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The paper clip

24.01.2013 / 10:36 CET
A round-up of the international news on Thursday, 24 January.

Britain's – and the rest of Europe's – newspapers are full of the announcement by UK Prime Minister David Cameron that he plans to call a referendum on EU membership in 2017. Commentators in the UK's Guardian are generally negative. Cameron's speech could have been a lot worse, says one, but five years of anxious uncertainty are bad news for Europe and the world. Another describes the speech as reckless and the moment when Cameron's pragmatic centre-right project finally bent the knee to ideological fantasy. A former Labour minister and European commissioner, Peter Mandelson, writes in the Financial Times that Cameron remains in need of an EU plan: the union is approaching the outer limit of its flexible geometry, the patchwork quilt of different opt-ins and opt-outs, he argues. A commentator in France's Le Figaro writes that Europe is perplexed by Cameron's approach. A leading figure in the Finnish opposition, Timo Soini, says he would like a referendum in Finland as well. Hungary's Népszabadság reports on divisions on the issue in the British political elite. The Wall Street Journal reports on the negative reception from European Union member states to a speech by David Cameron yesterday. Austria's Der Standard is baffled that after 40 years of membership in the EU, Britain still does not understand that its interests lie in continued membership.

The UK's Daily Telegraph writes that support for Scottish independence has fallen to 23%.

A junior party in the Slovenian governing coalition has left the government. Dnevnik argues that a stalemate will ensue as the logical next steps are unlikely: a vote of confidence of the resignation of Prime Minister Janez Janša. Večer has described Janša's decision to stay put as a “bad day for Slovenia”. Delo looks at one factor in the government's problems: a general strike. The strike demonstrates the government's inability – and unwillingness – to talk.

The European Commission's advisory group for Greece is disappointed with the country's new tax law, writes Kathimerini.

The European Commission has backed the embattled chief of Greece's statistics agency over allegations that he inflated the country's 2009 data – a move that exposed the country's financial crisis to the outside world. The UK's Independent has a report.

Czech voters will tomorrow start deciding whether Karel Schwarzenberg, the current foreign minister, or Miloš Zeman, a former prime minister, should be the next president. Slovakia's Sme looks at where the two agree and differ. The Czech daily Lidové noviny details some of the lies and insults that have featured in the campaign. Zeman has been strongly supported by the outgoing president, Václav Klaus, his former opponent in party politics – though, as Respekt puts it, they have “always been together”.

The International Monetary Fund has told the UK to tone down its programme of austerity measures, says the Guardian.

Members of the Romanian parliament have strengthened their immunity from prosecution, Romania's Adevărul and Slovakia's Týžden report.

A plan to liberalise the EU market in sugar, one of the most highly subsidised aspects of agricultural policy, has been thrown into doubt, the Financial Times writes

Israel's Ha'aretz writes about Yair Lapid, who has emerged as a crucial ally for Benjamin Netanyahu as the latter seeks to cobble together a government coalition following Tuesday's election.

Blic reports that Radomir Markovic, a former Serbian intelligence chief who is currently serving a 40-year murder sentence, might be released in exchange for his co-operation with prosecutors investigating the Milosevic-era assassination of a prominent editor. Markovic was found guilty of the assassination of four associates of an opposition leader in the 1990s.

Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, has said that the evacuation of 77 Russians from Syria was not the beginning of a Russian withdrawal and that the opposition's "obsession" with toppling Bashar Assad was the main obstacle to peace in the country, writes the New York Times.
The German carmaker Volkswagen intends to invest €785 million into Spain over the next five years. The Czech daily Lidové noviny has a report.

The Financial Times reports on potential $10bn natural gas exploration and production agreement that could reduce Ukraine's reliance on costly imports from Russia.

The veteran German education minister, Annette Schavan, is fighting for her political life today after the university that awarded her a doctorate more than 30 years ago took steps to take it away amid allegations that parts of her academic thesis were plagiarised, the UK's Independent reports.

© 2014 European Voice. All rights reserved.

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