Le Monde, Paris – On February 17, Kosovo will celebrate five years of independence. However, corruption among local political elites has yet to be eradicated at a time when the mandate for the European civil mission to the the former Serbian province has less than 18 months left to run. Questions are now are being asked about the reality of the rule of law in Pristina. See more.
Moldova: ‘Political crisis in Chișinău neglected in Bucharest. Alliance for European Integration no longer exists’
On February 14, Moldova’s Liberal-Democratic Prime Minister, Vlad Filat, announced that he would quit the Alliance for European Integration (the coalition in power since 2009), deploring prevailing corruption and the politisation of high-profile state jobs.
However, according to the press, the real catalyst for the crisis was the fatal accident in the course of a hunting trip attended by several high ranking officials, which took place in December 2012, and particularly the role of the former attorney general, who is member of one of the parties in the ruling coalition.
Diplomats in Romania failed to anticipate the crisis in the country’s eastern neighbour. Swedish, Polish and British foreign ministers are expected to arrive in Chișinău next week.
In the course of a visit to the Kunduz, the Dutch Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert announced that the Netherlands’ 545 Dutch troops, who are mainly based in the province, are to leave Afghanistan this year rather than 2014, as was initially planned.
She explained that their withdrawal will be linked to the withdrawal of German troops who provide them with protection, and who are expected to leave the province in mid-2013. In July, Dutch troops will hand over the management of the police training centre to their Afghan colleagues.
For the European press, the budget adopted by the bloc on February 8 marks a contraction of Europe’s ambitions and tilts the balance of power within the EU.
According to Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, the outcome of the most recent EU summit is proof of “a substantial shift in the balance of power in Europe”, with France, once the most influential country of the Union, “finding itself on the defensive”. The daily stresses that this is a completely new trend —
The Union will head towards the free trade zone dreamt of by the British and supported by the Germans rather than the ‘solidarity-driven federal structure’ wanted by Paris.- […] Surprisingly, a rather exotic alliance was created by France, Italy, Spain and Poland in defence of financial transfers, [resulting in] a clash between the rich North of the Union and the poor South and East […] However, there is no doubt that by imposing cuts Germany has shown its economic strength. Berlin’s dictate will be even harsher, while abundant transfers from Brussels may turn out to be only a nice memory if the Franco-Spanish-Italian-Polish club fails to improve its competitiveness.
In Germany, Die Welt believes that there is always “too much of the old Europe in this compromise” and criticises those who believe in a “European human right that guarantees that money will flow in from somewhere else.” It also advises the German government to ease back on its historical partnership with France —
Seldom before has Germany been such a heavyweight in the balance of power in Europe, one that by staying open to all sides remains compatible with all. Indeed, German interests overlap more often with London than they do with those of Paris.
In contrast, El País writes, “Europe is determined to treat pneumonia as if it were a simple cold […] and has come up with a skimpy deal” that “commits to austerity – and the scissors – for the next decade.” The daily continues —
Five years into the crisis, European budgets serve as a kind of compass for the European project. The EU seems distracted: it is moving along between the old and the new regimes while the old order is still standing and the new order has not yet been firmly established. In the midst of these doldrums, Berlin (supported by London) is increasing its power, and a withdrawal back towards the national or intergovernmental levels is emerging.
By 502 votes to 137, MEPs voted on February 6 “to adopt a common policy on sustainable fishing. That may seem trivial, but it is in reality a historical vote,” announces Libération The goal “is to reduce pressure on fish stocks to levels that can see them renewed by 2020.” This decision, writes La Vanguardia, represents a “shift in course”, especially because from 2014 onwards, discards – which make up 23 per cent of the catches of EU fleets – will be banned and all the fish caught will have to be brought back to port. It continues –
The need to curb the current overfishing and restore depleted fishing grounds and the awareness of the need to reduce the sizes of the fleets, are the pillars of the current shift to promote rational and sustainable fishing [… ] The fisheries policy embraces ethical values to put an end to the unacceptable habit of throwing back into the sea marine life that has no commercial value […] Till now, the former fisheries policy has only encouraged overfishing of European stocks: 48 per cent of the estimated stocks in the Atlantic Ocean and close to 90 per cent in the Mediterranean Sea are overexploited.
However, notes Le Monde,, the ban on discards did not meet with agreement all round –
Once landed at port, the fish that today are tossed back into the sea can be turned into fishmeal for animals, which itself brings a risk of developing this “accidental” fishing industry, note critics of this new system.
However, by opting for sustainable fishing, Europe, with the third-largest fleet in the world, may be putting itself at a disadvantage against its international competitors, writes Süddeutsche Zeitung in Germany.
It would be naive and presumptuous to believe that its rivals [China and Peru] will follow Europe’s noble example. In view of the power of the European fleet, though, much will be gained if the European vessels honour the principles of sustainability when they go fishing in non-European waters.
The foreign ministers of both countries decided at a meeting in Brussels to accelerate negotiations on settling differences arising from the bankruptcy of Slovenia’s Ljubljanska Banka, which was prompted by the implosion of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. More than 130,000 Croats had accounts with the bank when it ceased trading.
The affair, which has poisoned relations between the two countries, is the reason for Slovenia’s refusal to begin ratification of the treaty for Croatia’s accession to the EU, which is slated for July 1 of this year. If Ljubljana does not ratify the treaty by April 1, Croatia’s accession may be postponed.
Five years after the start of the crisis, Europe is still “choked by recession”, warns The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
In the light of this situation, the federation wonders about the role it should play on a continent that has typically been a source for donations rather a destination for missions.