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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 04/07/2014

 

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Germany mediates in Ukraine crisis

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on Moscow to exert its influence on the separatists. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

The ceasefire talks between the Ukrainian government, Russia and eastern Ukrainian separatists are to resume by Saturday. That was the agreement reached in Berlin by representatives from Moscow and Kiev under German mediation. Germany is finally becoming more active in foreign policy, some commentators write approvingly. Others stress that Germany's trustworthiness depends on the success of the talks.

Wirtschaftswoche - Germany

Germany's new foreign policy

With his attempts at mediating a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is demonstrating what the much called-for more active German foreign policy could look like, the liberal business daily Wirtschaftswoche writes: "The West lacks any sign of a coherent policy that provides for Russia's interests while allowing itself to bare its teeth at its eastern neighbour from time to time. ... It's a good thing that Steinmeier has involved his like-minded French counterpart, but not the Americans or pro-American forces in the EU. Europe must mediate in this conflict without Washington's help to earn respect in the international arena. With his overtures in the Ukraine crisis, Steinmeier is also taking a risk: if his efforts at diplomacy fail, the hardliners in Brussels and Washington could have the say - and impose economic sanctions that would make cooperation with our difficult neighbour impossible for years to come." (03/07/2014)

Sme - Slovakia

Germany must succeed

Europe's crisis management vis-à-vis Ukraine and Russia is focused more and more in Berlin, the liberal daily Sme observes, and adds that Germany must succeed in its efforts: "For the British and the French Ukraine is further away and their politicians' goal is mainly hindering any EU sanctions that could hurt their interests. Neighbouring Poland got involved right for the start, but Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski's harsh words aren't compatible with the views of the more cautious Germans and French. ... So the key lies in Germany. Of all European leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin respects Chancellor Merkel the most. Of all these countries Germany is Russia's largest trading partner, and is keen to prevent these ties from being broken. ... At pains to avoid being criticised, it is working in tandem with France on a solution to the crisis. To avoid a loss of credibility Germany must be successful." (04/07/2014)

Rzeczpospolita - Poland

Germany chums up with Russia again

Germany did not invite Poland to the talks with Russia - even though Poland has made a great effort to seek a solution to the conflict in Ukraine. Berlin is trying to play Warsaw off against Moscow, the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita criticises: "With this move Steinmeier has shown that he sympathises with Moscow. He, the chief diplomat of our biggest European ally, supports the Russian plans for Ukraine. We, by contrast, want the regions to have a similar status to the Voivodeships here in Poland, and the areas with a large Russian minority to be bilingual. Moscow, however, wants a sort of federation, the result of which would be that Kiev can no longer conduct its own foreign policy. This foreign policy could be torpedoed at any time by the representatives of local governments, who often only have Russian citizenship. That's why they're likely to make use of it frequently." (04/07/2014)

Delo - Slovenia

West has double standard also in Ukraine crisis

The West's foreign policy is defined by double standards, the left-liberal daily Delo criticises, pointing to parallels between the Ukraine crisis and the war in Kosovo: "Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych is no Slobodan Milošević, and Ukraine is no Serbia [in the West's eyes]. ... Otherwise the Americans would have long since bombarded Kiev to save the oppressed Ukrainian 'separatists' and the EU would have demanded that Yanukovych be extradited to The Hague. But we won't experience this democratic fairytale because the Ukrainian game of strategy is too big and too important. ... In many respects it is even bigger than Europe, which has itself become part of this game. This is also why Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko was able to back pedal on the extension of the ceasefire he had all but promised Angela Merkel, François Hollande and Vladimir Putin in negotiations. In this way he has declared war on the 'separatists' in the east of the country." (04/07/2014)

POLITICS

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Le Figaro - France

French judiciary too political

In view of the investigations against former French president Nicolas Sarkozy the conservative daily Le Figaro rejects talk of a conspiracy but voices concern about the neutrality of the French judiciary: "The magistrate's union has its roots on the left, and it makes no bones about it: its chairman even went as far as openly opposing Sarkozy in [the presidential elections of] 2012. Is that normal? This question must be asked now that one of its members has been charged with investigating the former president. … Such confusion is banned in Spain. Neutrality is the rule in Britain. Even the European Court of Human Rights - which no one suspects of opposing freedoms - imposes restrictions on its judges. This is not about denouncing any sort of plot, as some on the left would have us believe, but about the need to restore confidence in a judiciary that is tasked with serving the interests of the public as a whole." (03/07/2014)

La Repubblica - Italy

Isil's caliph has many enemies among Islamists

The Islamist militia Isil is still trying to advance to Baghdad. The capture of the capital would mean the legitimation of the caliphate declared by Isil, but even jihadists are against such a move, the left-liberal daily La Repubblica points out: "Spurred on by its triumphant advance, Isil, in a spate of religious Leninism, has unilaterally declared [its leader] Al-Bagdadi caliph. ... What remains of historic al-Qaeda, like the diverse national branches of the organisation, has been ignored. The two strongest jihadist networks, al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula and Aqim [in the Islamic Maghreb] will hardly sign a pact of submission with the new caliphate. ... Al-Bagdadi's plan has too many enemies to work. Many, also in the jihadist camp, are on the alert." (04/07/2014)

Trends-Tendances - Belgium

Belgians once again threatened by markets

The rejection by the Walloon centrist party CDH of the Flemish nationalists' coalition offer awakens memories among many Belgians of the difficult government building process in 2010-2011, which was only brought to an end by the prospect of rising yields on Belgian government bonds. The Belgian parties must prevent such a drama from being repeated, the business magazine Trends urges: "Everyone is scaring everyone else. The big loser in this game of poker is Belgium's image. ... That's a pity, because as the current deficit figures show, our country saved 600 million in interest payments in 2013 thanks to the Eurozone's low interest rates. If all goes well, we could also save 400 million euros in 2014. But for that to happen we need a government, and fast. One that can prevent the financial markets from targeting us again and making us pay for our hesitation." (03/07/2014)

REFLECTIONS

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The Economist - United Kingdom

On the lost values of the Arabs

Religious extremism is just a symptom of the crises in the Middle East. The root of the problem is the lack of democracy, open markets and pluralism, argues the liberal business magazine The Economist: "Only the Arabs can reverse their civilisational decline, and right now there is little hope of that happening. The extremists offer none. The mantra of the monarchs and the military men is 'stability'. In a time of chaos, its appeal is understandable, but repression and stagnation are not the solution. They did not work before; indeed they were at the root of the problem. Even if the Arab awakening is over for the moment, the powerful forces that gave rise to it are still present. The social media which stirred up a revolution in attitudes cannot be uninvented. The men in their palaces and their Western backers need to understand that stability requires reform. ... Pluralism, education, open markets: these were once Arab values and they could be so again." (03/07/2014)

ECONOMY

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Diário de Notícias - Portugal

German minimum wage brings more fairness

The German parliament approved the draft law for a nationwide minimum wage by a large majority on Thursday. As of 1 January 2015 with some exceptions all employees over 17 years of age are to receive a minimum of 8.50 euros per hour of work. The step was long overdue, the liberal-conservative daily Diário de Notícias comments: "The debate about the impact of a minimum wage on labour costs and consumption and its contribution to social balance and social justice will continue. ... Even though the minimum wage won't apply until January and there will be transitional arrangements for certain sectors, it is a major step towards social justice. Indeed, it would be incomprehensible if this measure wasn't implemented in one of the world's largest economies." (04/07/2014)

Kathimerini - Greece

Trade unions must not paralyse Greece

Employees of the state-owned electricity company DEI began a long-term strike on Wednesday night in protest at the government's plans to privatise the firm. The conservative daily Kathimerini says this is the wrong reaction to the plans: "It's not the first time that the forces of a mildewed yesterday defend it and fight to prevent anything from changing in Greece. Trade unionists, party members, people with bigger or smaller interests claim to be campaigning for the common good when they fight against the privatisation of diverse utilities companies. Let us recall those times when things were better for the Greeks: in the 80s for example, when the state telephone company OTE and the state airline Olympic Airways tormented their customers. ... Greece should not become hostage to its trade unions. The diehards must not be allowed to win this fight." (03/07/2014)

De Morgen - Belgium

Honest Belgian citizens victims of speculators

The European Commission ruled on Thursday that the financial guarantees given by the Belgian state to investors in Arco, the financial arm of the ACW trade union, in the course of the nationalisation of Dexia Bank were illegal. But Arco's approximately 800,000 savers can't be accused of any wrongdoing, the left liberal daily De Morgen points out: "For a fair solution, the worst one can accuse the Arco savers of is being naïve and gullible. These people are not speculators but honest fathers and housewives who in many cases put most of their savings into products their trade union assured them were safe, like bonds or savings accounts. In actual fact these were high risk investments. Those at Arco and ACW who sold these products to the customers were at best pretty dumb, probably dazzled by the possibilities of the financial sector, and at worst downright swindlers. But no one is talking about that." (04/07/2014)

SOCIETY

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Der Standard - Austria

Greens have botched Berlin refugee drama

Around 40 refugees will be allowed to stay for the time being in a school in Berlin's Kreuzberg district, which they have been occupying for months. Prior to the announcement they had threatened to jump from the roof of the building if the police tried to evacuate them. The Green Party, which leads the district's local government, has made a mess of the whole affair, the left-liberal daily Der Standard writes: "When the refugees arrived in the fall of 2012, the district wanted to make concessions. The men and women were allowed to set up a camp in a park and move into the school in the winter. Everything was tolerated by the Green Party and its local mayor. What was overlooked, however, was that this would encourage certain hopes. The refugees believed they'd be able to stay. They couldn't - and didn't want to - understand that the district didn't have the power to grant them a right of residence. ... These people who'd lost everything finally resorted to a radical solution and threatened to kill themselves. The Green Party should never have let things go that far." (04/07/2014)

El País - Spain

Investigate torture by Spanish army in Iraq

A Spanish military court on Thursday ordered that an elite soldier accused of torturing a prisoner of war during his 2004 deployment in Iraq be remanded in custody. The crime was filmed and published by Spanish media in 2013. The investigation will help improve the image of the armed forces, the left-liberal daily El País comments: "In any case it's good that this episode is being investigated. It is a very serious crime. Under Article 76 of the military penal code serious injuries, the torture or inhumane treatment of prisoners of war can be punished with 10 to 25 years in prison. A case like this should not be allowed to tarnish the excellent image of the armed force in recent decades. ... A thorough investigation of the case will no doubt boost the armed forces' image and public standing." (04/07/2014)

Berlingske - Denmark

Denmark's debate over "Curling parents"

Denmark's Roskilde music festival is currently taking place, and reports that many youths are being ferried there by their parents have triggered a debate about so-called "Curling parents", who remove any obstacles from their children's path. The conservative daily Berlingske comes to their defence: "It's only natural for parents to worry about their children and try to help them. And if they want to spend an entire afternoon on the country road to Roskilde, then let them. You could give the whole issue a different interpretation and say that these parents are countering the 'me, me, me' culture and showing that people can help each other. ... Admittedly, the Curling parents bear the responsibility for their behaviour and their servility is not entirely unproblematic if it only glosses over the fact that they don't have the courage to give their children the right finishing touches." (04/07/2014)

SPORT

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Blog Cink - Hungary

World Cup too long

Three weeks after the World Cup began in Brazil the first quarterfinals take place today, Friday. Albert Gazda, chief editor of the blog portal Cink, writes that the World Cup goes on for far too long to stay exciting: "In today's fast-moving world a sports event that lasts longer than a month can't hold the attention of viewers given that most TV consumers are hostage to the entertainment industry. ... The way I see it the entire World Cup has the wrong rhythm: while the good games are all heaped together in the group stage, days go by between the pitiful games of the knockout stage. It goes from 56 games in two weeks to eight games in two weeks. ... It's not that I'm not interested in the quarterfinals between Germany and France or Belgium and Argentina, but I fear that by next week, when even more is at stake (and the quality of the matches sinks even further) I will have lost all interest." (03/07/2014)

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