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European press review

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We begin this week with the capsizing of the cruise liner Costa Concordia, which has dominated the headlines around Europe.


This perspective comes from Slovakia. The daily Sme takes aim at the captain of the huge liner, saying his decision to abandon some of the passengers has badly tarnished Italy’s image.

The captain is the last person to leave a sinking ship, the liberal newspaper says, it’s a moral dictate that applies the world over. His irresponsibility has further damaged Italy’s international reputation.

The country has been led to the brink of bankruptcy by people with that same mentality, and the rest of Europe has to deal with the consequences, the paper says. The captain could have done no worse service to his country and its tourism sector at this time of economic crisis.

Another big story comes out of Hungary. The European Commission has threatened Budapest with legal action if it does not change part of its new constitution, which could pose a threat to democracy there.

The daily Nepszabadsag says the EU has begun a process that could allow it to push out Prime Minister Viktor Orban, just as the leaders of Greece and Italy were forced out. But it won’t be easy, the centre-left newspaper warns.

To dump a premier from beyond a country’s borders, when he has two-thirds support from his parliament, is no simple matter. On top of that, the opposition is a shambles, and isn’t democratic legitimacy a European value, asks the daily, the country’s most widely-read paper.

The EU should be aware that too much pressure might just give a boost to Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party. The days ahead will prove whether Orban is willing to be more flexible about the new laws.

In Spain, one of the country’s most respected judges has been in court, but this time as a defendant.

The man who brought Chilean dictator Augusto Pinchet to justice, Baltasar Garzon, appeared this week in the first of three possible trials.

He’s accused of ordering the illegal wire tapping of communications between lawyers and their clients in a massive political corruption inquiry. He could be disbarred for 17 years, meaning an end to his career.

According to the daily Publico, the charges are politically motivated. The phone tapping was not arbitrary, the left-leaning paper says, as there is evidence the lawyers were involved in the alleged activities of their clients.

Such a trial, in the Supreme Court, could never have taken place in a real democracy. It’s aimed at destroying his career, the paper says.

Plenty of Europe’s old media were looking at developments in the new media world this week.

Indeed, the protest online led by Wikipedia made plenty of front pages. The internet encyclopedia shut down its English-language site for 24 hours in protest against proposed new US laws aimed at protecting intellectual property rights.

Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad says the protest was entirely justified. The slightest allegation suggesting that a website might be suspect would be enough to shut it down, the liberal paper says. Sites like Wikipedia or YouTube could not exist under such conditions.

The law is being sold as a means to protect against foreign piracy websites, but it’s mainly about protecting jobs in the US film industry.

Yet it would hit the whole internet world which relies on the free exchange of information. People would expect countries like China to come up with this kind of law, the paper says.

And we end this week in Finland, where it’s been a bit of a dry month, for some.

After all the parties of Christmas and the New Year, many Finns traditionally stop drinking alcohol in the month of January. But a recent British study has suggested that this might not be good for people used to consuming large quantities on a regular basis.

Nevertheless, insists the daily Aamulehti, alcohol-free January is a fantastic invention and it is growing in popularity. It may be that many Finns realize they drink a bit too much, and that a month of abstinence doesn’t do any harm.

Doctors, the liberal newspaper says, maintain that blood pressure lowers and sleeping patterns improve after just two weeks without a tipple.