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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 16/01/2015

 

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Franc no longer pegged to euro

Only at the start of January the SNB had stressed its intention of sticking to the minimum exchange rate of 1.20 francs per euro introduced three years ago. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

The Swiss National Bank abandoned its policy of capping the Swiss franc against the euro in a surprise move on Thursday. In reaction the Swiss share index dipped by 14 percent intermittently, while the euro dropped to its lowest exchange rate in eleven years. Switzerland's carefree decades have come to an abrupt end, some commentators observe. Others see the decision as completely understandable in view of the dramatic problems in the Eurozone.

Der Tagesspiegel - Germany

Switzerland's preemptive decoupling

The timing of the Swiss National Bank's decision is not pure coincidence, the liberal-conservative Der Tagesspiegel writes, pointing out that the ECJ has just signalled that the ECB will be allowed to buy government bonds on a large scale: "The Swiss National Bank is apparently acting on the assumption that ECB chief Mario Draghi will announce a major bond-buying spree on January 22. ... That means Germany's long-standing resistance to the bond-buying scheme has been broken. If the ECB announces such purchases it's probably because it sees no other alternative for getting the Eurozone economy back on its feet. This indicates the gravity of the situation. The prospects are not good. It's by no means certain that the bond-buying and the increased cash flow it aims for will resolve the structural problems in the Eurozone. At any rate it will be a long time before things improve. Switzerland is already decoupling." (16/01/2015)

L´Hebdo - Switzerland

Switzerland must question its entire existence

After Switzerland has been able to bask in prosperity for years its politicians can now no longer avoid asking themselves some truly important questions, the weekly magazine L'Hebdo writes in view of the turbulence in the country's economy: "Within a year Switzerland has lost two important factors that have ensured its shameless prosperity in the last decade: monetary tranquillity and the confidence that it could recruit the best talents on the European labour market. That's a big loss. ... The smooth-running Swiss economy that filled the state's coffers and kept unemployment to a minimum is experiencing a major earthquake. The party's over, and the politicians will have to give up their tricks and focus on the real problems. Join the Eurozone? Enter the European Union? All these questions they were so keen to avoid are now looking them straight in the eye." (15/01/2015)

La Repubblica - Italy

Financial markets triumph over central banks

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) has pulled out its weapons but the financial markets are jubilant at the prospect of the ECB's large-scale bond buying programme being implemented, writes the left-liberal daily La Repubblica: "The financial markets can see a positive side to the SNB's decision because they see it as confirmation that the Eurotower is poised to change course and that that change of course will be even more radical than expected. ... They have won this Stalingrad. We live in a time of all-powerful central bank chiefs. They're the champions in creating infinite amounts of money per mouse click. But Switzerland threw in the towel yesterday because the financial markets have proven that they are even stronger. Particularly when the central banks overestimate their own power. The bells are ringing in Bern but their echo can be heard all the way to Frankfurt." (16/01/2015)

Novi list - Croatia

Croatians look on helplessly

The sharp rise of the Swiss franc is dragging thousands of Croatians who took out loans tied to the currency into insolvency. National sovereignty and self-determination, as promised by the politicians, are being exposed as nothing but an illusion, the left-liberal daily Novi List admonishes: "All it takes is a stroke of the pen by the Swiss to show us how fragile our sovereignty is, how powerless we are and how meaningless the rhetoric in the presidential elections for everyday life. Especially for the 60,000 Croatians who took out their loans in francs, the euphoria of the elections has been replaced by disillusionment. ... Neither the government nor the new president can help them. Their lord and master is the Swiss National Bank. It is the one true power, capable of driving up your loan instalments to unaffordable levels overnight without blinking. And it can't even tell you it in your own language, and it doesn't have a clue about the problems and worries that plague you every day here in Croatia." (16/01/2015)

POLITICS

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De Morgen - Belgium

Terror doesn't make Belgium a war zone

Two presumed jihadists were killed on Thursday during a big counter-terrorism raid in Belgium. According to the prosecutor's office, the strike was aimed at preventing a terrorist attack. The left-liberal daily De Morgen calls for calm: "Since the attacks in Paris we have heard more and more warnings that a new war has broken out in Europe pitting the constitutional state against the jihadists. Regardless of how serious the situation is, this is not war. A small group of radicalised youths is doing all it can to destroy the fabric of our society. Their biggest dream is our biggest nightmare: to pit Muslims, Jews, Christians and lay people against each other and sow fear and mistrust. That's worrying. But the vast majority of Belgians continue to believe in a diverse society, and our politicians declare openly that Muslims have their place in it. ... It's when our open society seems most vulnerable that it demonstrates its real strength." (16/01/2015)

Helsingin Sanomat - Finland

Why no one is taking notice of Nigeria

The human rights organisation Amnesty International on Thursday presented satellite images that it says document the destruction of two villages in north-eastern Nigeria by the Islamist group Boko Haram. The liberal daily Helsingin Sanomat explains the reasons for the international lack of interest in these crimes and the risks it entails: "One explanation for why the terror in Nigeria has not been spotlighted is the silence of the country's government. President Goodluck Jonathan wants to be re-elected in next month's elections. Putting terrorism in the spotlight would hurt the popularity he's gained in fighting the Ebola crisis. For its part the international community sees the terrorism in Nigeria first and foremost as a domestic problem. That could be a fatal misjudgement. Boko Haram has extended its terrorist activities to neighbouring countries. The organisation is financed by the North African al-Qaeda." (16/01/2015)

The Guardian - United Kingdom

West partly to blame for blogger's lashing

In Saudi Arabia blogger Raif Badawi has been sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes in public. The left-liberal daily The Guardian denounces the sentence and calls for more solidarity with the condemned man: "The punishment of Mr Badawi is a reminder to us all that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an enemy of free speech, of free thought, of honesty and of courage wherever they may be found in the world today. The British government should remember the slogan used against the mafia in Sicily: to be silent is to be complicit. Last week, many expressed their solidarity by saying we are all Charlie Hebdo: it is as true and just as necessary to remember and proclaim that we are all Raif Badawi." (15/01/2015)

Newsweek Polska - Poland

Too early to ease sanctions on Russia

The EU is willing to ease sanctions against Russia if President Putin helps end the crisis in eastern Ukraine, according to an article in the US business paper Wall Street Journal. The journalists quote an EU document. The news magazine Polska doesn't believe the report, which the US journalists claim is based on an internal EU document: "The Union would be behaving far too impatiently if it really does want to change its relations to Russia yet again. Of course it's theoretically possible that this document was intentionally leaked to indirectly signal to Putin a basic willingness for dialogue. But it's still too early for that, because the sanctions are only starting to show their effectiveness. Putin is worried, and panic has broken out in the Kremlin. The Russian president has been silent since mid-December and has taken no special measures. ... And time is not on his side." (16/01/2015)

To Vima Online - Greece

Greek government afraid of young voters

More than 100,000 18-year-olds won't be able to vote in Greece's parliamentary elections because they haven't been registered in the local electoral lists. Normally the government would have had until February to register them but the elections have been brought forward. The online portal To Vima believes the government failed to register them on purpose: "Such a thing has never happened before in Greece and it doesn't fit in with the European values the government is so fond of quoting. The arguments are weak and absurd. What do they mean, they had no time? ... If these 100,000 people are not able to vote it's not because it wasn't possible but because the government didn't want them to [for fear they will vote for the left-wing coalition Syriza]. This is nothing less than major falsification of the election results." (16/01/2015)

REFLECTIONS

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El Huffington Post - Spain

Mehdi Hasan on the false dividing line between Charlie and the others

The slogan "Je suis Charlie" has tended to draw a line between the liberal, enlightened West on the one hand and the backward, barbaric Muslims on the other, Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan writes in the left-liberal online portal El Huffington Post: "You and I didn't like George W Bush. Remember his puerile declaration after 9/11 that 'either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists'? Yet now, in the wake of another horrific terrorist attack, you appear to have updated Dubya's slogan: either you are with free speech... or you are against it. Either vous êtes Charlie Hebdo, or you're a freedom-hating fanatic. ... Yes, the attack was an act of unquantifiable evil; an inexcusable and merciless murder of innocents. But was it really a 'bid to assassinate' free speech (ITV's Mark Austin), to 'desecrate' our ideas of 'free thought' (Stephen Fry)? It was a crime - not an act of war - perpetrated by disaffected young men; radicalised not by drawings of the Prophet in Europe in 2006 or 2011, as it turns out, but by images of US torture in Iraq in 2004." (16/01/2015)

ECONOMY

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Les Echos - France

Is France capable of compromise?

The EU showed new willingness to compromise this week in view of the Greek debt and the ECB's purchase of government bonds. The liberal daily Les Echos hopes the mood will spill over into France: "Will the spirit of compromise win out in our country? Will the so-called 'Macron' law [for reviving the economy] - which proposes changes that the right simply didn't have the courage to push through - be voted through with the support of the UMP, or at least some of its representatives? ... This is what the people of France want to know, who have developed a taste for national unity since last week's attacks. The French political class is confronted with big issues like the economic crisis and the 'war' against radical Islam. ... If France wants to get back on its feet, it must show a spirit of compromise." (16/01/2015)

SOCIETY

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Spiegel Online - Germany

Western concept of Islam is pure fiction

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed in a government statement on Thursday that Islam belongs to Germany. But this debate is based on a fundamental mistake in reasoning, columnist Jakob Augstein writes on the website of news magazine Der Spiegel: "People are talking about these young criminals [in Paris] as if they were challengers on an equal standing with us. The West has practically welcomed these attackers with open arms. With astounding willingness we have accepted them as emissaries of their religion - and thus granted them their most fervent wish. ... But these are all fictions we are dealing with here. Because from Morocco to Indonesia there is no such thing as an Islam that is in any way homogeneous. But our public doesn't want to hear such things. And no matter how much effort is put into stressing that Islam belongs to Germany - as Angela Merkel has once again repeated - this will only have the opposite of the desired effect." (15/01/2015)

Trud - Bulgaria

Bulgaria facing new series of mafia murders

Three entrepreneurs and a local authority official have been shot in the street in the last ten days in Bulgaria. Is this the start of another series of mafia contract killings like those in the years before the country joined the EU? asks the daily newspaper Trud: "From 1996 to 2006 there were a total of 111 contract killings in Bulgaria. ... However the gangster wars were succeeded by the economic crisis. The number of dead bodies has decreased. But if the dead of those days and the dead of today had a common gravestone it would be inscribed with the words: 'Murdered by an unknown killer'. Every crime leaves its tracks but there has to be someone who investigates them. An experienced policeman who has survived the many political cleanups in the police force; one who does his job and isn't afraid to lose it. And a clever prosecutor without ulterior motives or political ambitions, who is not involved in any intrigues. Such officials have become difficult to find. This doesn't bode well for us." (15/01/2015)

MEDIA

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The Jordan Times - Jordan

Global perspectives: Europe's distorted view of Islam provoces Arab world

An undiscerning media debate on Islam and the publication of more Muhammad cartoons constitute an unnecessary provocation for the Arab world, the independent daily The Jordan Times admonishes: "Do the terrorists who carried out the attack against Charlie Hebdo staff and other targets represent Islam and all followers of the moderate faith of Islam in the same way right-wing groups and persons like the Ku Klux Klan and Adolf Hitler represent Christians? Terrorism is a global phenomenon that should be fought collaboratively by sane means, not by provocation. ... Journalists and media organisations have to have an understanding of cultural and religious sensitivities when they carry out their jobs. ... This does in no way mean that the media should be muzzled or freedoms curtailed; only that in everyday issues journalists should practise responsible freedom within the limits of their national laws and in accordance with ethics that forbid causing needless harm to people." (14/01/2015)

Hürriyet - Turkey

Freedom of opinion stops at religious insults

The Turkish prosecution has been investigating the daily Cumhuriyet since Thursday after it reprinted the front page of the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo. Banning its publication was the right move both legally and morally, columnist Taha Akyol writes in the conservative daily Hürriyet: "Freedom of opinion stops at insults. ... As the servant and messenger of Allah, the prophet is a founding pillar of Islam. Nothing offends and incenses a Muslim more than an insult against our prophet. Not only as a Muslim but also as a lawyer I agree with the ban on such cartoons. Many books are published today in Turkey which criticise Islam or defend anti-Semitism. Because they're critical but not insulting, neither the law nor the people have a problem with that. That too is correct. ... Criticism is part of freedom of opinion, but the problem is insults." (16/01/2015)

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