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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 07/01/2014



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Syria peace conference without Iran

Tehran must approve the formation of a transitional government in Damascus if it wants to participate in the conference, Kerry said. (© picture-alliance/dpa)


The UN on Monday invited 30 nations to participate in the Geneva II conference in Switzerland, but excluded Iran. US Secretary of State John Kerry invited the Tehran government to participate indirectly in the talks on January 22, but it rejected the offer. A solution to the Syria conflict will only be possible with the cooperation of regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia, commentators stress, and urge the US to act as mediator.

Wiener Zeitung - Austria

Tehran and Riyadh must come to agreement

Unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia is among the 30 nations invited to the Syria peace conference. But an understanding between the two regional powers is an essential prerequisite for peace in Syria, the state-owned liberal daily Wiener Zeitung writes: "The withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq marks the end of Pax Americana in the Middle East. ... Now the emerging regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran are racing to fill the vacuum. ... Today Syria is the scene of a bloody proxy war between Sunni protector Saudi Arabia and Shiite power Iran. Iraq and Lebanon have long been part of this conflict that is increasingly fraying at the edges. And in Iraq the US have long supported the government of Nouri al-Maliki, which Tehran also supports. The Saudis have backed the radical jihadists who are now being combated as part of a coordinated action in Iraq and Syria. A modus vivendi between Tehran and Riyadh must now be found. Not least to find a solution to the conflict in Syria." (07/01/2014)

Corriere della Sera - Italy

Dialogue with Iran becomes possible

US Secretary of State John Kerry's offer to Iran to play a fringe role in the negotiations is only at first glance a potential cause of further conflict in the Syria talks, writes the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera: "Kerry's admission has annoyed Saudi Arabia and prompted the Syrian National Council, the bloc of Syrian opposition forces supported by the Saudis, to refuse to attend the second conference in Geneva. But precisely the radicalisation of Riyadh's position is driving the US to seek a new partner for dialogue in the tormented Gulf region. Dialogue with the regime in Tehran remains extremely difficult, but the Americans are trying to show that it's possible to acknowledge Iran's role as a regional power if the latter abandons its radical positions and seeks to play a constructive role." (07/01/2014)

Dagens Nyheter - Sweden

Dangerous proxy war in Syria and Iraq

The takeover of the Iraqi city of Falluja by the Islamic rebels shows that the civil war in Syria is turning into a trans-border conflict that is also a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the liberal daily Dagens Nyhetr writes, calling for the US to act as mediator: "This proxy war has already led to thousands of deaths in the region. ... And the fact that both authoritarian regimes are cynically exploiting the religious differences between Shiites and Sunnis to further their own geostrategic interests will claim the lives of additional thousands. Practically speaking, only the US can help find a diplomatic solution. The US has long been allied with Saudi Arabia, which supplies oil in exchange for dollars and military aid. But it also shares common interests with Iran, namely supporting the Iraqi central government and preventing the country from falling under the control of al-Qaeda. Leaving the Middle East to solve its own problems is not an option - either from a security policy or humanitarian point of view." (07/01/2014)

Star - Turkey

Al-Qaeda's growing strength demands solution

The strengthening of the terrorist organisation al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq, both neighbours of Turkey, is not just a threat but also offers the chance of a solution to the Syria conflict, the pro-government Turkish daily Star writes: "One must not forget that al-Qaeda represents a universal threat, and its presence and weight have the potential to jeopardise everyone's interests. It bombed the Iranian embassy in Lebanon, and has advanced as far as the Turkish border. Some even believe that the attack in Reyhanli was carried out by allies of al-Qaeda. But at the same time these developments are also accompanied by a ray of hope. Because now also the US, Russia and Iran are seriously interested in finding a solution, since they fear that without one they will one day feel the impact directly. The clearest sign of this is that US Secretary of State Kerry has called on Iran to support a solution." (07/01/2014)


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Deutschlandfunk - Germany

Data retention not yet a done deal

Heiko Maas, Germany's new Justice Minister from the SPD, wants to wait before implementing the controversial EU Data Retention Directive, in case the European Court of Justice overturns it. This contradicts what was stipulated in his party's coalition agreement with the CDU/CSU. Not just Germany but all Europe may be preoccupied with this issue for some time to come, the public radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk believes: "Because if the ECJ overturns the directive, a new one will have to be negotiated. Opinions on the issue diverge widely in Europe, and a German justice minister can do quite a bit to change this. Europe has a predilection for data gathering without justified cause, and this offers fertile ground for critics. ... It's good for a federal government when different forces are at play on legal and domestic policy. And this is all the more valid for such a large federal government, in which the opposition will hardly be able to make itself heard." (07/01/2014)

Népszava - Hungary

Left-wing electoral alliance can defeat Orbán

Hungary will hold parliamentary elections in April. The left-leaning daily Népszava welcomes the news that the party of ex-prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány (2004-2009), the Democratic Coalition, will join a broad left-wing electoral alliance: "So they're uniting after all. ... Because this offers the hope that we can get rid of the Orbán regime, which is on the brink of establishing a dictatorship. ... Even if we can't yet see the light at the end of the tunnel, at least the outlines of the tunnel itself are now clearly discernible. An electoral alliance isn't just a mathematical necessity. It's also important that voters believe that it's possible to defeat the Orbánic armada. ... The current opposition has already proven repeatedly that it can triumph against Orbán. Why shouldn't what has already been achieved once (and even more than once) be repeated?" (06/01/2014)

The Malta Independent - Malta

Cameron should follow own advice to Scots

British Prime Minister David Cameron extolled the advantages of a united Great Britain and urged the Scots to vote against independence in the referendum to be held in nine months' time. Cameron should apply this advice to his own stance in EU affairs, the liberal-conservative daily The Malta Times comments: "There is indeed, strength in union. The whole is indeed greater than the sum of the parts! It is funny however how the British Prime Minister does not easily seem to trace the lines to follow that the same logic sits pretty in applying to the UK's membership of the EU and the rights and privileges of all the peoples of Europe together. Cameron has recently been making very rude noises about the European treaties and it would be good to take his own advice at home. The same advice he is imparting to the Scots." (06/01/2014)

Pravda - Slovakia

Zeman must respect the Prague constitution

The three future governing parties in the Czech Republic - the Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and the Ano movement led by billionaire Andraj Babiš - signed their coalition programme on Monday. The left-leaning daily Pravda fears that President Miloš Zeman will delay the official announcement of the cabinet: "Until now Zeman has only informally tasked the Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka with forming a government. So the president still has room to manoeuvre, for example he could reject certain ministers. ... However the constitution does not allow him to verify the qualifications of the candidates. His job is simply to appoint the government according to the prime minister's proposals. ... If the president puts up resistance and delays the announcement, the current political conflict will soon turn into a constitutional conflict." (07/01/2014)


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El País - Spain

For José Ignacio Torreblanca Great Britain is becoming Little England

Xenophobic populism could turn the UK into an isolated small state, political analyst José Ignacio Torreblanca fears in the left-liberal daily El País: "'How Great Britain Turned Into Little England' could easily be 2014's bestselling essay. Someone just needs to write it. All the ingredients are there: petty politics clothed in grandiose rhetoric; racial prejudice lurking behind the strident proclamation of principles; facile populism exercised in the name of a supposedly threatened identity; cheap demagogy passing for leadership; and the idealization of the past as a project for the future. ... No doubt the regular customer who hefts a pint of beer in his local pub is fed up with the world, with the EU, and with its politicians. But not much more so than the Spanish working man who is lifting a glass of beer in the bar on his corner. However, the contrast could hardly be more apparent. Spain is suffering from a potentially explosive combination of unemployment, wage devaluation and disaffection for the whole process of politics; but all of this has fortunately, and admirably, failed to translate into any apparent spread of xenophobic talk, or the proliferation of messages of this sort, or the rise of parties with a xenophobic line." (02/01/2014)


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Aamulehti - Finland

Finland still not out of the woods

Signs of economic recovery in the US have prompted hopes of a similar upturn in Europe. But at least in Finland people shouldn't get their hopes up too soon, the liberal daily Aamulehti warns: "Growth in the US generally has a positive impact on the whole world, and Europe has always benefited from an upturn on the other side of the Atlantic. Since Germany is also doing well the general conditions for Finland would seem to be favourable. But our export business simply isn't taking off because the euro is too strong on the global market. According to the forecasts it's supposed to drop ten percent against the dollar this year. But even that won't help Finland. So the government will have to continue with its structural reforms, because economic policy can't be based on hopes for a miraculous swing in the exchange rate." (07/01/2014)

Duma - Bulgaria

Bulgaria lets its agriculture go to the dogs

Bulgaria became the third-largest importer of Turkish fruits and vegetables last year, second only to Russia and Germany, a report put out on Sunday by the Turkish Exporters Assembly reveals. A damning indictment, in the view of the socialist daily Duma: "As a result of the short-sighted agricultural policy of governments since 1989, we have gone from being the biggest producer of fruits and vegetables to being mere consumers of imported foodstuffs. ... And this notwithstanding the fact that agriculture - and particularly fruit and vegetable production - may hold the key to Bulgaria's economic recovery. That might sound like a joke to all those who for years have regarded economic growth as dependent on foreign investment and high-tech. But they are overlooking a crucial factor: for the economy to function, we need local production. We must produce our own goods, instead of waiting for someone to do it for us." (07/01/2014)


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Libération - France

Arguments the best weapon against anti-Semitism

Shortly before the start of a tour by the French comedian Dieudonné, Interior Minister Manuel Valls wrote in a circular to the country's prefects that they should ban his appearances. The controversial comedian has been convicted several times for anti-Semitic insults and incitement to racial hatred. But censorship is not the answer, the left-liberal daily Libération warns: "The cancer that grows in his shows, on the Internet and in the social networks must be eradicated. But it is not by banning him that the government and society as a whole will be able to expunge this scourge. ... It's by tirelessly demonstrating how reprehensible his comments are. The government must strip away all the masks that have allowed him to escape sanction. ... If Dieudonné is allowed to go on playing the anti-Semitic clown, he must be made to pay for each one of his offences." (07/01/2014)

Delfi - Lithuania

EU freedom of movement no longer works

The debate over Bulgarians and Romanians migrating to Western Europe to escape poverty is the result of a structural defect in the concept of EU freedom of movement for workers, migration expert Dainius Paukštė argues on the web portal Delfi: "Freedom of movement (as conceived by the founders of the EU) is only possible between countries at similar levels of economic development. The accession of economically weaker countries has distorted the principle of free movement of persons, because it triggered not just an economic but also a mass immigration in the truest sense of the word that has nothing to do with the free movement of people within the EU. And not just people from the new EU member states, but also people from non-EU member states come to the richer EU states. Clearly we must prepare for new challenges and debates about a new immigration policy within the EU." (06/01/2014)

Gândul - Romania

Romania's judiciary not afraid of politicians

Romania's ex-prime minister Adrian Năstase must go back to prison. The country's highest court sentenced him on Monday to four more years behind bars for blackmailing and corruption. The judicial system actually functions, online newspaper Gândul writes in delight: "The public prosecutors seem to have remembered their key task: to investigate instead of burying the files in drawers. The judges seem to have set aside their fear of making decisions - even regarding persons who until recently were regarded as unassailable. The big question now is whether these changes in the judicial system are of a lasting nature. Whether the system is strong enough to resist political influence. Whether the prosecutors and judges will be left to do their work without interference if Traian Băsescu is no longer president at the end of the year. ... Because for some politicians what has just happened to Năstase would be cause enough to make some urgent changes in this country once more." (07/01/2014)


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Daily Mail - United Kingdom

Left-wing BBC silences debate on immigration

The political editor of the BBC, Nick Robinson, on Sunday bemoaned the "terrible mistake" made by the broadcaster up until ten years ago in avoiding a proper debate on the consequences of growing immigration to the UK. Such mistakes no longer occur, Robinson said. Tell us another one, counters the conservative tabloid The Daily Mail, which recently devoted headlines to the supposed flood of Romanians and Bulgarians: "Normally executives are scurrying out of the door (with a large pay-off from the taxpayer) before they admit just how outrageously slanted their coverage of immigration and the EU had been.  But what Mr Robinson has in common with his ex-colleagues is the utter delusion that such bias is all a thing of the past and the BBC 'has now changed'. ... As with the Labour Party, we suspect the BBC's only real regret over immigration is that its shameful attempt to silence all public debate on the subject did not succeed." (06/01/2014)

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