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European press review
We start this week with one of the biggest stories in Europe over the last seven days: the agreement to provide Greece with a new financial bailout.
The European Union has tried to put the Greek debt crisis behind it once and for all.
After marathon talks, eurozone finance ministers decided that Athens can receive some 130 billion euros over the next two years. But according to Greek daily To Ethnos, the money will not be enough to get the country back up on its feet.
The crisis has rumbled on for two years, and Greece has accumulated a back-log of tasks that may prove too difficult to overcome. So there is no room for manoeuver and no room for error, the centre-left newspaper says.
Negotiations with its eurozone partners were so tough that Greece is unlikely to get any leniency should it trip up. If the reforms do not encourage economic growth, then more austerity could be on the way.
It wasn’t only Greece on the receiving end of warnings from Brussels this week.
The European Commission warned Hungary that it could lose almost half a billion euros in development subsidies from the EU next year if it fails to rein in its budget deficit.
Budapest has until 1 January to bring its deficit below the ceiling of three percent of Gross Domestic Product. The daily Nepszabadsag says the threat is unjustified. No EU country has received such a warning, the liberal newspaper says. Not even the Greeks, who conned Europe for years.
Other countries are also in a worse state. The paper says the move is more likely linked to Hungary’s row with the commission over its new constitution, which has raised concern in Brussels about the state of democracy, and the independence of the justice system and the media.
These other countries, it says, are less insolent and that’s why the teacher is not rapping them across the knuckles.
But it’s not all been one-way traffic. Brussels has had its fair share of criticism with protests over the Anti-Counterfeit Trading Agreement (ACTA).
As a result of the demonstrations over fears that free speech could be stifled on the internet, the European Commission has decided to refer the agreement to the European Court of Justice, to see whether it’s legal.
Twenty-two EU nations have signed it so far, but Germany and Poland are backing away.
Germany’s Stuttgarter Zeitung warns that Europe’s leaders must tackle the issue of internet policy if they are to stop society from being divided into digital and analogue worlds.
Internet policy is no longer a niche activity - it’s as important as any other policy, the liberal daily says. Politicians must come to grips with its substance, and not leave control in the hands of the self-appointed digital avant-garde or commercial providers.
All stake holders have to be involved to ensure greater transparency. But politicians must define the rules for this sector and defend them, the paper says.
Syria continued to dominate headlines this week, with scores killed in the city of Homs, including two western journalists.
As European Union foreign ministers prepare to tighten sanctions against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad next week, Belgium’s De Morgen accuses the West of being too lenient.
The centre-left daily says leaders have condemned the killings and lamented the loss of life, but it says that lamenting won’t save anybody. The West has done little since China and Russia vetoed UN action against Damascus.
International efforts lack urgency, and this is what is required now, given the incredible number of deaths, the paper says. Some options could be to resume talks with Russia, hold direct talks with Assad or even cut off military supplies to his armed forces. But nothing is happening.
And we end this week in the Czech Republic, where a well-known artist has been sent to prison over his work.
The guerilla performance artist Roman Tyc has been jailed for a month for refusing to pay a fine for one of his stunts. He was ordered to pay around 2400 euros five years ago for changing the red and green figures on road crosswalk lights.
In their place, he put up quirky images of legless, hanged or drinking figures, even some of people walking dogs, or women with children. Hospodarské Noviny says the art stunt was fun, popular and ranks among his best work.
Even the judge admitted that the public liked it, but insisted that city property was damaged.
However, the business daily says that it’s unclear exactly what offence was committed. Tyc is no political prisoner, for sure, but he has become a symbol of the stupidity of the powers that be.