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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 06/02/2015

 

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Merkel and Hollande negotiate in Ukraine conflict

Merkel and Hollande visiting Ukrainian President Poroshenko. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have started a new initiative to find a solution to the Ukraine conflict, presenting a peace proposal in Kiev on Thursday before travelling to Moscow today, Friday. Commentators see the move as the last hope for diplomacy and stress that it could be very much in Vladimir Putin's interests.

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

West proves willingness for dialogue

The attempt by Angela Merkel and François Hollande to mediate is the best proof that the West is determined to find a political solution to the crisis, the liberal business paper Il Sole 24 Ore comments: "Even Poroshenko has always insisted that the solution can only be political and not military. A Ukraine that was better equipped militarily would force the Russians to think twice before they launch their next offensive, but it could also cause an escalation. And so far only Putin has caused escalations. The West's goal must continue to be dialogue. ... The best proof of the will to find a diplomatic solution is the unplanned and unique nature of Merkel and Hollande's mission." (06/02/2015)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Mission reveals West's desperation

Angela Merkel and François Hollande are undertaking what can be described as a final attempt to restore peace in eastern Ukraine, the conservative daily Lidové noviny writes commenting on the two European leaders' trip to Kiev and Moscow: "The West apparently wants to reach a direct agreement with President Putin but at the same time not do anything behind Ukraine's back. Anything else is speculation. The European powers, supported by the US and Nato, are coming with an initiative all we know of which is that it is based on Ukraine's territorial integrity. What does that mean? That Donbass should not become another Transnistria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia. But it can become anything else. Even part of a federation Russia is working to create. The mission proves how desperate the West is and how willing to negotiate. ... But for Putin that won't necessarily be enough." (06/02/2015)

Le Figaro - France

Putin must accept a compromise for Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin should accept the negotiation offer from François Holland and Angela Merkel, the conservative daily Le Figaro urges: "It's one thing for the Kremlin chief to get involved in a localised conflict against a weak nation. But it's another thing altogether to let himself in for an East-West conflict with Ukraine in the middle. Just as he's benefited until now by aggravating the situation, today he has every interest in seeking appeasement. A ceasefire, the territorial integrity of Ukraine, autonomy for Russian-speaking Donbass: the parameters of an agreement are clear. For Moscow it may be enough simply to shift a few pawns in what looks set to be a lengthy game of chess. But for the West it's no doubt the last manoeuvre: it's betting everything on the diplomatic card before rushing headlong into conflict. Putin should seize this opportunity for what it is." (05/02/2015)

Duma - Bulgaria

Merkel and Hollande on peace mission

Angela Merkel and François Hollande are travelling to Moscow and Kiev to try and repair the damage the US has done with its aggressive policy against Russia, the pro-Russian daily Duma writes: "The chaos that Washington and the right wing in Kiev have caused is becoming a threat to global security. The White House also seems to finally realise that it has gone too far. ... It's no mere coincidence that Barack Obama said that America is not ready for open confrontation with Russia. When it added fuel to the fire and then watched the Old Continent suffer from the sidelines, things looked good for the US. But once the fire threatened to spread to its own back yard everything changed. The war rhetoric hasn't stopped yet - there is still talk of sanctions, and they're trying to frighten us telling us about the 'threat from Russia'. But Europe is gradually growing tired of facing the consequences of Washington's actions." (06/02/2015)

POLITICS

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De Morgen - Belgium

All sides caught up in Greek drama

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis met for the first time on Thursday with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schäuble. But after the new Greek government's European circuit a solution to the debt crisis is still nowhere in sight, economist Ivan Van de Cloot bemoans in the left-leaning daily De Morgen: "While courtesies are being exchanged in public, this is all really a game of mutual blackmail. ... Both the Greek government and the European institutions seem to be continually upping the stakes. The Greeks - with Varoufakis in the lead - give the impression that they are regularly overbidding their hand. But the European backers are also not acting wisely. Instead of using the threat of turning off the money tap as a means of applying pressure, the ECB has already shot its powder. Even the Greek finance minister should perhaps ask himself if he's not just playing a role in a particularly bad drama. The scope for a solution in the interests of all Europeans is shrinking from day to day." (06/02/2015)

The Irish Times - Ireland

Act of revenge wrong reaction to IS atrocity

After the murder of Syrian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh Jordan extended its airstrikes to IS positions on Thursday. But with the execution of two convicted terrorists in reaction Amman has gone too far, the left-liberal daily The Irish Times: "In responding to the horrendous incineration of Lieut Muath al-Kaseasbeh, Jordan, by executing two jihadist prisoners, has regrettably crossed a line between justifiable violence in self-defence and an unethical act of revenge or reprisal, as the authorities have described it. ... It is a difficult line to draw - an unprovoked attack on an enemy as an act of deterrence may well be legitimate; a form of self-defence. But the rules of war protect civilians and prisoners even where the latter have previously committed heinous acts." (05/02/2015)

Dagens Nyheter - Sweden

EU needs a new asylum agreement

The Dublin Regulation according to which all asylum seekers must apply for asylum in the first EU country they enter has failed, Swedish MEP Cecilia Wikström admitted on Thursday. Europe must finally take joint action on the refugee problem, the liberal daily Dagens Nyheter argues: "More than half of all asylum seekers in Europe wind up in two other countries: Germany and Sweden. But these two can't do it all on their own. ... The situation in the EU is similar to the one we're currently discussing in Sweden: all too few communities - and countries - are demonstrating solidarity. Others continue to act as if it all had nothing to do with them. ... Even if the Dublin Agreement is now obsolete, the EU still needs a common asylum policy. And for that to work, more countries must shoulder their responsibility." (06/02/2015)

Új Szó (Slowakei) - Slovakia

Slovakian or not Slovakian, that is the question

As of February 1, Slovakians who have lost their citizenship by becoming citizens of other countries may now become naturalised once again. The Hungarian-language Slovakian daily Új Szó points out difficulties in the procedure: "In 2010 the first Fico government passed a law stipulating that those people who take on the citizenship of another country would lose their Slovakian citizenship. The law was a reaction to the simplified procedures for conferring Hungarian citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living in in other countries. 970 people are affected here. ... Those wanting to regain Slovakian citizenship must fulfil strict requirements: they must not only be domiciled abroad, but must also have a Slovakian residence permit. And it must be in Slovakia's interests to nationalise them." (05/02/2015)

REFLECTIONS

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The Daily Telegraph - United Kingdom

Allister Heath warns against anti-capitalist Euroscepticism

The Eurosceptics of the right and left in continental Europe are all on a dangerously wrong path and have nothing in common with the EU critics in the UK, columnist Allister Heath writes in the conservative Daily Telegraph: "The shocking truth is that swathes of the continent are increasingly in the grip of the wrong kind of Euroscepticism: rabidly populist, anti-capitalist, anti-business and often horrifyingly authoritarian and xenophobic. Some of these parties are inspired by Trotskyite thinking; others have clear fascistic roots. All are abominable. In Greece, France, Spain - and increasingly in Italy - such insurgents have emerged as the greatest internal threat faced by the European Union since its inception shortly after the Second World War. They all, without exception, detest free trade and free markets - an economically illiterate position that is utterly anathema to the British Eurosceptic tradition." (05/02/2015)

ECONOMY

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Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

ECB shock could be good for Athens

The European Central Bank's decision to stop accepting Greek government bonds as collateral for loans to Greek banks prevents the ECB from losing authority and at the same time works in Greece's interest, the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung comments: "Now the situation for Greece's banks is precarious. They still get money from the ECB but at a considerably cost and no longer indefinitely. Because everyone knows this the capital flight is accelerating, and this is destabilising the banks. In Greece's interest this process must be stopped. ... If Tsipras makes good on his promise and seriously combats corruption that would already be huge progress. The European could certainly meet Greece halfway - with a generous investment programme and other concessions on debt. But this can only happen if the reforms continue. Perhaps Draghi's reality shock will force Athens to rethink its stance." (06/02/2015)

Jornal de Negócios - Portugal

Central Bank taking revenge on the Greeks

The ECB's decision to no longer accept Greek government bonds as collateral for bank loans is nothing but an act of revenge aimed at having a deterrent impact, the liberal business daily Jornal de Negócios comments: "The ECB has become the official soldier of the desire for revenge against the rebellious cries of the Greek people. ... Clearly there are those who want to make an example of Greece. ... The ECB's move is not of a technical nature. It is pure politics. Those who don't follow Berlin's and Frankfurt's authoritarian rules open the door for themselves to leave the euro. It's sad, because Syriza's victory could have finally brought Europe to discuss the future and impact of the austerity policy. It has stirred up the murky waters of the EU somewhat because it has shown us that there can be a different form of dialogue between the ballot boxes and the markets - between democracy and money. But not for the EU bureaucrats." (06/02/2015)

Expansión - Spain

Podemos a threat to Spain's economy

The European Commission forecast 2.3 percent economic growth for Spain in 2015 on Thursday - 0.6 percent more than was predicted in the autumn of 2014. Yet investors may still turn their backs on the country, the conservative business paper Expansión fears: "The polarisation evidenced in the polls together with the rise of a radical alternative in the form of the left-wing party Podemos and the simultaneous decline of the moderate option embodied by the Socialists is a source of worry for analysts. They believe it could jeopardise the country's governability after the upcoming elections. Institutions like the UBS, BlackRock, Merrill Lynch or Fitch are already starting to favour other countries like Italy or Portugal in their recommendations - because there is no prospect of a U-turn after elections there. The government must work to counter this trend by showing greater commitment to introducing the planned structural reforms." (06/02/2015)

Blog Biziday - Romania

State guarantees could ease franc shock

After the uncapping of the Swiss franc by the Swiss National Bank many Romanian borrowers have also seen their mortgage payments spiral. Partial financing of the franc loans by the state could be one option but there's even a better solution, business journalist Moise Guran writes on his blog biziday.ro: "One solution is to have borrowers' debt burden eased by deducting the payments from their income tax. Or the banks could be relieved by deducting the losses from their corporate tax. But such solutions are unsatisfactory because then people who have no loans in Swiss francs - or who have no loans at all - will have to foot the bill . ... The real problem is that franc borrowers can't have their loans transferred into their own currencies because there are no guarantees for such a procedure. Rather than tossing money at them, the state should offer the banks government bonds to provide a partial guarantee." (06/02/2015)

SOCIETY

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Blog Pitsirikos - Greece

Athens government still untarnished

At the press conference with his German counterpart on Thursday, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis addressed a case of corruption involving the German company Siemens and demanded Germany's help in shedding light on the matter. Previous governments couldn't afford to be so bold because they themselves were implicated, blogger Pitsirikos writes in delight: "The new Syriza ministers have no such past. For us citizens this is a good occasion to take advantage of their dynamic before they too have a past. We have the chance - after 70 years - to demand war reparations. Especially now, when the Russians will probably do the same. This government will make possible things that haven't been done for decades. But we must hurry and put pressure on the government. History has shown that the 'innocence' of members of government has a very short half-life." (06/02/2015)

LOCAL COLOURS

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Politis - Cyprus

Cypriots, keep your ties on!

MPs of the communist Progressive Party of Working People turned up for the visit of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to Nicosia without ties. The liberal daily Politis sees this as a ridiculous attempt to imitate the Greek prime minister: "These politicians have also adopted a rhetoric against austerity policy: we want  to abandon the austerity dictates immediately, copy the Greek revolution, etc. But Tsipras has long stressed that he doesn't want any more confrontation with the European partners. Abandoning the austerity memorandum is just a fantasy in the heads of those who believe Greece has already done so. ... The fact that the politicians are taking off their ties in imitation of a politician who is now starting to see the reality of the situation is nothing but a political farce." (06/02/2015)

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