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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 10/05/2013



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Lowered expectations for Syria conference

US Secretary of State John Kerry with his Russian counterpart Lavrov. Kerry doesn't want to discuss arms deliveries before the conference. (© picture-alliance/dpa)


Reports on an arms deal between Moscow and Damascus have lowered the expectations of a planned international Syria conference in May. After the foreign ministers of the US and Russia agreed on the meeting on Tuesday, it became known on Thursday that Russia plans to deliver ground-to-air missiles systems to Syria. While some commentators remain hopeful about the conference, others say it comes too late as the civil war has already destroyed the country.

Libération - France

How the conference can work

Although the UN has gathered eye-witness accounts pointing to the use of nerve gas in Syria, the West is still reluctant to intervene. At least the new diplomatic initiative raises hopes for a solution to the conflict, the left-liberal daily Libération comments: "The truth today is that no one wants to intervene in Syria, least of all Barack Obama. On the contrary, having recently resumed a more direct dialogue with Moscow - the unwavering ally of Damascus -, the Westerners seem tempted to pursue diplomacy once again after numerous withdrawals and capitulations. Can one still believe that a political solution in Syria is possible in the context of an international conference? This faint hope is linked to several imperatives. The first is that the current tyrant must be excluded from all negotiations. The second is that the agenda of the talks must not be dictated by a triumphant Putin." (09/05/2013)

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Syria long since ceased to exist

There may be good will behind the plans of the US and Russia to hold a conference in which both the regime and opposition participate, but the reality of the situation is different, the liberal business paper Il Sole 24 Ore contends: "It's difficult for the international community to admit the truth - that the Syria where Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Shias, Druze and other minorities once lived side by side no longer exits. It has been destroyed along with the minarets of the mosques, the church spires, the thousand-year cultural legacy. We stand before an ex-Syria, as we once stood before an ex-Yugoslavia. The diplomatic acrobatics seem like dangerous illusions. This also goes for the promise of a Syria conference which [US Secretary of State] Kerry extracted from Moscow. The proposal received such a positive response from the regime in Damascus that one can only suspect the whole thing is just another waste of time." (10/05/2013)

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

Intervention is Obama's only option

US President Barack Obama will have no choice but to intervene in Syria if he wants to put an end to the butchery there, the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung concludes: "Obama is right to regard this confusing conflict with utmost caution. But the prognosis that everything will get even worse without intervention is unfortunately also realistic. If the US had been quicker to impose a no-fly zone the war would perhaps never have reached its current proportions. … This is why he should talk to France and the UK about what can most feasibly still be done to at least shorten the war: imposing a no-fly zone. … In the UN Security Council [Russia and China] won't approve a Syrian intervention. … If the US wants to go ahead nevertheless it will have to do so without a UN mandate, as it did in 1999 in Kosovo, and its use of the force of arms to establish a no-fly zone would potentially even violate international law. Unfortunately, however, the alternative is to simply stand by and watch as an unprecedented bloodbath unfolds in the heart of the Middle East." (10/05/2013)

Milliyet - Turkey

Turkey poised to change its Syria policy

The rapprochement between the US and Russia on the Syria issue and concrete plans for an international conference will also influence Turkey's Syria policy, the liberal daily Milliyet predicts, seeing a chance that Turkey will give up its maximum demand: "It looks like Ankara is undertaking a 'slight adjustment' to its Syria policy. The Turkish government has so far always demanded Assad's immediate resignation and actively supported the opposition. If within the framework stipulated by Moscow, a new conference in Geneva launches a phase of political transition in Syria, this position must become more flexible. If instead of Assad other Ba'ath party politicians participated in a transition government in Damascus, this would ease the 'slight adjustment'. Then Turkey too could take active part in this new process." (10/05/2013)


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Marianne - France

EU Commission too lenient with Germany

In an interview published on Monday by the German paper Die Welt, the president of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research, Hans-Werner Sinn, urged Germany to adopt reforms to counteract its negative birthrate. The liberal Internet portal Marianne2 criticises the EU Commission for failing to send such demands to Berlin, whereas it demanded additional reform efforts from Paris when it gave France two more years to consolidate its budget: "Hans-Werner Sinn recommends radical measures for raising the birthrate: on the one hand significant tax breaks for German families, on the other double or even triple voting rights for parents during elections. These recommendations should inspire the EU Commission, which is so worried about budget deficits and structural reforms. And is it not a sign of affection to wish that the population of Germany - a country ruled by a woman chancellor - should grow and that inequalities between men and women be curtailed?" (09/05/2013)

Der Standard - Austria

Prison sentence won't stop Cavaliere from governing

An appeals court in Milan has upheld a verdict sentencing Italian ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to four years in prison for tax fraud and banning him from holding official office for five years. All this won't bother Berlusconi because he continues to rule from behind the scenes, the left-liberal daily Der Standard comments: "The Cavaliere is focusing all his attention on the grand coalition he had strived for. He doesn't hold a government office, but he pulls the strings and can withdraw his trust for Prime Minister Enrico Letta if he sees fit to do so. Politically he has nothing to fear: with 33 percent, his centre-right alliance is the uncontested leader in the polls. For its part the riven Partito Democratico [Letta's party] must reckon with being punished in new elections. Berlusconi is forcing the government to make good on populist promises and using placards to hail the abolishment of the unpopular property tax. The fact that this hasn't been decided in parliament yet is one of those inconsequential matters that have never bothered the Cavaliere." (10/05/2013)

Delo - Slovenia

Slovenia needs credible reforms

Slovenia's government wants to avoid having to request an international bailout programme by using privatisations and tax hikes to consolidate its budget. Among other measures the VAT is to go up from 20 to 22 percent as of July 1. Plans for a crisis tax have been shelved for the time being. What the country needs now is a credible reform package, the left-liberal daily Delo insists: "The European Commission expects a credible programme with precise deadlines and measures that don't just exist on paper but can be put into practice. The Slovenian government can no longer afford to make any more empty promises now that it's under Europe's scrutiny. … Among the areas where additional taxes can still be collected is the shadow economy, estimated to be worth almost ten billion euros. None of the reform programmes so far have indicated how we're supposed to tackle this problem or who will do it." (10/05/2013)


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The Irish Times - Ireland

John Waters bemoans the liberal agenda of the Irish media

Ireland is immersed in fierce debates on the subjects of abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage at the moment. In the left-liberal Irish Times author and columnist John Waters criticises the media coverage of the discourse: "Encroachingly, what media offers is ideological agitation in the promotion of radical social change, rather than, for example, conduits for information and commentary about matters of true social importance. The newspaper, certainly, is no longer to be taken as the literal representation of its description, being only in the remotest sense about 'news'. Sure, it contains stories about things that happened yesterday, but in the main … these narratives are selected because of their relationship to an implicit programme of societal 'improvement'. ... Abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage - all these have in common that they represent a repudiation of existing understandings and belief systems. The persistent media implication is that these proposals relate not merely urgent and desirable changes, but that they will, once implemented, bring us closer to the perfect society." (10/05/2013)


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Corriere del Ticino - Switzerland

Flood of money won't solve crisis

The stock markets continue to soar, with the top German stock index the Dax closing on an all-time high for the third day in a row on Thursday. But at the same time the EU expects the Eurozone's economy to shrink. It seems the central banks' low-interest policy is not the way out of the crisis after all, the liberal daily Corriere del Ticino concludes: "The glut of money is having only a modest impact. In Europe the banking system is being blamed for this. … But even if the banks were reformed it's doubtful that this would end the crisis. … Because the real problem is the lack of demand, which the austerity policy in Europe has considerably exacerbated. Only a redistribution of income can give the socially weaker classes the necessary purchasing power to jump-start the economy. Unfortunately we are moving in the opposite direction, not least because of growing unemployment. Consequently there is no sign of the crisis coming to an end." (10/05/2013)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

A bank account is not a basic right

The EU Commission wants introduce a new guideline to help all citizens obtain their own bank account. Roughly 58 million EU citizens currently have no bank account, which puts them at a disadvantage. The conservative daily Lidové noviny is however not keen on the initiative: "The definition of the term 'basic human right' is to be extended. Everyone is to be able to have their own bank account, regardless of their financial situation. ... This scheme will undermine the free market, in which contracts are entered into voluntarily. At the same time this dictate from Brussels threatens to set a precedent. If I have the right to open an account, then don't I have the right to have a car, a telephone or an apartment at a guaranteed price? There can be no such right. The EU Commission should not extend the list of human rights. It would do better to reinforce people's obligation to act in a responsible way." (10/05/2013)

Diário Económico - Portugal

Portugal's record unemployment unacceptable

At 17.7 percent the unemployment rate in Portugal has reached a record high in the first quarter of 2013. According to a report by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) on Friday, that's 2.8 percent more than in the same period last year. In 2008 unemployment was at just 7.6 percent. The liberal daily Diário Económico is shocked: "The disease of unemployment is spreading inexorably: 952,000 are now officially without work, but the real figure is far higher - probably over a million. … A sad new record that looks set to rise even higher. … And no one seems to be able to stop the haemorrhaging that will eventually kill Portugal. Only 40 percent of the total population is employed. That's 4.4 million workers who must support the entire country. … What an unbearable situation, particularly since youth unemployment is at more than 40 percent and forcing an entire generation to emigrate." (10/05/2013)

Polska - Poland

Poland says goodbye to shale gas dream

The two energy companies Talisman and Marathon Oil announced on Wednesday that they would withdraw from the Polish shale gas programme since they have failed to locate profitable deposits. The conservative daily Polska urges the government to rethink its strategy: "The programme is in the process of being put on ice. The good news is still that there are shale gas reserves in Poland. But the bad news is that they are nowhere near as big as was believed two years ago. And worse: so far no one has found a location where the production of shale gas with today's methods would make sense economically. So it's time for the government to develop another plan, instead of allowing the Treasury Ministry's enterprises to spend more astronomical sums on drill holes that come to nothing." (10/05/2013)


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Duma - Bulgaria

Economic crisis followed by demographic crisis

Europe's birthrate has declined during the euro crisis, according to the most recent figures put out by the European statistics office Eurostat. In 2012 the birthrate increased in just five European countries. If you take the ageing population into account, Europe is on the brink of its next major crisis, the social-democratic daily Duma warns: "The relationship between the crisis and the birthrate is obvious. ... Fewer and fewer young people are ready to risk founding a family when they have neither a job nor financial security. Yes, the natural process of reproduction has become a risky business nowadays. ... At the same time the number of pensioners is rising in most European countries. ... The ageing population and the progressively sinking birthrate are like portents of the new crisis in Europe that will replace the economic crisis - if we ever manage to deal with the latter, that is." (10/05/2013)

Diena - Latvia

May 9 symbolises Latvia's division

Around 150,000 Russians celebrated the liberation from National Socialism in Riga on Thursday. For the Latvian population the date is also a source of pain, as their country was annexed by the Soviet Union on 9 May 1945. The liberal daily Diena laments that not enough is being done to inform the country's Russian population of the day's weighty legacy: "It would be a good thing if there were someone in Latvia who could explain this sensitive issue to the Russians. Unfortunately the Latvian historians have failed to do this. The Russian community in Latvia is left to itself and influenced by diverse slogans and political organisations. It would be in the interests of all of Latvia's inhabitants to change this situation." (10/05/2013)


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hvg - Hungary

Fine for denigrating Roma is censorship

Hungary's media authorities fined the right-wing conservative daily Magyar Hírlap 250,000 forint (roughly 850 euros) on Monday. In an aggressive commentary published by the paper in January, Zsolt Bayer had called the Roma animals, among other things. Writing in the left-liberal weekly paper Heti Világgazdaság, the journalist Elek Tokfalvi sees no point to the fine because in his view it curtails press freedom: "Twenty-one years after the end of communist censorship, a newspaper has been punished for saying what it thinks. Have Zsolt Bayer and Magyar Hírlap committed a crime? No. Has anyone influenced by the article committed a crime? No. (And if yes, why have there been no prosecutions?) ... The fine isn't going to improve the situation, either. Bayer's reputation has not suffered among the right-wing camp, on the contrary. ... Press censorship has been reintroduced in Hungary." (09/05/2013)


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The Daily Telegraph - United Kingdom

Alex Ferguson preached more than just passion

Alex Ferguson retired as the manager of Manchester United on Wednesday after 26 years on the job. He led his club to victory in the Premier League football championship 13 times and in the Champions League twice. The conservative paper The Daily Telegraph praises the accomplishments of the 71-year-old coach: "In his quarter century at the club, he often seemed to be running on sheer fury, infusing those around him with his desire to win by white-hot force of will. Sir Alex could not have had such extraordinary success without being a man-manager of phenomenal subtlety and acuity, and a leader brave enough to reinvent his approach in accordance with the constant shifts in the game....And whatever his flaws, few had such passion, or produced teams capable of such beauty, as Sir Alex Ferguson." (09/05/2013)

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