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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 09/02/2015



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Merkel and Obama discuss arms supplies

Obama wanted to wait until his meeting with Merkel before making a decision about sending weapons to Ukraine. (© picture-alliance/dpa)


German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to meet US President Barack Obama today, Monday, to discuss a joint strategy on the war in Ukraine. Merkel has reaffirmed her opposition to the idea of supplying arms to Ukraine backed above all by the Republicans in the US. Only weapons from the West can stop Putin, some commentators argue. Others warn that hardliners are driving a wedge between Merkel and Obama.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

End Putin's pinprick strikes

Supplying weapons to Ukraine to end Russia's dominance in the east of the country is long overdue, writes the liberal-conservative daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung: "Moscow is supplying the separatists with air defence missile systems and tanks and passing on the results of its military intelligence. Special forces are operating the state-of-the-art weapons and training the rebels. By contrast Ukrainian forces have only outdated equipment and lack ammunition. Their position is growing weaker by the day. If things continue this way Putin will be able to dictate the conditions in eastern Ukraine as he pleases. He can order his forces to advance further or concentrate on pinprick strikes and consolidating areas already captured. That would essentially be the opposite of what Merkel and the dwindling supporters of purely diplomatic initiatives supposedly want, namely peace for Ukraine." (09/02/2015)

Der Standard - Austria

EU and US must work together

The EU and the US must not diverge in the debate about supplying weapons to Ukraine, warns the left-liberal daily Der Standard: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama will have to find a way to prevent this happening when they meet. It will not be easy. Although Obama is cautious and probably favours Merkel's approach, he is under considerable pressure from Congress. A joint position may be for the US to send defensive weapons to Kiev that would leave its army less entirely at the mercy of artillery shells and drone attacks. At the same time Obama could pledge to match the most recent round of EU sanctions." (09/02/2015)

Le Monde - France

Arms for Ukraine will destabilise all Europe

The debate over arms supplies for Ukraine is symptomatic of the general confusion about how to deal with the war in eastern Ukraine, the liberal daily Le Monde concludes: "In reality no one except a couple of Republican tenors in the US Congress and the single-minded Baltic states and Poland want to supply Ukraine with arms. President Obama is sceptical and European politicians are aware of the risk of escalation. Some are saying this more clearly than others. But in spite of the renewed German-French attempt to negotiate, which had Europe on tenterhooks all weekend, everyone knows this question must be addressed. That it will be on the table again regardless of the outcome of the Merkel-Hollande mission. Do we arm Ukraine? Ultimately there are few convincing arguments either for or against the idea. But supplying weapons to an almost bankrupt country with 46 million inhabitants certainly wouldn't promote European stability." (09/02/2015)

Der Tagesspiegel - Germany

Obama must show solidarity with Merkel

John McCain had compared Merkel's rejection of arms supplies for Ukraine with the appeasement policy vis-à-vis Nazi Germany before World War II. The Republican senator's stance is completely counterproductive, the liberal-conservative Tagesspiegel comments: "US Senator John McCain's criticism of Angela Merkel only impedes negotiation in Europe's civil societies. To accuse the chancellor of pursuing an appeasement policy like that of 1938 and of being indifferent to people being 'slaughtered' in Ukraine is unspeakable and oblivious to history. He is undermining the community. US State Secretary John Kerry should have been far more forceful in rejecting this act of disloyalty among partners, so as to distance himself from it in the name of the Obama administration. But the president himself will have the opportunity to declare his solidarity with Angela Merkel, the key negotiator for the entire West, at their meeting at the start of this decisive week." (09/02/2015)


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The Times - United Kingdom

Britain should contribute to Ukraine

The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine have agreed to meet in Minsk for negotiations on the Ukraine conflict this Wednesday. What a shame that Britain is no longer involved in the search for a solution, the conservative daily The Times comments: "Britain, in short, is punching far below its weight as a medium-sized power. … Britain has hardly been a model of resolution. The early European actors trying to resolve the Ukraine crisis were France, Germany and Poland. Mr Hague was notably absent from that delegation to Kiev. If Britain had been part of the past week's diplomacy, it might - and assuredly ought - to have stressed that no peace plan is possible while Mr Putin lies about the extent of Russian disruption of the region. … It is a fallacy to suppose that international problems will get better if Britain, let alone the US, opts out of them." (09/02/2015)

Efimerida ton Syntakton - Greece

Europe rebels against German austerity

In his policy statement before the Greek parliament on Sunday Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared the EU bailout programme a failure and stressed that he intends to make good on his campaign pledges despite the political headwind. The left-liberal daily Efimerida ton Syntakton is convinced that Tsipras has a good hand: "The main thing is that the government has started negotiations and knows it has the backing of a broad section of society. It was encouraging that thousands of people took to the streets on Friday to show their support for the government chanting the slogan: 'We won't be blackmailed'. It needs this support during the negotiations. ... Europe is realising for the first time that the Greek problem has made it necessary to break the German government's hegemony because the latter has taken all the other governments hostage. The opposition of little Greece will soon mobilise political forces and movements in civil society across Europe." (09/02/2015)

La Stampa - Italy

France's new two-party system

In France the Socialists have won a narrow victory in the country's first election since the terrorist attack in Paris. In the department of Doubs the Socialist candidate Frédéric Barbier beat the Front National candidate Sophie Montel, securing 51.4 percent in a runoff vote on Sunday. The presidential election in 2017 may well produce similar results, the liberal daily La Stampa predicts: "After their party was put out of the running in the first round most UMP voters opted for the Socialists in the runoff in Doubs to prevent Le Pen from securing a victory. But Marine Le Pen can still claim victory because the result is proof of a new two-party system. On the one side the 'caste' made up of the PS and UMP, on the other the Front National. This means the political scenario is increasingly moving towards the situation described by Michel Houellebecq in his controversial book Soumission, published precisely on the tragic January 7: Hollande will be re-elected by a narrow margin in 2017 thanks to the votes of the UMP." (09/02/2015)

Radikal - Turkey

Even AKP worried about Turkey's polarisation

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has warned of the division of Turkish society. One half elects the ruling AKP party while the other half detests it, he said in an interview with CNN Türk on Saturday, and urged the AKP to adopt a conciliatory rhetoric. The liberal online paper Radikal is surprised at his openness: "Arınç points to the polarisation of society and is aware of the risks this entails. ... When such an important AKP politician makes a statement like this one can't help but ask what it means and whether he is expressing a trend within the party or simply his own personal stance. At least we can conclude that a large part of the AKP and its leadership is particularly concerned about social polarisation. Arınç's statement 'It is necessary to avoid escalating tensions in politics' can be seen as a trend that will not be ignored." (09/02/2015)


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Kauppalehti - Finland

Secretiveness only fans fears about TTIP

The EU and the US concluded the eighth round of negotiations on the TTIP free trade agreement on Friday. The business daily Kauppalehti complains about the inadequate information policy of the negotiating partners: "All the fuss over the TTIP negotiations shows how much fear globalisation still provokes. ... The negotiating partners on both sides of the Atlantic need to take a look in the mirror, because secretiveness is at odds with the times and only breeds conspiracy theories. One cause of concern is investor protection, which would allow companies to sue nation states. But companies already have this option today. Moreover public services have been completely scratched from the commission's negotiating mandate. But this piece of information is not getting across to the opponents of the agreement in the social media. A more open culture of communication throughout the negotiations would have been extremely helpful." (09/02/2015)

De Tijd - Belgium

The rich always find ways to dodge taxes

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published the results of its research into secret accounts at the Swiss bank HSBC on the weekend. The revelations lead the business daily De Tijd to conclude that a fairer society in Belgian society is just an illusion: "SwissLeaks also highlights the problem with the tax shift people are calling for [more taxes on capital and less on labour]. The Belgian government has been living beyond its means for years. In reaction to the trade unions' protest it is defending the illusion that someone else, namely the rich, can foot the bill. But SwissLeaks shows that these people have either already left or would be driven out of the country by a new property tax. Even if there is a tax shift, in the end the same people will be called on to pay, namely those who are paying already." (09/02/2015)


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Fakt - Poland

Pope's words on violence against kids stupid

Pope Francis I last week declared that parents should be allowed to smack their children - on the condition that their dignity was not harmed. Writing in a guest column for the conservative tabloid Fakt, the Polish feminist Magdalena Środa is outraged: "This is not the first time the Vatican has expressed this opinion, but it has been a while since a pope came out with such things, namely, the 19th century. And yet psychology has shown us that any form of violence begets new violence. The Pope has not read these reports. No one should be allowed to hit anyone else and that's that. Violence should be used neither privately nor publicly. Seen this way these are just stupid words coming from someone who clearly has no idea about the impact of violence on young people. What form that violence takes is utterly irrelevant." (09/02/2015)

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Referendum in Slovakia failed only for now

The referendum instigated by the Alliance for the Family against extending gay rights in Slovakia failed on Saturday due to turnout of just 21,4 percent. However the issue will not simply go away now, writes the conservative daily Lidové noviny: "We do not know how many of those who did not take part in the referendum are in favour of gay marriage or of same-sex couples adopting children. But more than 850,000 voters came out in support of the 'traditional family'. That is three-and-a-half times the amount of votes won by the Christian Democrats in the last elections, and they are the most conservative group in the country which stands for traditional family values. It is therefore only a matter of time before the initiators push through another referendum on the issue." (09/02/2015)

Göteborgs-Posten - Sweden

Sweden's approach to prostitution is right

The controversial Swedish prostitution law which permits prostitution but criminalises buying sex has been heavily criticised by the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education. According to the association the law, which has been in place since 1999, has done little to reduce the sex trade and has significantly worsened the situation for prostitutes. The liberal daily Göteborgs-Posten contends: "Banning prostitution is not without complications but the advantages outweigh the drawbacks. … Among other things a ban drastically reduces demand. And it makes it a lot easier for the police to arrest human traffickers. There is also no evidence that prostitutes in countries [where such legislation is not in place] are any less stigmatised or find themselves in a better situation. [Germany has become] a mecca for human trafficking. Sweden should not go down the same route." (07/02/2015)

Lietuvos rytas - Lithuania

Norway's child protection a Lithuanian horror story

The Lithuanian public is up in arms about the Norwegian child protection agency Barnevernet, which has taken a number of children from Lithuanian families living in Norway into protective custody. The stories told by the Lithuanian emigrants would make excellent new horror stories, scoffs the liberal daily Lietuvos rytas: "The large number of characters in Lithuanian folklore used by parents to frighten their disobedient children has grown. The witches, ghostly apparitions and evil uncles who creep in at night to steal children have now been joined by Norwegians. These blood-curdling stories about the secret, all powerful and ruthless child protection agency Barnevernet have been doing the rounds in Lithuania for a while now. … A good number of the stories told by Lithuanians end in a nightmare scenario - children who are taken away from their families and given to gay and lesbian couples in Norway." (07/02/2015)


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Vasárnapi Hírek - Hungary

Advertising tax could unleash Hungarian media war

Viktor Orbán's far-right conservative government is planning to introduce a five-percent advertising tax for all media companies. The media magnate and oligarch Lajos Simicska is set to wage a "total media war" against the government if it pushes through its plans. The left-liberal Sunday paper Vasárnapi Hírek expects an all-out power struggle between Orbán und Simicska, once close friends: "This is not a total media war but a new milestone in the dismantling of democracy. The old brothers in arms, Orbán und Simicska, are now crossing swords. No, not in the name of improving the fate of their fellow Hungarians, but simply for the sake of power. One of them already has the state in his pocket. Indeed, it's as if he already is the state itself. The other has an incredible fortune in the bank. … Now he is talking plainly. But Simicska has not yet let on all he knows. If he does, all hell will break lose." (08/02/2015)

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