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The paper clip, 27 March

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Chinese investment in Italy, dinners with David Cameron, a U-turn by Angela Merkel on the size of the eurozone's firewall, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn back in court are some of the top stories in leading European newspapers today...

Hu Jintao, China's president, has said that he will encourage public and private investment in Italy, writes La Stampa. Hu's comments came during talks in Seoul, South Korea, with Mario Monti, Italy's prime minister. Monti is expected to hold talks with Wen Jiabao, China's prime minister, in Beijing later this week.

Monti has said he will not try to cling on to power if his reforms are rejected. Corriere della Sera has a report.

The cash-for-access scandal continues to be big news in the UK. Prime Minister David Cameron has bowed to pressure and admitted that 15 donors who gave a total of £25 million (€30m) to the Conservative Party enjoyed dinners and lunches with him at Chequers, the prime minister's official country residence, and in Downing Street. The conservative Daily Telegraph has extensive coverage. “The scent of money has become a bad smell around Cameron”, writes the Daily Telegraph. "Clean up the cesspit of party funding" is the headline of an editorial in the Daily Mail. The alternative to funding reform is more leaders being caught out or no parties at all, writes a commentator in the Independent.

There are fresh revelations in the Guardian involving Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. It reports on a BBC television programme, aired last night, about News Corp using computer hacking to undermine the business of its chief TV rival in the UK. 

Pádraig Flynn, a former European commissioner, has resigned from the Fianna Fáil party, the Irish Times writes. A tribunal into corruption found that Flynn had sought and received a substantial payment from a property developer in 1989. The paper says that Flynn would have almost certainly been expelled from the party if he had not resigned. 

Brian Cowen, a former prime minister and finance minister of Ireland, has acknowledged his role in the economic collapse in the country, the Irish Times writes. In his first public comments since leaving office, Cowen said that he took more responsibility than most for the economic problems. 

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is, once more, the focus of many of the French newspapers following the announcement yesterday that he has been put under formal investigation over alleged involvement in a prostitution ring in Lille. Le Monde reports that DSK appeared before judges for almost eight hours yesterday before they reached their decision. Le Figaro quotes Strauss-Kahn's lawyer as saying that his client never believed that any of the women he encountered were prostitutes. He adds that he believes that Strauss-Kahn only finds himself in this position because of his reputation. François Hollande, the Socialist candidate in next month's French presidential election – the role that, for a long time, DSK was expected to fill – “dodged the issue” when asked about the situation involving the former IMF head, reports Libération. “It's a private matter,” Hollande is reported as saying.

Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, now backs the idea of combining the eurozone's two bail-out funds to ensure sufficient firepower to avert financial contagion, writes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The German government could vote later this week to strengthen EU firewalls meant to stop the spread of the eurozone's debt crisis, reports Belgium's De Tijd. The government's U-turn has angered the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Horst Seehofer, the CSU's leader (and Bavaria's prime minister), backs the new course, but many party members are opposed to it.

Merkel has said that it would be a huge political mistake if Greece were allowed to leave the euro, and that Germany would do all it could to keep the eurozone together. The Guardian has a report.

Berlin's Tagesspiegel looks at Germany's Pirate Party, which on Sunday entered the regional parliament in the Saarland.

Austria's government faces problems after Germany dropped its support for an EU-wide tax on financial transactions, writes Der Standard. The Austrian government included revenues from such a tax in its long-term fiscal plan and now faces shortfalls.

Gazeta Wyborcza has a set of articles looking at secret CIA prisons in Poland. A former head of Poland's intelligence services (AW) has been charged with “depriving prisoners of their liberty” in connection with Poland's investigation into CIA 'black sites'. The European Parliament's civil-liberties committee will today discuss updates on the alleged illegal detention and transfers of prisoners in Europe by the CIA.

North Korea plans to go ahead with a rocket launch, despite demands from US President Barack Obama and other world leaders who are in Seoul for a summit on combating nuclear terrorism. The Daily Telegraph has a report.

In an opinion piece for Dagens Nyheter, Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt writes that his country recently shipped three kilograms of plutonium secretly to the US. Bildt writes that the shipment was part of Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), a non-proliferation programme run by the US government. He writes that he will present the shipment at a nuclear safety-summit in Seoul, South Korea, as an example other countries should follow to help prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

Le Figaro reports that a video of the killing spree in Toulouse last week has been sent to the television news channel Al-Jazeera, and is now in the hands of the police. The paper reports that the 25-minute video showing the shootings interspersed with war songs was sent on a USB stick with a letter claiming to be from al-Qaeda.

Public support for counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan has dropped sharply among Americans, writes the New York Times. The West has lost in Afghanistan, writes a commentator in the Financial Times. NATO's goals for the country are now minimal and focused on security, says Gideon Rachman. Even they might not be achieved.

Gazeta Wyborcza reports on a wave of self-immolations by Tibetans, both within Tibet and beyond its borders.

Slovakia's new governing party, the centre-left Smer, plans to change the electoral law. It would need the support of other parties to push the changes through. Sme has a report.

The ripples of a corruption scandal in Prague are widening. The prime minister, Petr Necas, has called on the former mayor of Prague, Pavel Bém, to give up his parliamentary seat, writes Hospodárské noviny. Transcripts of wire-taps captured Bém discussing personnel and business decisions with a leading lobbyist, Roman Janoušek. Janoušek was this weekend involved in a hit-and-run road accident. Mistakes in the police investigation into the accident have now prompted the resignation of Prague's deputy police chief.

The construction of a new bridge over the Danube River, connecting Bulgaria and Romania, will be completed by the end of November, Bulgaria's transport minister has said. Bulgaria's Trud has a report.

Belgium's De Standaard reports that the number of ethnic minorities living in Flanders has been under-estimated by government authorities. It reports on a research study that found that most foreigners come from the Netherlands. Morocco and Turkey. 

Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Dutch daily de Volksrant report on a strike by airport ground crew in Germany that has caused widespread disruptions to flights in Germany. Lufthansa said it has had to scrap 400 flights. Unions are demanding a 6.5% raise in wages. Their employers have offered a 3.3% wage increase.

Travellers at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport will be able to scan their own passports at airport security as of Wednesday, reports the NRC Handelsblad. The self-scans are supposed to reduce waiting times. Those wanting to use the scanners will have to have an updated biometric passport.

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