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European press review

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Surreal? Staged? The European Commission's reports on EU candidates fails to impress.  Nor does Ukraine's latest high-profile trial. Germany develops snoopware. And protest goes global.


We start this week with the European Commission’s annual exercise, the publication of progress reports on countries striving to become members of the EU, mainly the Balkan states, Iceland and Turkey.

For Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter the whole process was somewhat surreal and appeared staged. Croatia has completed accession negotiations, while Serbia and Montenegro have made enough progress to take some steps forward.

But several countries waiting to join have serious problems, the paper says, and the reality is that Europe may not be able to grow all that much more. Negotiations with Turkey are at a standstill, and, it appears, headed down the wrong path, as is also the case with Albania, Bosnia and Kosovo. With a debt crisis engulfing economies, Europe cannot afford to have new countries, most of which are poor, join.

Another country trying to get closer to Europe is Ukraine. A big story this week has been the jailing of a leading opposition figure there in what many in Europe are calling a politically motivated show-trial.

Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison and banned from politics for a decade, accused of abuse of power in negotiating a gas deal with Russia in 2009.

Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza wonders what President Viktor Yanukovych is up to, getting rid of a political opponent who is both popular at home and abroad. The paper says that the decision to jail the darling of the Orange Revolution makes Yanukovych seem like the leader of Belarus. It warns that he may only realise that once the EU starts to impose sanctions on him, the way it has on Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko.

From Germany, we have a Big Brother story that has horrified internet-privacy advocates. It seems that the authorities are now able to take control of private computers and even watch over their users.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that German authorities have developed computer spyware that can keep watch on personal computers. According to a group of hackers called the Chaos Computer Club, the so-called State Trojan was developed to help track down criminals.

With a judge’s authorisation, it can be used to intercept conversations over Skype. But it is also able to remotely run programmes, search, write and manipulate files, or even take over control of a computer camera. However, the hackers say there is very little security and that the information retrieved by the state can be easily accessed.

In Britain, meanwhile, tighter state control over the internet is reassuring parents.

The Daily Telegraph says that the British government has agreed with the four biggest internet providers that from now on new customers will have to apply for access to sexually explicit websites.

The paper’s editorialist says the move will be welcomed by parents trying to protect their children from unsavoury content. The only regret he has is that the policy doesn’t extend to violent games online. I would rather that my sons get a glimpse of sex than dismembered bodies, he says. In a truly golden childhood, they would be shielded from both.

And we end our press review with the Occupy Day protests against social injustice and the poor state of democracy, which also made headlines around Europe this week.

For Austria’s Wiener Zeitung the protests in 79 countries are a sign that the political emancipation symbolised in the uprisings in the Middle East is beginning to penetrate Western societies.

Democracy is getting old and its mechanisms no longer reach people, the paper says. In our increasingly interconnected world, people are able to represent themselves. It’s only a matter of time before it leads to worldwide solidarity. A new and exciting era is dawning, and traditional politics could be on the way out, as democracy gets a long-awaited update.

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