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European press review

Wikimedia Commons
Text by: Lorne Cook
4 min

We begin this week in Greece, where the government has been under enormous pressure to accept tough new conditions if it wants to win a huge international aid package to stop it going bankrupt.

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Protestors in the streets, deputies wrangling in parliament, and Greece's European partners are all waiting for a clear commitment before the bailout funds are released.

The government in Athens faces bankrupcy in a couple of weeks. But Germany's Die Zeit says Greece needs restructuring rather than austerity, and solidarity instead of being stigmatised.

Salaries are to be slashed and some 150,000 people will lose their jobs in the next few years. Is this what Europe's about, the liberal weekly wonders, turning the land of western culture and democracy into a protectorate of Brussels?

It forecasts a return of nationalism and political radicalisation in the upcoming elections in Greece. The paper says Germany should be concerned, because its prosperity is threatened by weaknesses in countries that its firms do business with.

The rise of nationalism, and particularly the right wing party of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, has been making headlines this week.

Wilders' Freedom Party has raised concerns with a website that invites Dutch people to complain about immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe. In response, 10 top diplomats from those countries have complained to the government in an open letter.

These nations want the Dutch prime minister to speak out against the website, but he depends on Wilders for support. NRC Handelsblad notes that the Netherlands was once a beacon of freedom and tolerance for people in easternEurope. It's unfortunate that the premier shows no empathy with these countries now.

The liberal daily says it fears that Dutch relations will suffer as a result of the row, and expresses hope that the government will finally distance itself from this despicable site. Wilders was quoted as saying that the diplomats should mind their own business.

As Europe's economic troubles deepen, it seems that people from a nation in western Europe have started to leave home in search of work.

According to El Pais, Spain's unemployed are becoming euro-refugees. It reports that hundreds of Spaniards are heading to Norway to look for jobs. However, the centre-left daily says, few are having much luck, and many find only cold weather and despair.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Norway, with its mineral and energy wealth, is one of the richest countries in Europe. It looks like an Eldorado to people who have been without work for months due to the economic crisis.

But lacking proper qualifications and language skills, doors are closing in these people's faces. Not only are work and languages a problem, the high cost of living makes life there for a foreigner even tougher, the paper warns. Norway's NGOs do help refugees, but they don't have much for people who come of their own free will.

Meanwhile, a growing number of Syrians have been arriving in Europe, seeking refuge from the government crackdown on protestors.

About 500 have arrived in Belgium so far, according to the Flemish language newspaper De Standard. The trouble is, given the unclear political circumstances in Syria, their asylum applications are not being processed. Belgium is not alone, Norway and Sweden have taken the same approach.

If the applications are officially processed now, some people will be allowed to stay but others will be forced to return. And this, the liberal daily says, would be completely inhumane.

Until clear and correct decisions can be made, things should be kept on hold. Perhaps it's time to resurrect the idea of limited residency status, which was introduced in Belgium during the conflict in former Yugoslavia, the paper says.

And we end in Italy, with a landmark court victory for the families of hundreds of people who died after contracting diseases due to asbestos in their work place.

A court in Turin has sentenced a Swiss billionaire and a Belgian baron to 16 years in jail and ordered them to pay millions of euros to some 6,000 people involved in the case, La Stampa reports. The two are accused of ignoring safety concerns even though they were aware of the dangers caused by asbetos.

The material is used in insulation and roofing and was produced at their plant in northwest Italy in the 1960s and seventies. The verdict could set an international precedent for work place safety pay outs.

The centre-left daily's editor says the ruling is recognition for one of the most courageous and tenacious battles for truth and justice ever in Italy. No one will be able to claim ignorance in the future.
 

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