European press review

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Was Egypt's football violence deliberately provoked? Are Europe's lower middle class becoming the new poor? Is it time to challenge the power of Facebook? And why doesn't Benetton believ in the stockmarket any more?


We start this week in Egypt, where violence at a football game in Port Said left more than 70 dead. Many have been wondering whether it was orchestrated for political ends.

Dossier: Revolution in Egypt

Britain’s Guardian says sport and politics have become fatefully intertwined. Security has been at the centre of public debate since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown a year ago.

There were attacks on the Coptic church and now rumours are swirling about why the police failed to act and how armed thugs got into the ground. Did they stand by and watch on purpose, or was it a case of simple neglect, the left-leaning daily wonders. Either way, the consequences will have an impact on Egyptian politics. It will further undermine the reputation of the military-appointed government. Several political groups are already calling for a no-confidence motion, but there is a snag, the interim constitution does not allow for one, the paper underlines.

Statistics agency Eurostat released figures this week on poverty and social exclusion across Europe. For many, the effects of the debt crisis are alarming.

Yes, gloomy news indeed, reported by El Pais in Spain. Almost a quarter of Europeans who once had reasonable living standards are now threatened by poverty. Subsidies for prescription medication have been cut.

The centre-left daily writes of a Greek man whose monthly pension evaporates in 10 days, leaving him to rely on food and medical handouts from an NGO.

He’s not alone. The lower middle classes have become today’s poor. One in four Spanish children lives in poverty, and soup kitchens are feeding people they’ve never seen before. Poverty is becoming more severe and focused in certain classes. Given the lack of social protection and record unemployment, things are unlikely to get better soon.

In Slovakia they're talking about a "gorilla scandal".

The gorilla dossier iss a file of documents apparently drawn up by the Slovak intelligence agency, which reveals widespread corruption in a previous government.

They suggest that senior politicians and investment funds colluded on the privatisations of enterprises over a number of years. The independent weekly Respekt asks who will profit from the leak, which comes two months ahead of parliamentary elections. The file gives the impression that politicians are simply the tools of businessmen and is likely to influence the polls. Two new right-wing parties are benefiting because they did not exist at the time of the allegations. In any case this gorilla has dominated campaigning and pushed aside the other key issue, Slovakia’s relationship with Europe, the newspaper says.

A big story in the business world this week was Facebook’s move onto the stock market, with its five-billion-dollar public offering.

For Germany’s Die Zeit, the move is actually a good opportunity to regulate Facebook even more. The centre-right newspaper recalls a US admiral who said recently that there are four major world powers: China, India, the United States and Facebook.

The company doesn’t need to be broken up, but it does need to be put on a tighter leash, it says. The social networking phenomenon must be forced to tell users what it knows about them and to erase data they don’t want stored. Stock exchanges do sometimes react to public pressure. It’s time to put the issue on the agenda of the G20 group of most industrialised nations and let the world’s most powerful politicians act together, the paper says.

And we end this week in Italy, where, just as Facebook joins the stock market, another well-known company was preparing to leave.

According to the Turin daily La Stampa, Italian fashion label Benetton no longer believes in stockmarkets.

The Benetton family has announced that it will soon make an offer to the other shareholders. The liberal newspaper says the fashion house is quitting the market due to the poor performance of shares. Benetton believes the bourse is portraying a distorted image of how healthy the company is.

The decision is a symptom of the difference between the financial world and the real economy, the paper says. The crisis is causing extreme fluctuations on the market, as are the forecasts of the ratings agencies. And it’s not only Benetton that believes these institutions have lost credibility, according to La Stampa.

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