn't have to get this past Nick Clegg), if he can persuade other European countries, particularly Germany, that they need and want treaty change, if Britain can then get what it wants in negotiations, if he thinks he can then win a referendum. If all that happens, well then, yes, there will be a referendum which he thinks will approve a new better settlement for Europe." (14/01/2013)

Sme - Slovakia

Czech Social Democrats in a fix

The Czech Social Democrats (ČSSD) are having difficulties with their recommendation on who their supporters should vote for in the second round of the presidential election. They reject the conservative Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg but are even less enthusiastic about their ex-boss Miloš Zeman, who left the party after a dispute. The liberal daily Sme sees the party in an awkward position: "There is no good way out of this trap. The current leadership doesn't want Zeman in Prague Castle. It fears that he will exact revenge and destroy the party just as President Klaus did with his former Civic Democratic Party (ODS). If Zeman were president he would try to directly lead a government that in all likelihood would consist of the ČSSD and the Communists. But the Social Democrats can't support Schwarzenberg either. After all, for years they have been criticising the reforms of the very government of which Schwarzenberg is deputy prime minister. This is the only explanation for the Social Democrats' very half-hearted support for Zeman." (15/01/2013)

Le Monde - France

Hollande divides country on gay marriage

France's President François Hollande must take the protest against the introduction of same-sex marriage seriously, philosopher Thibaud Collin writes in the left-liberal daily Le Monde: "What pushes so many people to contest a project that has no bearing on their daily lives or basic rights? The feeling of injustice vis-à-vis a law that overturns family relations and denies certain children the presence of either a father or a mother. To appreciate such indignation, one must understand that certain subjects of political debate (death, the giving of life, interpersonal relations) are rooted in the private sphere, not just of individuals but of the people as a whole: ... The president would thus do well to avoid treating this profound resistance with disdain. He has berated his predecessor amply for dividing the country and brutally pushing through his will. Now the time has come to properly weigh up and channel this indignation." (15/01/2013)

Karjalainen - Finland

Nordic defence alliance implausible

In a newspaper article published on Sunday Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Defence Minister Karin Enström proposed deeper cooperation among Nordic countries in the use of defence resources. The liberal daily Karjalainen sees this as unrealistic: "The army has become more technological and its equipment more expensive. Maintaining independent, credible armed forces requires considerable investments. And a cooperation or even an alliance is doubtless a sensible option for Finland. … But at a time when Sweden is downsizing its army and using its neighbouring countries as a buffer against external threats a Nordic defence alliance is just a remote possibility. And the other Nordic countries [Norway, Denmark and Iceland] aren't interested either, because they are already members of Nato. So what does Sweden have to offer apart from its significant arms industry? Closer cooperation can't simply mean that Finland commits to buying its defence equipment solely from Sweden without taking the competition into account." (15/01/2013)

REFLECTIONS

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La Repubblica - Italy

Anthony Giddens calls for continued belief in ideologies

At the beginning of the election campaign Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti declared that the distinction between a left- and right-wing ideology was obsolete. But this distinction is now more important then ever, the British sociologist Anthony Giddens writes in the left-liberal daily La Repubblica: "The debate about terms like 'right' and 'left' being antiquated is based on the misconception that in today's world there is no longer any need for ideologies, parties, governments. ... I believe on the contrary that the need for politics is greater than ever today, because global problems like the dramatic economic and financial crises and climate change show that only targeted, collective action by an international government leadership can save our planet. ... I believe that this is possible with the help of authentic left-wing reformism [a renewal of social democracy]. ... Europe has the potential to emerge not just sturdier and more consolidated, but even stronger than the US from the crisis. Provided, that is, we put more rather than less faith in politics and continue to believe that 'right' and 'left' still have a meaning." (15/01/2013)

ECONOMY

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Komment - Hungary

Matolcsy as central bank chief would be suicide

The mandate of Hungarian central bank chief András Simor, who has held the post since 2007, comes to an end in March. The favourite for succeeding him is Economics Minister György Matolcsy, the initiator of Hungary's unorthodox economic policy. According to the opinion portal Komment, Matolcsy has discredited himself as economics minister and would therefore not be a good choice: "The appointment of the minister as head of the central bank would be dangerous not just because of his bad reputation but also because he is already openly declaring his intentions. At every opportunity that comes his way he announces that he is an advocate of pumping money into the economy. If he could he would boost Hungary's stalling economy by firing up the money-printing press. Not even experts close to Viktor Orbán's government rule out that this would be a suicidal course for the Hungarian economy." (14/01/2013)

CULTURE

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Die Tageszeitung taz - Germany

Children's classics not sacrosanct

The German publisher Thienemann Verlag has announced that it is replacing terms in children's classics that are discriminating or capable of being misunderstood with modern usage, unleashing a storm of protest. The left-leaning daily taz defends the decision: "The problem isn't only that the word 'Neger' [which covers both 'negro' and 'nigger'] was in use in former times and is now considered discriminating. In addition, many children today simply aren't familiar with the term. Is it absolutely necessary to teach it to future generations through children's books? ... Even Luther's bible has been re-edited several times, and anti-Semitic terms used by its author have been removed so that its message can still be understood today. Why children's books should be any more 'holy' is not exactly clear. .. In addition, we expect immigrants to subject their cultures of origin and the traditions they've brought with them to critical scrutiny. ... Reason enough to subject the German culture and traditions to ongoing scrutiny." (15/01/2013)

Wprost Online - Poland

Smolensk film simply necessary

A film about the Smolensk disaster is set to be released on April 10, 2014, four years to the day after the plane crash occurred, the director Antoni Krauze announced last week. Cezary Bielakowski of the conservative news portal Wprost Online defends the film project against critics: "I'm absolutely certain that this film must be made. Because the director wants to make it, and in general it's the director who decides if a film will be made or not. And above all he's the one who decides what it will be about. So I'm surprised at all the fears [on the part of Polish politicians and media] that the time is not yet right. Or that the film will further divide Poland. An artist is to be reprimanded? ... That smacks of censorship and the People's Republic of Poland. And in any event, Smolensk already polarises the Polish, and it doesn't look as if that will change. So just what should the director wait for? Isn't it already high time that he gave his version of history?" (15/01/2013)

SOCIETY

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Diário de Notícias - Portugal

Take protests of the desperate seriously

Unidentified persons attacked the headquarters of the Greek ruling party Nea Dimokratia on Sunday night, firing several shots at the building. The headquarters of other parties also came under attack on the weekend. The liberal-conservative daily Diário de Notícias warns that such symbolic protests can get out of control: "Fortunately no harm came from the shots fired at the Nea Dimokratia headquarters. But they have a major symbolic significance - as can be seen with the suicides in Spain. ... More and more frequently we are witnessing acts of growing desperation that should be taken note of with the necessary social sensitivity before they turn into something even worse. The fierce protests in Spain and Greece as well as the relatively peaceful rallies in Portugal above all serve to vent frustration. ... It is no coincidence that the security level for Portugal's politicians has been increased. We will not be far from a state of affairs like that in Spain and Greece if our government continues to show such insensitivity on social issues." (15/01/2013)

Tages-Anzeiger - Switzerland

Our mobile phones cause smog in Beijing

The Chinese government on Monday issued the first ever orange smog alert in its capital Beijing. The city is currently experiencing the worst smog in its history, and many factories are having to cut their production. But the blame for Beijing's bad air quality doesn't lie with China alone, the daily Tages-Anzeiger stresses, calling on the West to own up to its responsibility: "Around two thirds of what we use in terms of natural resources are required to manufacture import products - from abroad. Rare soils for the production of cheap mobile phones come from Asia, from mines in which the pollution levels and working conditions are completely unknown to us. ... The satisfaction that comes from lowering greenhouse gas emissions in our own country is considerably diminished when at the same time we import more and more energy-intensive products. In a global world, national environmental statistics only show one side of the coin. When air quality in Beijing worsens to the point where it harms people's health, we should be aware of our role in the process." (15/01/2013)

Deutsche Welle - Germany

Health system exasperates Romanians

The plan by Romanian Health Minister Eugen Nicolaescu to use health insurance contributions above all to finance state clinics has sparked a wave of protest. Until now such contributions were used to finance both state and private clinics, with patients paying the difference for treatment at private clinics. The Romanian service of the German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle isn't surprised at the protest: "We are in the midst of a deep crisis, everyone is offended. Those with low incomes feel hard done by because they can't afford private clinics and are discriminated against in state hospitals, where the 'market' sets the cost of bribes. The middle classes have two options: either they pay doctors and nurses considerable sums for preferential treatment or they pay the official price at private clinics. Now they're offended because they'll be denied this choice. ... If the government doesn't present a balanced health reform it will be subjected to growing criticism, just as its predecessor was." (15/01/2013)

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