Press Review – 12 May 2014 – “Referendum” in eastern Ukraine; Erdogan electioneers for German Turks votes; More austerity for Spain?

Reuters reports that the referendum on the status of eastern Ukraine has, unsurprisingly, turned out overwhelmingly in favour of self-rule. Roman Lyagin, head of the electoral commission in Donetsk, said that 89 percent of voters had cast ballots in favour of self-rule. At the time of writing it is not fully clear what self-rule will mean – full independence, greater autonomy from what remains of Ukraine, or union with Russia. The Sunday vote was carried out despite condemnation by the West and the Ukrainian government in Kiev and pleas by Russian President Vladimir Putin to postpone the vote. According to Reuters: “A festive atmosphere at makeshift polling stations in some areas belied the potentially grave implications of the event. In others, clashes broke out between separatists and troops over ballot papers and control of a television tower.” The referendum has been marred by allegations of irregularities and fraud, and is likely to only escalate tensions leading to a Ukrainian civil war or a Russia-Ukraine war.

Photo courtesy of Reuters.
Photo courtesy of Reuters.

German President Joachim Gauck’s criticism of Turkey for what he calls its democratic deficiencies has led to a spirited response by embattled Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan, according to der Spiegel. Speaking to students last week in the capital city of Ankara, Gauck criticized the Turkish government’s media censorship, blocking of access to social networks Twitter and YouTube, and transferring of public prosecutors and police conducting unwelcome investigations. The Turkish prime minister’s reply was swift, labeling Gauck’s words as interference in Turkey’s domestic politics and “unbecoming of a statesman.” Der Spiegel speculates that Erdogan may be stirring tensions with Gauck in order rally votes for himself from diaspora German Turks, who will be able to vote for the first time from abroad in the upcoming 10 August 2014 Turkish presidential election in which the prime minister may enter as a candidate.

According to Span’s el-Pais, the European Commission (EC) has asked the Spanish Popular Party (PP) government for “considerable additional discretionary efforts” – that is to continue some austerity policies – to ensure the strength of Spain’s economic recovery in 2015 and 2016. This is despite the fact that the “economic recovery is taking hold, the banking system has improved, unemployment is beginning a timid retreat, the European bank bailout has worked, and public finances are stabilizing.” Spain’s public deficit tops 07 percent of  gross domestic product (GDP) and its public debt is at 100 percent of GDP. While the EC can make recommendations to the Spanish government, it is not in a position to impose fiscal policy on Spain.

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