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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 05/12/2014



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Putin highlights Russia's strengths

Crimea is as sacred for Russians as Temple Mount is for Jews and Muslims, Putin said. (© picture-alliance/dpa)


Russian President Valdimir Putin defended the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and accused the West of a "policy of containment" in his state of the nation address on Thursday. Strong words can't conceal Russia's economic weaknesses, commentators write, voicing surprise that Putin is still so popular among the Russian people.

Die Tageszeitung taz - Germany

Putin is blocking Russia's modernisation

Putin lacks a vision for his country, the left-leaning daily taz writes commenting on his annual State of the Nation speech: "This was the umpteenth time he went on about diversifying the economy. Fruitlessly, because there's no interest in doing so. The regime is addicted to oil; restructuring and modernisation would cost Putin his post and his wealth. Which is more than a shame because Russia has what it takes to develop innovative technologies. But meanwhile the ruling structures - the dominance of the state and the greedy bureaucracy - are undermining any possibility to put inventions into practice. Nothing will change, and Russia's geopolitical aggressiveness won't change either. The president left no room for doubt there. Moscow is right - end of discussion. Yet he explained that it would not isolate itself and go looking for enemies. But that's precisely what it's doing. So his promise not to start a new arms race is not entirely credible." (05/12/2014)

Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Strong words to mask Moscow's weaknesses

Russia is a giant on feet of clay, the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza comments after Putin's speech: "Hearing him talk yesterday you couldn't help feeling that for all his strong rhetoric what he wanted was to hide just how weak his state really is. ... Because his harsh stance comes at a high price. Capital is steadily flowing out of Russia. Estimates put the figure at 100 billion dollars this year alone. And the Western sanctions are preventing many Russian banks and companies from taking out foreign loans. ... The fact that even huge giants like the oil company Rosneft are facing financial difficulties highlights just how bad the situation is." (05/12/2014)

Hospodárske noviny - Slovakia

The incredible patriotism of the Russians

After Russian President Vladimir Putin's appearance in the Kremlin on Thursday it's once again difficult to understand how Russia ticks, the liberal business paper Hospodářské novin comments: "So far Putin hasn't fulfilled any of the programme objectives with which he returned to the presidency in 2012. In any normal country that's something the leader would have to answer for. In Russia nothing of the sort is happening and Putin's popularity remains firmly at 85 percent. Why? Because Putin annexed Crimea. ... Yesterday he announced to the people that Crimea is to the Russians something like what Temple Mount is to Jews and Muslims. It's striking that for centuries no one's ever talked about that in Russia, that they treated it like a strict state secret. Now Putin has revealed it to his countrymen in this critical moment of modern history, to further enhance the Russians' already unparalleled patriotism." (05/12/2014)

Lrytas - Lithuania

Speech reminiscent of Soviet era

Putin's state of the nation speech reminds the online portal of the Soviet era: "Numbers, indicators, pace: everything must grow and flourish next year. Russia's leader has hypnotises his country with figures as it rapidly slides into a crisis for various reasons. ... He even dug up the old logic model invented by Stalin. The latter often said that as Soviet power increased the number of its enemies would likewise grow. Putin has now explained that the West has begun attacking Russia because it sees the country's progress as a threat. ... Several times his speech was interrupted by tumultuous applause. And that too conjured up the ghost of the Soviet era. We've seen it all before, haven't we? And we know how it ended too." (04/12/2014)


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Upsala Nya Tidning - Sweden

Sweden's Social Democrats trip over arrogance

The collapse of Sweden's red-green minority government on Wednesday is the result of arrogance on the part of the Social Democrats, the liberal daily Upsala Nya Tidning argues: "It seems that no matter what happens they assume that other parties can never be quite as good as they are but must content themselves with a role that allows the Social Democrats to continue governing the country. ... The Social Democrats are indignant that the conservative alliance stuck to its own budget instead of supporting the government's proposal. Yet at the same time they had made it clear that the Social Democrats (and their partner the Greens) wanted to rule according to their own policies. ... The Social Democrats are now duty bound to finally realise that they are just one party among many." (05/12/2014)

Keskisuomalainen - Finland

Netanyahu seizes moment for new elections

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed two ministers and called new elections on Tuesday. A refined gambit, the daily Keskisuomalainen writes: "Because the right-wing parties have a tradition of benefiting from a risky security situation. The peace process with the Palestinians has been put on ice and the missile attacks by the frustrated Palestinians have heightened tensions in Jerusalem. That allows Israel's politicians to accentuate the Palestinian menace on the domestic front. And Israel faces even more pressure on the international front. Sweden officially recognised Palestine as a state this autumn, and support for recognition is also growing in other EU countries. The Arab League wants the UN Security Council to set a timetable for the establishment of a Palestinian state and will present a corresponding resolution." (05/12/2014)

Il Fatto Quotidiano - Italy

Italy European champion of corruption

In Transparency International's most recent Corruption Index Italy occupies place 69 out of a total of 175 states. The country has worked its way up to the top among in Europe, Marco Travaglio comments sarcastically in the left-leaning daily Il Fatto Quotidiano: "'Italy will take the lead in Europe,' Renzi promised in July when he took over the EU Council presidency for six months. And he has kept his word. But this is not his own achievement. Others were responsible for Italy's unstoppable rise. It was a tough battle but after years of indefatigable hard work we've done it: we are the most corrupt country on the continent. Transparency International has presented us with this coveted title. Italy took place 69 again in the 2014 ranking. The country had already managed to nab this position in 2013, so it is now the tailender of the G7 countries and the EU. Bulgaria and Greece, the last rivals to dare to try and take the title away from us, now occupy the same position as we do." (04/12/2014)

Standart - Bulgaria

Carrot follows stick for Bulgarians

The European Commission is preparing to lift the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism on organised crime by 2019 and allow Bulgaria to enter the Schengen Area, EC President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday after a meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. At last Europe is using the carrot and not the stick, the daily Standart writes in delight: "Borisov could have set the stakes even higher because he has some real trumps in his hand: the loyalty of the poorest country in the EU and the many sacrifices Bulgaria has had to make in the name of European solidarity [regarding the Russian sanctions]. Turning the tap back on to help the Bulgarian economy get back on its feet is the least Brussels can do. ... The EU has to admit that the way to the heart is through the stomach, and encroaching impoverishment is gradually distancing Bulgaria from Europe. As we say in Bulgaria: better a big carrot than a small stick." (05/12/2014)


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Le Temps - Switzerland

ECB delaying bond buying for too long

Bucking market expectations, the Governing Council of the ECB decided on Thursday against purchases of government bonds, and instead put off the decision until January. This may well do further harm to the economy, the liberal daily Le Temps believes: "The ECB has good reasons for playing for time. Firstly because the course it has set is perhaps not the best. ... Secondly because it launched a series of measures last June - negative interest rates, loans to banks, etc. - and must now wait to see if they bear fruit. By remaining ambiguous about its future orientation it has tied its own hands. The pressure from the markets will only increase. If they're not satisfied that will have an effect on stock market prices, inflation (or rather deflation) forecasts, and finally the economy. It could well be that by January 22 the ECB Council will have to unveil a new plan." (05/12/2014)

Novi list - Croatia

South Stream shows EU's double standards

The South Stream project, whose cancellation Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Monday in Turkey, threatens to cause huge financial losses for the countries involved. The left-liberal daily Novi List accuses the EU of focusing on its own interests and using double standards with the gas pipeline project: "The European Commission stopped the construction of the pipeline on its territory and pointed out to countries that had signed the corresponding contracts with Moscow that the project contravened EU law. According to this law the same company - in this case Russian energy giant Gazprom - cannot be gas supplier and operate the pipeline at the same time. ... However we should bear in mind that the Nord Stream pipeline continues to supply Russian gas to Germany and other European states unhindered even though in this case too, Gazprom is gas producer, distributor and pipeline operator at the same time." (05/12/2014)

El Mundo - Spain

All EU states should introduce Google tax

The UK plans to introduce a 25 percent tax for firms that operate in the UK but are based in tax havens. The plan was presented by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne on Wednesday. The tax, which has been dubbed "Google tax", will only work if it is introduced across Europe, writes the conservative daily El Mundo: "The British government has become the first to take the initiative against a practice that may be legal but effectively amounts to tax dodging by these companies. ... But one government alone won't be able to eradicate these practices. Corporate tax must be harmonised throughout the European Union in a bid to prevent countries like Ireland and Luxembourg from using disloyal practices to attract companies and induce them to set up their headquarters there." (05/12/2014)

The Economist - United Kingdom

Massive oil price fluctuations are history

The price of oil has nosedived in recent weeks. However the oversupply, mainly due to fracking in the US, will ensure that prices remain more stable in future than in the past, the liberal weekly magazine The Economist writes: "So the economics of oil have changed. The market will still be subject to political shocks: war in the Middle East or the overdue implosion of Vladimir Putin's kleptocracy would send the price soaring. But, absent such an event, the oil price should be less vulnerable to shocks or manipulation. ... Oil and finance have proved themselves the only two industries able to tip the world into recession. At least one of them should in future be a bit more stable." (04/12/2014)


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Libération - France

Cut film stars' pay

The French film funding authority CNC on Wednesday imposed a limit on salaries paid in publicly subsidised film productions. This reaction to criticism of the high fees paid to stars was long in coming, the left-liberal daily Libération criticises: "Public funds must finance creation, not the crazy spending of the star system. In a world of growing inequalities, any measure aimed at limiting abuse is welcome. Will it work? For the moment the wasteful films with exorbitant fees that are financed purely with private funds will be spared. In addition the measure has been a long time in coming. ... Certainly, the industry is starting to understand that it's in its own interest to introduce reforms. But like in a bad film, it's all happening in slow motion." (04/12/2014)


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The Irish Times - Ireland

Army's torture must be condemned

Ireland is taking the UK to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) again over a 36-year-old case of alleged torture by the British army. It claims British soldiers tortured 14 IRA supporters, but the ECHR took a different view in 1978, ruling that they were subjected only to "inhuman" treatment. The left-liberal daily the Irish Times welcomes the Dublin government's announcement that in view of new allegations it is returning the case to the court: "The judgement has cast a long dark shadow. Not only in the disappointment of the 14 that the true extent of their suffering has been underplayed and justice denied to them, but in providing a wretched benchmark for international human rights standards, in effect a veil of impunity for human rights abusers whose conduct was 'only' inhuman and not torture. The decision to return to the court may cause some diplomatic tension across the Irish Sea, but what is at stake is far more important - this State is doing right by international human rights." (04/12/2014)

T24 - Turkey

Turkey turning its back on secularism

Turkey's Education Council approved on Wednesday a proposal by the conservative teachers' trade union Eğitim Bir-Sen to introduce religious and ethics instruction at kindergartens and primary schools. Although the measure won't come into effect until it has been approved by the Education Ministry the liberal online paper T24 fears Turkey is moving more and more towards religion: "The Erdoğan government is steering Turkey away from democratic and secular waters. It wants to settle the score with the history of the country, which conceals a hundred-year-old complex. Tayyip Erdoğan likes neither the West nor values like secularism and democracy which make the West what it is. ... When a government sets itself the goal of bringing up a religious generation and establishing a new lifestyle with compulsory religious instruction starting at pre-school, it is starting to undermine the secular character of the state." (05/12/2014)

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