A look at reaction to the Greek crisis and the prospect Italy could come under much heavier pressure for its debt burden. One Irish broadsheet conveys some of the mood with a cartoon suggesting the G20 summit in Cannes, aimed at fixing financial woes, is a bit like being in the Edvard Munch painting "The Scream". That's the focus for this international press review, Friday 4th November 2011.
The International Herald Tribune leads on the continued political brinksmanship in Greece with the headline “Greek leader cancels referendum”. It’s a spectacular U-turn as he tries to cling on to power. The paper, in its editorial, uses a phrase seen in much of the press worldwide: “Greece on the brink”. It argues that there are gaps in the eurozone bailout plan. “Europe’s leaders”, it says, “should have paid more attention to the distress of ordinary Greeks and less to the distress of well-heeled bankers”. The IHT is not kind to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy saying that while they are “rushing to blame the Greeks” for the unravelling of the bailout package, they need to take their own “full share of responsibility for this crisis – and fix it”.
Aside the Papandreou u-turn, another surprise in this crisis has come from new European Central Bank president Mario Draghi who’s announced a cut in interest rates. Columnist Paul Krugman in his New York Times blog piece entited “Enter the Draghi” says he doesn’t see a turning point with that move. The situation “looks impossible without dramatic policy changes,” he argues.
In the Greek press, the English-language version of Katherimini has a comment piece entitled: “An end to uncertainty”. It is really a heartfelt plea. The writer, Alexis Papachelas, says Papandreou’s grilling in Cannes was humiliating. He says an interim government is the only way forward, adding that, if by Monday - after a weekend’s wrangling - uncertainty remains in Athens then “nothing will save the political system and country from rage and chaos”.
That same paper has a cartoon showing Papandreou on the phone. He’s saying: “thanks for the congratulations, yes I’ll do as agreed, don’t worry.” His Finance Minister chimes in to ask: “Who is it? Merkel?” And Papandreou turns to tell him “No it’s not Merkel, it’s my Mum”. That’s a Greek insight into the credibility gap.
In Italy, the right-wing paper Libero, based in Milan – Berlusconi’s home turf – has a front-page cartoon showing him wearing a lifebelt on a throne, his crown perched at an angle. Italy’s “king” is looking defiant or possibly half-dazed under a headline: “Referendum on Silvio”. The paper asks its readers: “Should he quit? Let us know what you think”. That’s in response to a debate on Berlusconi’s future in the Italian press generally.
Another Italian is making the news in this crisis: “Super Mario” aka European Central Bank Chairman Mario Draghi. The Wall Street Journal Europe says you have to be thankful for small mercies that he made a success of his first press conference as he announced a quarter point cut in interest rates. The paper warns, though, that he faces a series of tough questions which will need answering by December. It argues that this is: “New Actor, Old Script”.
And Draghi is in the Irish press too. The Irish Times focuses on Draghi’s comment that political expectations about the bank are “schizoid”, in terms of its ability to stabilize markets though bond-buying. That word “schizoid” goes neatly with The Irish Times’s coverage generally. It has a cartoon (also in other papers) that reveals the level of frustration among leaders, depicting one of them doing a Scream as in the Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream”. The cartoonist says apologies to Munch for that.