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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 24/09/2015

 

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VW scandal growing

According to media reports the German government also knew of the technical possibilities for rigging emissions tests. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

While Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned on Wednesday, the German government has now come under pressure to explain itself in the scandal over rigged emissions tests. It has allegedly known since the autumn of 2014 that the emissions were higher in normal conditions. Some commentators turn a critical eye on German politics and decry the ties with industry. Others explain the scandal saying that the battle for customers is making companies unscrupulous.

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

The German system of complicity

One cause for the scandal at Volkswagen is the close ties between business and politics so typical of Germany, the liberal daily Il Sole 24 Ore believes: "There is one thing that Mrs Merkel did not say - and will presumably not say because it has been omitted from debate in Germany until now: at the core of the scandal, and at the same time at the heart of the system, is an interdependence between politics and business which undermines the reliability and respectability of German industry and society. The role of the government [of Lower Saxony] and the unions [as major shareholder and members of the supervisory board] in the (inadequate) controls of Volkswagen - and of the country's industry in general - is so extensive that it must be assumed that the German system can easily slide from joint administration to tacit compromises and complicity. The Volkswagen scandal is the most striking example, and the misdeeds of the public banking sector are the worst." (24/09/2015)

L'Obs - France

What constitutes a mistake for the Germans?

One aspect is missing in the German debate about the VW scandal, the centre-left weekly magazine L'Obs comments: "The only subject that our German colleagues have not addressed is morals. ... How can the country of Angela Merkel, which has never stopped rapping the knuckles of the horrible Greeks, those 'cheaters', 'liars', and 'cookers of books', maintain the pressure when Greece is forced to ask for the inevitable fourth bailout package or a debt write-off? This is not a form of 'Schadenfreude', or malicious joy at others' misfortune, but a real question: What exactly do the Germans understand by the word 'mistake'?" (22/09/2015)

De Standaard - Belgium

Companies unscrupulous in battle for customers

Consumers should ask themselves what role they play in scandals like the one at VW, writes the liberal daily De Standaard: "Scandals over tax fraud, child labour, design faults, the side-effects of medications all come and go without much change. Apologies are murmured, a company boss resigns, share prices take a hit, but soon everything goes back to the way it was before. … Even worse than a company that damages public health, pollutes the environment or violates basic social rights is one whose products are no longer cool. It is then that the customers, fixated on status, know no mercy. … It's no wonder companies are prepared to take major risks in the never-ending battle for the customers' favour. Because they are judged far more by their ability to please their customers than by their behaviour towards society." (24/09/2015)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - Germany

US more serious about consumer protection

In view of the fact that the VW scandal began with investigations in the US, the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung asks why it's always US authorities that uncover fraud especially at German firms: "Siemens' slush funds, Deutsche Bank's swindles on pretty much every market in the world, Volkswagen's huge fraud and even the scandal over Qatar's winning bid to host the World Cup would never have come to light or been prosecuted without investigators from the US. How does this fit in with the distorted image the opponents of a free trade agreement with the United States have, according to which German consumers are to be poisoned with American chlorinated chicken? In actual fact the whole idea of consumer protection comes from America. And the US certainly takes it more seriously than we do." (24/09/2015)

POLITICS

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Postimees - Estonia

EU must not give up consensus principle

The fact that a majority won out against a minority regarding the distribution of refugees in the EU does not bode well for the future of the Union, the centre-right daily Postimees fears: "Until now decisions have been taken by consensus, and it was one of the cornerstones of Europe that members should seek - and reach - agreement. Now that this precedent has been set there is the temptation to settle other issues through majority decisions. On the one hand such a change in practice is understandable, bearing in mind the seriousness of the situation.... On the other hand this precedent must not become a habit, because other big issues will have to be resolved. Moving away from unanimous, consensus-based decisions will undermine Europe's unity, which could in turn chip away at its basic principles such as security agreements." (24/09/2015)

Delo - Slovenia

Exodus to Europe: A Union of Egoists

At the emergency summit on the refugee crisis the EU heads of state and government pledged a billion euros to help refugees in Syria's neighbouring countries and strengthen EU borders. Despite the agreement the summit has exposed a catastrophic level of disunity, the centre-left daily Delo criticises: "It is not strong enough to solve the problems of the countries from which the refugees come, or to stem the flood of refugees. As far as foreign policy is concerned, the EU seems like a dwarf. … In the refugee crisis the member states are at odds and levelling mutual accusations. In keeping with the tradition for resolving disputed issues in Brussels, the quotas will now be accepted 'involuntarily voluntarily'. But they won't solve the problem and they only highlight how deep the rift is between the member states and how far their egoism goes." (24/09/2015)

Helsingin Sanomat - Finland

Exodus to Europe: Finland avoids a clear line

Finland was the only country to abstain in the vote on the distribution of refugees at the meeting of EU interior ministers on Tuesday. Its abstention was mainly the result of tensions within the governing coalition, the liberal daily Helsingin Sanomat believes: "The decision must be understood with reference to the government programme introduced this spring in which the distribution of refugees within the EU was to take place on a voluntary basis. Since then Finnland's attitude has weakened somewhat. ... Finland could have voted for the refugee quotas, together with the other recalcitrant states like Poland and the Baltic countries. But it didn't because, pressured by their supporters, the populist True Finns once more tightened their position. Finland's abstention can be understood in two ways: either the conservative National Coalition Party and the Centre Party gave in to the True Finns or they wanted to show that the True Finns cannot determine government policy on their own." (24/09/2015)

Jornal de Angola - Angola

Exodus to Europe: Hungary doesn't deserve EU membership

The reintroduction of border controls by Germany and Austria can't be compared with Hungary's behaviour towards the refugees, the government-controlled Angolan daily Jornal de Angola comments: "Hungary should not see the reintroduction of border controls in Germany and Austria as a 'victory for the closing of borders' [in Europe]. … Germany receives thousands and thousands of refugees every day and has to guarantee their registration and distribution somehow. … It's one thing to try and control the influx of people more or less effectively but it's quite another to attack and humiliate them after all they have already gone through. Like all the other countries that are denying asylum to people fleeing war and misery, this Hungary should have no place in Europe." (18/09/2015)

Newsweek Polska - Poland

Russians don't want military intervention in Syria

According to media reports Russia is sending combat jets to Syria. The news magazine Spiegel Online on Wednesday quoted a Russian military expert as saying that the move comes in preparation for a ground offensive against the IS terrorist organisation. The liberal news magazine Newsweek Polska has its doubts: "It's clear that major losses are out of the question for the Russians. Hushed-up deaths in the Donbass conflict have caused a storm of outrage in Russia. And many Russians have no understanding whatsoever for this exotic war. Because it doesn't fit in with Putin's imperial ambitions and his tussles with the West. In this case not even nationalist propaganda can help. ... For these reasons only a limited, one-off operation with a lot of media hype is in the cards. Only quick land manoeuvres of the type seen in the first phase of the Donbass war - when the 'green men' suddenly appeared - would be acceptable." (24/09/2015)

Handelsblatt - Germany

Tsipras should have chosen new partners

The new and old Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has again formed a coalition with the right-wing Independent Greeks party. Three of his ministers were already members of his previous cabinet. The liberal business daily Handelsblatt sees this as a bad decision: "So Tsipras has opted for continuity. That may sound constructive but it's not good news. If one thinks back to the unproductiveness, confusion and incompetence of Tsipras's first team one would wish for more changes. But for that it seems he lacks the resources. … With the rash renewal of his coalition with the right-wing populist Independent Greeks Tsipras has wasted an opportunity to give his government a broad basis. And that even though pro-European parties like the centre-left To Potami and the social democratic Pasok, which moreover has experience in government, had signalled their willingness to work together with Syriza." (24/09/2015)

Hürriyet Daily News - Turkey

Don't move polling stations in Cizre

In the Kurdish city of Cizre in south-eastern Turkey several polling stations are to be relocated to other districts for the general election on November 1. The local authorities say that otherwise the voters' security can't be guaranteed. Turkey's highest election committee will rule on the issue next week. Tarhan Erdem, founder of the opinion research institute Konda, hopes in the liberal Hürriyet Daily News that the initiative will be stopped: "There is also the rumour of only relocating those polling stations where the [pro-Kurdish] Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) has won all the votes. In Cizre, where there are 62,000 valid votes, the percentage of votes the HDP has won in those three neighbourhoods is 96 percent. In other Cizre neighbourhoods and villages, this rate is 88 percent. If relocation is done and voters are transported, HDP votes will go down from 57,000 to 54,000, at the most 50,000. Baseless solutions decrease the confidence on the state; I hope election boards make cautionary decisions." (24/09/2015)

The Guardian - United Kingdom

British politics needs Lib Dems at its centre

The leader of the British Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, said on Wednesday at the party conference in Bournemouth that he hoped to see the party back in government soon. After its election fiasco in May and Labour's shift to the left the country needs a strong centrist party again, the centre-left daily The Guardian concurs: "His formulation, that the party had had five tough years in the coalition, but that the country had had five tougher months since they left it, is an effective endorsement of the case for accepting the responsibilities of power. Even the most vocal critics of the Lib Dems' role in government cannot deny that it is worse without them. As much as it ever has, the politics of Britain needs the strong and cogent voice at its centre that the Lib Dems can provide." (23/09/2015)

ECONOMY

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L´Hebdo - Switzerland

Switzerland discriminates against US investors

The Swiss parliament voted last week to transfer the bank account details of foreign investors to the tax authorities in their countries. As the exchange of data will particularly affect OECD states certain investors will be discriminated against, Yves Genier criticises in his blog for the weekly magazine L'Hebdo: "Of course the Swiss banks defend themselves by saying that they're not the only ones. ... But on the other hand these same banks create all kinds of obstacles for US citizens - or even for those with US green cards - who have no difficulties with the US tax authorities and want to open a current or savings account. A double standard if ever there was one! Do these banks really prefer the dirty money of corrupt potentates to that of honest but - unfortunately for them - American investors? What strange strategic priorities. And what place does reason have in this choice?" (22/09/2015)

SOCIETY

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Expressen - Sweden

Exodus to Europe: Sweden already has shortage of living space

In view of Sweden's acute housing shortage and the roughly 1,000 asylum seekers entering the country each day, the tabloid Expressen takes the government and the Green Party's minister for housing severely to task: "What to do with the refugees? In the budget plan presented by the government [on Tuesday] there was no sign of a house-building programme for new arrivals. Instead the government covers itself with a fig leaf, saying that all communities must take in refugees. ... In the absence of political solutions, more refugees will end up whiling away their time in asylum centres. And space will grow even tighter in areas with a high density of migrants when newly arrived relatives have to sleep on mattresses. It is incomprehensible that the Green Party seems to have no interest in how integration is supposed to work in practice." (24/09/2015)

MEDIA

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Trouw - Netherlands

Too much hype over photos of Fortuyn's killer

The scandal over the publishing of photos of right-wing populist politician Pim Fortuyn's murderer in the media in 2014 has put the Dutch Justice Minister Ard van der Steur in a tight spot. Because the terms of Volkert van der G.'s early release strictly ban him from having anything to do with the media, the photos caused a major scandal. Now it has emerged that the photo session was actually arranged by the judiciary. Too much is being made of the affair, the Christian social daily Trouw warns: "Everyone involved in this affair made mistakes. … In essence the [collaboration of the public prosecutors] was justifiable. The assumption that the media would hunt down Fortuyn's recently released killer was realistic. One can take the initiative to keep that hunt under control. However, it is worrying that the public prosecutors apparently sent the [current] minister of justice to parliament [where he said the judiciary had nothing to do with the photos] with false information." (24/09/2015)

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