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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 10/02/2014



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Swiss want to limit immigration

50.3 percent of the voters cast their votes for the initiative led by the Swiss People's Party (SVP). (© picture-alliance/dpa)


In a referendum held on Sunday the Swiss voted by a slim majority for the "Against Mass Immigration" initiative which foresees the introduction of immigration quotas and jobs being offered to Swiss citizens first. Commentators see the outcome as a sign of growing xenophobia and EU scepticism and call on Europe's politicians to defend European values more resolutely.

Pravda - Slovakia

Xenophobia getting out of control

The European Commission and politicians across Europe have voiced disappointment at the outcome of the Swiss referendum. The left-leaning daily Pravda joins in, fearing the vote could set a negative trend in Europe: "The country's entrepreneurs and almost all the parties represented in parliament opposed the unreasonable demand that immigration be restricted. But that didn't help, nor did factual arguments. Unemployment in the country stands at a mere three percent, and Switzerland has long been dependent on immigration. Nor did the fact that limiting the free movement of workers from the EU will complicate the close ties between Switzerland and the EU dissuade voters. But Bern isn't the only place where you have to wonder why even in the richest countries, rather primitive propaganda can win out against any form of integration. ... However Brussels also bears part of the blame, for underestimating the importance of social policy. If it fails to act here, Europe will soon be overwhelmed by xenophobia." (10/02/2014)

El País - Spain

Swiss referendum sends tremors through Europe

The result of the referendum in Switzerland testifies to growing xenophobia in Europe, the left-liberal daily El País believes, and calls on the centre parties to take resolute measures against this trend: "The victory of those who oppose 'mass immigration' to Switzerland will have consequences for all Europe. It not only calls into question the agreement on the free movement of people signed with the EU, but also reflects the populist and xenophobic mobilisation that is plaguing the Old Continent just a few months before the European elections. ... Europe's centrist political parties must react to this state of affairs first and foremost by putting an end to their current weak leadership and defending European values in the face of those who fear the opening of borders and globalisation and who see sealing themselves off as the solution to the problems of the crisis." (10/02/2014)

Die Zeit - Germany

A high price for ideological conflict

The outcome of the referendum has put the people of Switzerland in a difficult position vis-à-vis the EU, the online edition of the liberal weekly paper Die Zeit comments, adding that the vote was really about the country's self-image: "In fact the real dispute in the referendum was not about the oft-invoked 'density stress'. It wasn't about the lack of seats on trains, the congestion on overcrowded roads, the horrendously high rents in the cities. Because in those areas actually inhabited by the new immigrants, that is in Zurich, Geneva and the Vaud, the SVP's initiative was rejected. ... The mass immigration initiative became a vote on Switzerland's image of itself. And the conservative, rural areas won by a razor-thin margin over the liberal, urban areas. ... However the country may well have to pay a huge price for this ideological vote. Because the quotas called for in the text violate the bilateral treaties between Switzerland and the EU." (10/02/2014)

Corriere del Ticino - Switzerland

Swiss fight for their identity

The Swiss have voted not against foreigners but in favour of their own national sovereignty, the liberal daily Corriere del Ticino surmises: "Now please don't say that the Swiss are selfish, xenophobic or even racist. Switzerland is and remains one of the most democratic, tolerant and altruistic countries in the world. However in these times of continuous reduction of state sovereignty it still believes in the virtues of democracy and above all direct democracy. ... The vote is of a historical nature. Because it demonstrates the feelings of a growing number of European nations vis-à-vis the EU and the international institutions. Feelings that will be expressed in the European elections. ... This was not a rational but an emotional referendum. It was not a vote against but for something: for Switzerland and defending the Swiss identity.That was the goal." (10/02/2014)


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Večernji list - Croatia

Staged unrest in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Anti-government protests in Sarajevo and other cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina turned into heavy rioting last week. The riots were orchestrated by the Bosniak political leadership, the conservative daily Večernji List claims: "It's clear that the election campaign of the Bosniak political leadership [ahead of the parliamentary elections in October] forms the background to the unrest. The police failed to react with any real force, the same scenes played out in all the cities and the federal institutions were spared. This is just part of the evidence that the social discontent was exploited for a political settling of scores. But the attempt to extend the 'Bosnian Spring' to the Croat areas of the Federation [Bosnia and Herzegovina] or the Republika Srpska [as the second political entity of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina] has failed. The three ethnic groups [Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats] are always very reserved whenever 'the others' are affected by social developments." (10/02/2014)

Cyprus Mail - Cyprus

Cyprus talks driven by craving for energy

The talks on the reunification of Cyprus that have been stalled for two years are to resume on Tuesday. The English-language daily Cyprus Mail writes that the US's sudden involvement in the conflict is motivated merely by its interest in the mineral resources in the Mediterranean: "There is no State Department rule stipulating that an attempt to solve the Cyprus problem would be made once every 10 years, nor did US officials decide to hatch a conspiracy to hand over the island to Turkey. The game-changer has been the discovery of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean, the exploitation of which requires regional stability and regional co-operation. A settlement would contribute to this as it paves the way for joint ventures in which Turkey, Israel and Cyprus would participate. The simplistic plans for a Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt energy alliance to counter Turkey - advanced by the hard-line nationalists at the Cyprus foreign ministry - have been exposed as utter nonsense." (09/02/2014)

Dromos tis Aristeras - Greece

Reunification would lead to exodus from Cyprus

The peace talks which commence on Tuesday are aimed at finding a solution for Cyprus that foresees the reunification of the Greek and Turkish parts of the island. The left-leaning weekly Dromos tis Aristeras criticises that such a solution would drive many Greek Cypriots to leave the country: "The true danger lies in the abolishment of the democracy, sovereignty and independence of the Republic of Cyprus in the name of an alleged reunification. Such a reunification nearly came about in 2004 through the Annan Plan supported by the US, the UK and Cypriot politicians. ... However these plans will not lead to a solution but only reignite the dormant dispute over Cyprus and lead to a similar scenario to that which we are seeing in Bosnia. ... The loss of their state will prompt many Greek Cypriots to emigrate. The new state would progressively become a Cyprus without Greeks, a process which is already under way because of the austerity memoranda and the current policies." (08/02/2014)

The Sunday Times - United Kingdom

Green farming policy helps against floods

Constant rain has caused severe flooding in southwest England in the past days and weeks. The British government has come under fire for its crisis management and promised extensive financial support. But that's not enough, the conservative newspaper The Sunday Times writes: "Farming will have to change across a wide area. There needs to be a move back to grass upriver and allowing vegetation to grow along the riverbanks to slow water down and stop erosion. Unfortunately, the government, in a misguided attempt to remove red tape, has abolished the conditions on farm subsidies that could have stopped the growing of maize in inappropriate places. It has shackled itself by not taking the maximum amount from the common agricultural policy that could have been used to fund greener farming schemes. It needs to think again." (09/02/2014)

Le Soir - Belgium

Pressure mounts in Belgian election campaign

Belgium will hold regional and parliamentary elections at the end of May. The wind is blowing ever more strongly from the right in the election campaign, the liberal daily Le Soir comments: "100 days before the elections one can feel a strong pressure from the right, from the [Flemish-nationalist] N-VA, which is aimed at economic and social policy - the big theme of the election. ... The background to this is the idea that drastic cuts need to be made - eight to ten billion euros in the next few years - and that the crisis calls for 'shock therapy'. This swerve to the right in social and economic policy is an attempt to suppress the Socialists, and above all those based in the south of the country. But the latter's access to politics remains blocked as long as Bart De Wever and Liesbeth Homans' N-VA sets the tone. ... Their goal is to destroy the Belgian state." (10/02/2014)


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Valstybė - Lithuania

For Eduardas Eigirdas Ukraine's entire future is at stake

The Ukrainian power struggle is about nothing less than the question of freedom or bondage - and for a long time to come, chief editor Eduardas Eigirdas writes in the monthly magazine Valstybė. For the Ukrainians "this isn't just a geopolitical fight between Russia and the West for influence and territories, as pro-Kremlin advocates try to pass it off. For them it's a struggle for their right - and perhaps their last chance - to determine the future of their country. If they lose it, Ukraine may become another Belarus or Russia, where the right to elect another president exists in theory, but not in practice. To say nothing of the right to choose the country's political orientation. ... Moscow only sells one-way tickets. So if the engine driver Viktor Yanukovych is not replaced and the direction of the train is not changed in time, it could take Ukraine decades, or even centuries, to wriggle free of the Russian bear-hug. It's this fact that is forcing the Ukrainians to persevere and not to accept that their country should be pulled ever eastward." (10/02/2014)


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Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

German Constitutional Court accepts its limits

Germany's Federal Constitutional Court on Friday referred questions pertaining to the ECB's decision to buy government bonds to the European Court of Justice. At last Germany is also submitting to the authority of the European institutions, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore comments approvingly: "For the first time, the German constitutional judges have been obliged to acknowledge the limits of their jurisdiction. They have finally realised that they can't pass sentence on the ECB because it is not a German legal institution. ... After having overstepped the limits of its competence for years, the Constitutional Court was finally driven into a corner. The judges had no choice but to enter into an unprecedented collaboration with the European Court of Justice that will redefine the concept of state sovereignty, hopefully in a constructive way." (09/02/2014)

Le Figaro - France

Hollande on a study trip to the US

France's President François Hollande is currently on a state visit in the US, the first by a French head of state since 1996. Hollande can learn much from the US economy, the conservative daily Le Figaro writes: "Appearances are deceptive. ... Beyond the protocol, Washington is the scene of a meeting between two 'lame ducks': on the one side the American president is hamstrung by Congress and his reform efforts have been frustrated, and on the other side his French counterpart, who has to bring about radical change if he wants to save his country from bankruptcy. The US has put the crisis behind it. With or without Obama's help, its dynamic, versatile companies have stimulated growth and cut unemployment. François Hollande would do well to sidestep the diplomatic honours and view his visit as a study trip." (10/02/2014)


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Cumhuriyet - Turkey

A law protecting Turkish politicians

Thousands of people in Turkey protested on the weekend against a new Internet law under which websites can be blocked without a prior court ruling in future. The government has explained that the goal of the law is to protect the citizens' private sphere, but the Kemalist daily Cumhuriyet finds this argument absurd: "Since when has the government taken an interest in the private sphere? Since it was rocked by the allegations that its ministers are corrupt from head to toe. The government needed to come up with a quick measure to cover up the issues of corruption and bribery and so - hey presto: it produced the Internet law. ... It is a democratic right and in the interest of freedom that any irregularities pertaining to leading politicians, public foundations and associations - as well as to companies with which the government does business - be made public. Yet the Internet law that has now been pushed through is aimed at concealing corruption and bribery and legalising theft." (10/02/2014)


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Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Russia shows a surprisingly open face

Olympic host Russia treated those who watched the opening ceremony of the Sochi Games on Friday to a brief excursion through its past. For the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza the spectacle was surprisingly bold: "Many people were afraid that we'd be dished out a standard image of Russia, that is patriotic, military and Orthodox. Instead we were treated to something else entirely: the young girl Lubov, which means love, presented us with a kind of Russian dream. ... The golden era after Napoleon was presented by the organisers as a ball hosted by Natasha Rostova, the main figure in Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. ... That was surprising, because while Tolstoy is regarded one of the greatest writers around the world, he's not particularly popular at home - to put it mildly. In addition, the time of the Revolution and the Bolsheviks was also shown in the stadium. That was fantastic. Some people in Poland said that this was deceptive because the repression wasn't shown. But that's not true. It was shown." (10/02/2014)

Berlingske - Denmark

Olympics not always good for host's image

Russia hopes to boost its image with the Olympic Games, but it won't have an easy time of it, the liberal daily Berlingske writes: "In recent times the role of Olympic host has by no means been as easy as undemocratic regimes had dreamed it would be. Just think of the Games in Beijing, which threw a spotlight on the situation in Tibet. ... Putin is going through a similar scenario. Without this major event the world would be paying less attention to the situation of gays and other human rights abuses. ... Now the Games in Sochi are in full swing and it's right to take part in them. Without doubt Putin is basking in the limelight, but this light also casts shadows. And those shadows are long ones." (08/02/2014)

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