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The paper clip, 21 September

Monday 21 September 2009

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) has pledged not to back a red-green coalition after Germany's elections on 27 September, giving voters a clear choice between a centre-right-liberal government and a centre-left-green administration. The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) continues to improve its poll ratings, Die Welt writes, with the latest survey giving the SPD 26% while support for the centre-right Christian Democrats-Christian Social Union (CDU-CSU) has fallen to 36%.

Germany's finance and economy ministers have said that there will have to be tax increases and spending cuts after the elections, Süddeutsche Zeitung writes.

Die Welt looks at the latest economic forecasts from the International Monetary Fund, which predict that Germany's economy will grow by 0.3% next year. Unemployment is expected to rise from 8% to 10.7%.

At Opel, negotiations are starting between unions and management over jobs cuts as part of a restructuring plan, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. The leader of the unions, Klaus Franz, is quoted as saying that the cuts envisaged are unacceptable.

Many German MEPs continue drawing full pensions from earlier public offices held in Germany, writes the newsweekly Der Spiegel. The magazine mentions the example of newly elected MEP Birgit Schnieber-Jastram from the centre-right CDU, who receives €7,665 monthly as an MEP while also getting another €5,500 from her previous job. The double payments have become possible because of a loophole in German legislation that opened up earlier this year.

The Czech foreign minister, Eduard Janota, would like to cut politicians' pay by 20%, Mladá fronta Dnes writes. Janota says that if teachers, policemen and civil servants are being affected by cutbacks, so too should politicians. Lidové noviny writes that the Czech government will today decide on a package of cuts.

Le Figaro reports that the trial of former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin begins today in Paris. De Villepin stands accused of having leaked false information about Nicolas Sarkozy, France's current president and his political rival, in an attempt to smear his reputation. The information made it appear that Sarkozy had received kick-backs from arms sales. Libération also has a report.

Der Spiegel writes that the chances of Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany's centre-right interior minister, becoming his country's next European commissioner have increased.

Charlie McCreevy, Ireland's European commissioner, warns that a second ‘No' vote in the Lisbon treaty referendum could spell economic disaster for Ireland. Quoted in the Financial Times, he says that a ‘No' could “stir up speculation” among the media and investors “about this country being forced out – or being forced to the margins – of the European Union – with no role, no influence and no voice that is listened to”.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European commissioner for external relations and a former Austrian foreign minister, has pulled out of the race to become secretary-general of UNESCO, the UN's cultural organisation, writes Die Presse. In a third round of voting by members of UNESCO's executive committee on Saturday, Ferrero-Waldner came only third, behind a Bulgarian candidate. The frontrunner is still Faruk Hosni, Egypt's culture minister. It is unclear whether Ferrero-Waldner will be able to continue as commissioner when the new European Commission is put together this autumn.

Gazeta Wyborcza gives its front page to the pending advent of large-scale e-government in Poland. Rzeczpospolita focuses on the aftermath of the gas explosion on Friday that killed 13 miners; Poland will hold a day of national mourning today. Rzeczpospolita also looks at the problem of youth unemployment in the crisis.

Eighty percent of Romanian companies lack liquidity, Adevarul reports today. A recent study carried by the financial and audit consultancy R&M reveals that the majority of companies have been encountering liquidity problems from the beginning of this year.

Le Monde previews the meeting of world leaders at the United Nations, which starts today. The paper says that US President Barack Obama is taking a markedly different approach to the annual meeting than his predecessor George W. Bush. The paper says that where Bush tried to keep his visits to the UN as short as possible, Obama has set out an ambitious three-day agenda covering nuclear disarmament, progress in the Middle East Peace Process, and the warming up of relations with Russia.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown will urge other world leaders to go to Copenhagen in December to broker a global deal on climate change. In an article for Newsweek tomorrow, Brown will say that “the negotiations are proceeding so slowly that a deal is in grave danger”. The Guardian has the story.

The UK party-conference season is in full swing and all the papers give more prominence than usual to the Liberal Democrats, Britain's third political party. Today the party will announce new taxes on higher earners and property owners with homes worth more than £1 million (€1.1m). “That is not a big sacrifice,” Nick Clegg, party leader and former MEP, told the Independent. “It's completely in line with how pretty well every tax system in the world works.” The Daily Telegraph and the Times also report on changing party policy in times of cutbacks.

Romania's Gandul writes about the financial plight of Romania's sportspeople. It says that some of the Romanian rowers who won the European Championship in Belarus yesterday are living on less than €100 a month, and says this is part of a broader problem that has left even the country's most promising sportspeople struggling to secure contracts and sponsorship.

Le Figaro reports on the new novel by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the former president of France, in which a French president has a love affair with “the princess of Cardiff”, a character who appears to share a striking resemblance with Princess Diana. The novel is set in the 1980s (Giscard d'Estaing was president from 1974-81). The president, Jacques-Henri Lambertye, becomes close to the princess after she discovers her husband has a mistress.

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