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The paper clip, January 4 2013

04.01.2013 / 11:32 CET
A round-up of the day's international press.

Mario Monti, Italy's caretaker prime minister, has suggested that he can imagine a coalition with the Democratic Party – Italy's main centre-left opposition – only if Pier Luigi Bersani, its leader, gets rid of “extremist” views within the party, writes La Repubblica. Many Democratic politicians are troubled by Monti's reforms.

The three parties in Greece's ruling coalition maintain that Giorgos Papaconstantinou, a former finance minister, is the only person responsible for the apparent removal of three of his relatives from a list of alleged tax cheaters, writes Kathimerini. Syriza, a left-wing opposition party, is expected on Monday to demand an investigation to see whether Evangelos Venizelos, the leader of the main centre-left Pasok, knew of the matter – a move that could destabilise the coalition government.

The UK papers all look at Argentina's call for the UK to hand over the Falkland Islands. In an editorial, the Guardian writes that the governments of the UK and Argentina would do well to look to the island of Tromelin for a model for their negotiations.

Most of the German press covers the difficulties of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), the liberal junior member of Angela Merkel's coalition. The party is trailing badly in opinion polls and many commentators are speculating that Philipp Rösler, the party's leader, could be ousted. Handelsblatt reports that many within his party are calling for a change at the top so that they can concentrate on improving their popularity. The decision could have a bearing on Merkel's chances of forming another coalition after the elections in the autumn. “Increasing demands for leadership change,” is how Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung puts it. The FDP holds a conference in Stuttgart this weekend. Its success could prove crucial to Rösler's hold on power. Die Zeit says that “liberals are increasingly panicking”. The paper says that a recent survey of FDP supporters showed that most of them favoured Rösler being replaced by parliamentary leader Rainer Brüderle.

The Czech daily Hospodářské noviny looks at the latest battle between Russia and Ukraine over gas prices and summarises the battlelines with the headline: “Moscow's message – either the EU or cheaper gas”.

A commentator in the UK's Guardian looks at the year ahead for Greece, concludes that predications are futile, but one thing is certain – Greek society is under immense pressure.

The Wall Street Journal writes that the EU will face five foreign-policy tests in 2013 that it will not be able to delay, from Syria, Iran and Mali to Gaza and Ukraine.

The Czech daily Lidové noviny writes that the Cuban regime is toughening up again, and has increased the number of politically motivated arrests.

Islamist rebels are continuing their fierce assault on Taftanaz, a strategically located military airport in northern Syria, writes L'Orient-Le Jour from Lebanon. For the first time since the uprising began in March 2011, Aleppo's airport had to be closed as it came under rebel attack. An analyst tells the paper that new figures from the UN which put the death toll at 60,000, far more than previously thought, will have little effect on international diplomacy.

Latest polls prove that most Israelis are willing to end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state. So why, asks a commentator in Ha'aretz, is this is not translated into political reality?

Russia's decision to grant Gérard Depardieu Russian citizenship gathers a large amount of coverage. The report in the UK's Guardian has details of the French actor's relationship with the tough and controversial president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Libération writes that France's foreign minister has said that four French hostages kidnapped in Niger are still alive.

Süddeutsche Zeitung reports from Spain where a man covered himself in petrol and set himself alight. He was saved and on the way to hospital said that he was unemployed and had nothing to eat. The paper says it is just the latest in a long series of suicides and suicide attempts blamed on increasing austerity in the country.

Le Figaro reports that mortgage rates in France are at a historic low.

The British Liberal MEP Andrew Duff argues in the Guardian that “Pro-Europeans must make the case against inglorious EU isolation” for the UK. David Cameron's government continues to marginalise the UK; by 2015, we may end up just a problematic associate member, he writes. In the Financial Times, Richard Branson, the businessman who owns and runs the Virgin group, argues against leaving the EU. (Separately, Le Monde reports that Branson's Virgin stores in France will declare insolvency.)

Swiss courts have upheld legal provisions that make it very difficult for Swiss citizens to bring their children to Switzerland if they are not Swiss citizens, writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. EU citizens resident in Switzerland do not face similar restrictions because they benefit from a bilateral deal on family reunification, the paper writes.

Sme leads with a report that the Slovak government at the end of the year bought two small planes (at a cost of €9.8 million) without a public tender.

In continuing coverage of the twentieth anniversary of the division of Czechoslovakia, Sme has an interview with Vladimír Mečiar, who – with the Czech leader Václav Klaus – negotiated the ‘velvet divorce'. Mečiar blames the Czechoslovak president Václav Havel for the country's break-up.

A Czech court has decided that members of the communist-era Czechoslovak secret police will not be punished for in 1989 kidnapping and beating a dissident Petr Placák. Hospodářské noviny has a report.

Prosecutors in New Delhi are seeking the death penalty for five men who gang-raped a young woman before throwing her from a bus, writes the Times of India and papers across Europe. The brutal assault led to a wave of protests against gender-based violence in India.

The parties of the right have forsaken centrist broad appeal, writes a commentator in the Financial Times under the headline “The new prisoners of ideology”.

© 2014 European Voice. All rights reserved.

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