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The paper clip, 28 March

Wednesday 28 March 2012

A peace plan for Syria, a referendum date for Ireland, the findings of a commission to investigate plagarism by Hungary's president, the sharing of airline data with the US, and CIA prisons in Poland: these are some of the topics making headlines in Europe's newspapers today.

Syria's regime has accepted a six-point peace plan proposed by Kofi Annan, a United Nations special envoy, write the UK's Guardian and Abu Dhabi's The National, but the opposition is accusing the regime of playing for time.

The Irish government yesterday announced that the referendum on the fiscal compact treaty will take place on 31 May, the Irish Times writes. The paper says a major international financial institute has said that a ‘No' vote will damage the country's ability to borrow.

A Hungarian government commission has found that President Pál Schmitt copied the work of others extensively in his doctoral thesis – but concluded that he should keep his degree, arguing that his supervisors had failed in his job. Schmitt copied 17 pages from one author and 180 pages from another. Hungary's Népszabadság and Slovakia's Sme have reports.

The European Parliament's civil liberties, justice and home-affairs committee has approved a deal to share airline passenger data with the US, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. The agreement has been criticised by civil liberties campaigners who argue that it allows too much scope for law enforcement authorities to use the data.

Gazeta Wyborcza continues its investigation into the existence of secret CIA prisons in Poland. Separately, the paper writes that the European Parliament is demanding explanations from Poland.

Spain has fallen back into recession and its government plans even more cuts, the UK's Daily Telegraph writes. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said that he will press ahead with a “very austere budget”, ordering 15% cuts in spending.
 
Mario Monti, Italy's prime minister, this morning told an audience in Tokyo that the eurozone crisis “is almost over”, the website of the Guardian writes.

Bankers should have their bonuses capped at no more than twice their basic pay, according to Othmar Karas, an Austrian centre-right MEP. The UK's Daily Telegraph has a report.

Austria's parliament is expected today to adopt measures to save €27 billion through 2016, writes Die Presse. The measures include tax hikes and expenditure cuts.

Belgium's Le Soir reports that the Belgian federal government has to find an additional €5 billion in savings at the end of this year to make sure Belgium's budget deficit falls below the EU's threshold of 3% of gross domestic product.

Germany's main opposition parties, the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, are backing plans by the German government to extend the duration of the temporary eurozone rescue fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. This would make it possible to run the EFSF in parallel to the permanent fund, the European Stability Mechanism, and give the eurozone up to €700 billion to lend to eurozone countries in financial difficulties. Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, needs the support of opposition parties to get approval to extend the operating life of the EFSF.

With the UK's main governing party, the Conservative Party, embroiled in a ‘cash-for-access' scandal, the Conservative-friendly Daily Telegraph sums up its attitude to the government: “Shifty and arrogant, but still the best government we've got.”

Two Dutch F-16 jet fighters saw combat action this week in the skies above Afghanistan, reports NRC Handelsblad. The jets were scrambled to support an Italian base that had come under attack in the city of Farah. Bombs were dropped.

Fidel Castro, Cuba's former leader, is to meet Pope Benedict XVI today in Cuba, reports de Volkskrant, a Dutch daily. Castro announced that he would meet the pontiff on a website on Tuesday. Benedict arrived in Cuba on Monday, 14 years after the previous pope, John Paul II, visited the communist island.

Shaul Mofaz, a former chief of staff of the Israel Defence Forces and a former defence minister, has won a primary to lead the opposition Kadima party, writes Ha'aretz. Mofaz defeated the incumbent, Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister.

The credit-rating agency Moody's has lowered its outlook for Slovakia's banks to ‘negative', the Wall Street Journal writes.

A Belgian carrier, Brussels Airlines, is threatening to leave the country if it does not receive a package of aid measures. According to Belgium's De Standaard and De Morgen, Bernard Gustin, the company's chief executive, held talks with members of the Belgian federal government coalition on Tuesday. The company says it is unable to compete with Ryanair owing to higher fuel prices.

Many German newspapers, including Handelsblatt, report on a gas leak at an oil platform in the North Sea.

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