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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 12/03/2013



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Hungary's Constitutional Court disempowered

Hungary's parliament passed several laws that had previously been overturned by the Constitutional Court. (© dapd)


On the strength of the right-wing conservative government under Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian parliament on Monday passed a controversial constitutional reform curbing the powers of the country's highest court. Commentators say the rule of law has been dealt a severe blow and stress that Europe must not turn a blind eye to developments in the country.

La Repubblica - Italy

A coup is announced

Viktor Orbán has fulfilled his own dark prophecy and replaced democracy with autocracy in Hungary, the left-liberal daily La Repubblica complains: "'One day democracy may have to be replaced by a different system.' These were Viktor Orbán's own words, which contain the essence of his world view. The constitutional amendment is an announced coup. … Driven by a desire for revenge Orbán is disempowering the constitutional judges who rejected his freedom-restricting laws and enshrining those laws in the constitution. He is paving the way for limited freedom of expression, for closed borders - a new Berlin Wall - for university graduates, for making the homeless criminals when they sleep on the street and for Stalinist-style control of the few remaining independent media." (12/03/2013)

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

Saviour of the nation and convinced European

Hungary's head of government Viktor Orbán has boxed his controversial constitutional reform through parliament. The prime minister is a virtuoso at his many roles, the left-liberal Süddeutsche Zeitung writes sarcastically: "His favourite role is that of the saviour of the nation who has freed Hungary from communism, works to uphold traditional values and defends the country's honour. … A new constitution has speedily been passed that names faith, family and national pride as the greatest assets. … In response to warnings from Brussels, Orbán slips into his second favourite role: that of the good democrat and convinced European who shows understanding for the concerns of his partner and makes a couple of changes at home - only to move on to the next manoeuvre. This latest move is a blow to the heart of the rule of law: the independence of the judiciary. The greatest danger to the nation comes this time from its most fervent admirer." (11/03/2013)

Wiener Zeitung - Austria

Europe must not look away

Thousands of Hungarians protested against the changes to the constitution on the weekend, while the Council of Europe and the US State Department recommended a postponement at the very least. The legal concerns are considerable, the state-run liberal daily Wiener Zeitung comments, arguing that Europe must not look the other way, "because the Hungarian prime minister will now be able to push through any law he wants with a two-thirds majority, without the Constitutional Court having any chance of challenging it. Hungary's days as a constitutional state are numbered. Thousands of people protested against the new constitution outside the parliament in Budapest on the weekend. What now? What sanctions does the EU have at its disposal? How can Hungary be prevented from gradually sliding into a radical right-wing nationalist quagmire? Europe's politicians must keep their eyes fixed on Hungary, even if they are loath to do so." (12/03/2013)

Komment - Hungary

Orbán's strong state has failed

Aided by the majority of the nationalist conservative government, the Hungarian parliament pushed through a controversial change to the constitution on Monday - the fourth under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. The amendment restricts the powers of the Constitutional Court. Writing on the opinion portal Komment, journalist Józef Makai has harsh words for what Orbán's ideology of a strong state has achieved: "Apart from matters concerning content, the change to the constitution also has to do with principles. This reflects Orbán's view of power. The prime minister has never stopped saying that only a strong government and a strong state are able to make changes. And what has this stable, strong state given us? Nationalised schools, for example. University fees, that supposedly don't exist. ... The allegedly indispensable special taxes. But was this strong state able to save the national airline Malév? No." (11/03/2013)


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Diário de Notícias - Portugal

Don't underestimate danger of war in Europe

The ex-chief of the Euro Group Jean-Claude Juncker has warned that the economic conflicts in Europe could escalate dangerously: "Those who believe that the eternal question of war and peace is no longer relevant in Europe may be making a huge mistake," he told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine. His words should be taken seriously, the liberal-conservative daily Diário de Notícias writes: "This sentence was not spoken by a radical, nor the leader of an underdeveloped country. He doesn't come from Iran. … The warning may seem melodramatic. But because it comes from someone who has a good understanding of the reality in Europe and the impact the crisis has on society the warning should at least provoke concern among EU leaders. Juncker calls on them to be watchful and always aware of the fact that only Europe's unity gives them the power they have in the world. And by the way, history has shown that there are certain signs that should not be ignored." (11/03/2013)

NRC Handelsblad - Netherlands

Drones a threat to private sphere

The police and judiciary in the Netherlands are increasingly relying on drones equipped with cameras to help them in the fight against crime. But this poses a threat to the private sphere, the liberal daily NRC Handelsblad warns: "With every new instrument for investigation, one must question its appropriateness. This means gathering information about what objectives the instruments are to be used for; about the capacity of the flying cameras, about how the operation is controlled, about how the gathered information is stored. All this remains unclear. The municipal administration of Almere announced that 'no images would be stored' and that no one was 'recognisable' on them. This may be true for the one flight over Almere. But no one buys a microscope to take blurred pictures with it and then throw them away. The citizens don't want to hear such lame excuses. This is about trust in the state - a very precious thing. … The private sphere is under threat from all sides. And from the air too, now." (12/03/2013)

Mladá fronta dnes - Czech Republic

Young Czech communists worse than old ones

Under the pressure of mass public protests in the Czech Republic, a number of communist functionaries politically compromised by their past have given up the posts they had recently won in regional elections. But this doesn't solve the problem with the party, which still exists, the liberal daily Mladá fronta Dnes writes: "It's the same as if the Allies hadn't banned the Nazi party and it was ensconced in the German Bundestag with 15 percent of the vote. So twenty years after the war there are members of the SS and Gestapo spies angling as experts for high-ranking government posts. The public is up in arms and a jittery Nazi responsible for training the youths throws in the towel - followed by others. The old Nazis are replaced by young ones who only joined the Nazi party after 1945. … Are young communists without a past better than old ones with a past? They're probably worse. Anyone who joins the party knowing about all the things the communists did can't claim he doesn't know what he's doing." (12/03/2013)


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Les Echos - France

German overachievers must become more French

The economic situation in Europe's crisis countries is hardly improving, while Germany's economy is performing better than it has done in years. The liberal business paper Les Echos suggests tongue in cheek that Germany should become more like France, so as to narrow the gap between the two countries: "The key elements of the cure: immediate adoption of a 35-hour week at full salary, a higher minimum wage, strict taxation of businesses and other economic players, a lowering of the retirement age to 62, a doubling of administrative procedures, the number of bureaucrats and especially of teachers, among other measures. ... On closer examination, the average German only stands to gain in terms of employment and buying power from such changes, which would then pay off when election time rolls around. Any expert will tell you that in this way the principal discrepancies between the German economy and those of its partners can be eliminated. But even if Germany submitted itself to this 'French cure', vigilance is called for. At any moment it could once more be overcome by the demons of collective success." (12/03/2013)


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Politis - Cyprus

For Christos Chalikiopoulos Chávez was more democratic than the Europeans

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who died last week, was always criticised by Western politicians for his authoritarian style of government. But columnist Christos Chalikiopoulos writes in the liberal daily Politis that Chávez was more democratic than Europe's politicians: "Chávez didn't privatise his country's mineral resources and he didn't destroy its public health care or education system. … He didn't pass any cucumber directives. He didn't turn the citizens into greedy consumers and jobless beggars. … He didn't play deadly games with bonds and yields. He didn't put together a troika to plunder the countries of the South with harsh austerity measures and pitiful wages and make their economies entirely dependent. … Chávez was far more democratic than the Europe of pillages - and that of mercenary troops and air strikes. He didn't invade Iraq or Libya on the pretext of protecting civilians and democratising the country. He didn't send the soldiers of his country to Afghanistan to bomb wedding ceremonies and watch over opium production. Chávez was far more democratic than the Europe of genetically engineered social democracy." (11/03/2013)

Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

For Bartosz Wieliński Germany excels at dealing with Nazi past

According to a representative survey published by the daily Der Standard on the weekend, 42 percent of Austrians believe that "not everything was bad" under Hitler. They should take Germany as an example when it comes to dealing with the Nazi past, Bartosz Wieliński, the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza's Germany expert, points out: "This is the result of a historical amnesia [in Austria], which has lasted for half a century and has been intensified by the current economic crisis. There have been surveys in Germany's past which showed that Hitler was the most popular politician in the country and that the majority felt that 'Nazism was basically a good system, but was poorly implemented'. But these surveys are from the 1950s. Germany has done a tremendous job dealing with the grave consequences of the Nazi crimes. In Germany the far right enjoys the support of just a tiny percentage of the population, while in Austria it's the third-strongest force in parliament. The Austrians will no doubt get annoyed again when one points to the past. But on this matter one cannot remain silent." (11/03/2013)

Blog EUROPP - United Kingdom

For Marco Simoni Italy's frustration is reason for Grillo's success

The success of Beppe Grillo's Movimento 5 Stelle protest movement in Italy's parliamentary elections is symbolic of the voters frustration with the politics of the last decades, Marco Simoni argues on the London School of Economics' EUROPP blog: "Erratic economic reforms have failed to provide the economy with the right set of incentives, leading to a stalling of innovation and a decline in productivity. The political consequences of such a decline were not obvious until the recent elections. … Two decades of economic stagnation and incoherent policies have created a very strong insider / outsider dynamic. In Italy, this dynamic cuts across family income and education levels, because rents, market regulations, and diffused monopolies render meritocracy a distant dream. Italians voted for a 'party alternative' because of this dynamic, not because of the cost of the more recent austerity measures." (11/03/2013)


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Gândul - Romania

Romanian parliament protects plagiarists

Instead of university presidents, in Romania an as yet undefined "competent authority" will decide in future on the withdrawal of university degrees which turn out to be plagiarised. The Romanian House of Representatives passed a corresponding amendment to the education law last Tuesday, while the Senate has yet to vote on the matter. The left-liberal daily Gândul warns: "The goals behind this amendment are clear. ... The parliamentarians thought about Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who wears his doctorate in law like a stigma. And they thought about themselves, because they work at private universities and keep these diploma factories alive. If you want to earn a degree without doing the work, just have a look at Google. There's a whole slew of specialised companies offering university theses that have already been tested with anti-plagiarism software. Starting price: 50 lei [roughly 11.50 euros]. ... So get a move on, my dear parliamentarians. No doubt Judgement Day will come before a compent authority exposes you." (12/03/2013)


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Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

Media love Catholic pomp

The conclave that will elect the successor to Pope Benedict XVI convenes today, Tuesday, in the Vatican. If the election of the new pope dominates the headlines, it's got less to do with the media's piety than with its fascination with Catholic pomp, the liberal-conservative daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung writes: "The personnel rotation in the Vatican amounts to nothing short of a refresher course in Catholic practices. However it remains an open question how long such knowledge will last in times that are so critical of institutions. ... At least in part, the media's focus on the antiquity of the Vatican also has to do with its fascination with the exotic. Because nowadays in the West, you only get to see men dressed up in colourful, almost Baroque robes at royal ceremonies, extravagant fashion shows or - as now - in the Catholic Church. Such exclusivity inevitably whips up media interest. But a papal election is at best a breather for the Church. In a media climate dominated by relativistic arbitrariness, the Church will only be greeted with sympathy for as long as it offers a spectacle." (12/03/2013)

ABC - Spain

Conclave enthralls new media society

The fact that the conclave for electing the new pope, which begins this Tuesday, is taking place entirely behind closed doors represents an admirable contrast to the permanent communication of the post-modern world, the conservative daily ABC notes: "In this century of transparency and instantaneousness, in which the anti-utopia of the omnipresent Big Brother has become a reality on streets monitored by dozens of surveillance cameras, in which any confidential document of the state is available at the click of a mouse and people tweet about work meetings or post photos of their visits to the toilet on the Internet, the conclave preserves the archaeological fascination of the secret, the enigmatic enchantment of the closed door. … In the world of Twitter, in the midst of instantaneous technology, the result will be announced in Latin, preceded by a cloud of smoke from a chimney. One may not believe in eternity but it's difficult to resist the magic of its earthly representation." (12/03/2013)

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