European press review

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We begin this week in Iceland, where a former prime minister became the first leader in the world to be tried for failing to deal with the economic crisis.

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As Geir Haarde's trial opens, Spanish daily El Pais wonders whether leaders should face court over the crisis. Should they have known disaster was looming? Or was it the banks' fault? The centre-left paper turns to experts and journalists for answers.

Some insist that politicians guilty of illegal acts must be prosecuted, but more importantly light needs to be shed on the workings of the political machinery, to expose networks of patronage and collusion. How can no one be punished for the collapse of banks, a currency, and rampaging unemployment?

For others, a trial might look good, but prison should be reserved for the corrupt and thieves. Those who are inept should be punished at the polls. Ultimately though, the process will be good if it examines how such bad decisions were made, and who was able to influence top politicians.

Iran's nuclear ambitions dominated the headlines again this week, as the US election campaign hots up, and Israel's hardline prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was visiting Washington.

British daily, the Guardian, says President Barack Obama will have to invest significant resources and time if he's going to defuse the nuclear crisis peacefully. Despite warnings that striking Iran's atomic installations would be stupid, Israel seems more ready than ever for action.

The left-leaning paper says Israel believes there is only limited time to attack before the Islamic Republic's installations are buried in mountain tunnels. To avoid conflict, it was important to admonish the Jewish state and its US supporters this week for too much loose talk of war, to insist that time be given for sanctions to work.

Yet Obama did say that Iran must be prevented from acquiring the bomb. Effort, the paper underlines, must go into creating incentives for Iran to change its mind about enriching uranium. To launch a war would be folly.

Even with Russia electing its new president, and France in full campaign mode, the US Republican primaries still manage to make the front pages across Europe.

Yes, in Italy, La Repubblica urges Europe to show more self-confidence, as Republican contenders tear each other to shreds for the chance to run against Obama. The liberal daily says that the primaries are demonstrating how US political sovereignty is in decline.

Lobbies and external powers are increasingly dominating the campaign. Europe should become a supra-national power that unites states, not just economically, but also in foreign and defence policy, the paper says.

Dependency on the US means dependency on a shaken democracy, a weak economy and a defence machinery that is no longer ready to make promises. Europe must take its destiny into its own hands, and stop relying on the help of a Godfather on the other side of the Atlantic.

In eastern Europe, the independence of the justice system was called into question this week.

How low can it go? asks Bulgaria's Trud newspaper. The country's top court acquitted three judges this week over allegations that they helped relatives buy cheap land on the Black Sea by portraying them as people in need. The leftist daily says this ruling means that Bulgaria's judges are above the law. Not only that, why didn't a single judge decline to rule on the case due to conflict of interest?

It seems it is only fair for relatives of judges to use privileges that would be unthinkable for any normal citizen. How naive then for some to demand that a special disciplinary system for members of the judiciary be set up. We have more than enough courts, the paper says, they just have to start working properly.

And we end this week with some sport, and the financial woes of Europe's football clubs.

According to Swiss daily Le Temps, half of Europe's clubs are in the red, with many on the verge of going bust. Healthy financial management and long-term thinking must become the order of the day, the liberal daily says.

According to the governing body UEFA, clubs on the continent have a cumulated debt of more than 1.6 billion euros, up almost half a billion euros on last year. That's despite record revenues.

European football is on the verge of a financial crash, the paper says. UEFA notes that 78 clubs poured all of their income into salaries alone. What's to be done, the paper asks? It's probably not the right time to ban billionaires from buying clubs, or to return to the days of amateur football. But if the accounts can't be properly balanced, then perhaps some cities should withdraw their teams from the top flight of European football.

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