Media Watch 20/2/15

By Rowan Williams

Eurozone finance ministers are preparing for a third meeting to try and reach a deal over the conditions of Greece’s economic bailout. One opportunity for progress was dashed yesterday when Germany rejected a proposal from Greece that would extend its eurozone loan programme for six months, but concede on several demands made by creditors. Greece’s current bailout deal expires at the end of February, with the country at risk of running out of money if a deal is not reached. However, a more positive mood is expected at today’s talks after a 50-minute phone call between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday night. Tsipras’s Syriza party came to power in January on a promise to end austerity measures imposed by the EU. EU leaders fear that a victory for Greece at the negotiating table could encourage anti-austerity parties in Spain and Portugal, where bailouts have also been paid.

Britain misunderstood the international mood to a “catastrophic” extent in handling the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, a House of Lords committee has said. According to the House of Lords EU committee, Britain and Europe had “sleepwalked” into the crisis by underestimating the depth of Russian antipathy to closer ties between Ukraine and the west. The United Kingdom had also not been visible enough in the international response to the crisis, the committee said. Relations between the UK and Russia have continued to sour over recent days, the most recent incident being the UK’s scrambling of fighter jets on Wednesday after Russian bombers were detected near British airspace off the coast of Cornwall. UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon caused further anger in Russia, meanwhile, after warning that Russia could attempt to use destabilising tactics in Baltic states similar to those used in Ukraine. European Council President Donald Tusk has called on Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss how the EU should deal with the ongoing violence in Ukraine.

Chinese missile technology could be used by Turkey in future, as Turkey eyes a US$3.4 billion deal with China to buy a missile defence system. The purchase of the missile system would set a precedent, as Turkey has said that it would not integrate the missile system with NATO infrastructure. The system’s manufacturer, China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp, currently has preferred bidder status in Turkey’s plans to buy a missile defence system. The United States and NATO have urged Turkey not to accept the Chinese offer, though some Turkish ministers have stressed that the deal has not been finalised yet. The Chinese system is reported to be cheaper than other international alternatives.

The Papers

Events surrounding the Ukraine crisis, and Russia’s relationship with the west, make several headlines today. The Times leads with news that the truce in Ukraine has collapsed, with world leaders “scrambling to salvage the ceasefire”. The paper also writes of pro-Russian separatists claiming to have killed thousands of Ukrainian troops. The Independent writes that Moscow and NATO are on a “collision course” over the crisis, after RAF jets were scrambled to escort Russian bombers flying near UK airspace off the coast of Cornwall. Relations with Moscow have descended into “renewed acrimony” over the event, the paper writes. The Guardian leads with news of “‘Catastrophic’ errors” by the UK during the crisis, after a House of Lords committee condemned the UK’s handling of Russia and Ukraine. Britain was guilty of “sleepwalking into the crisis in Ukraine”, the paper writes. The Financial Times leads with more news of Greece’s bailout talks, after Germany threw out ‘Trojan Horse’ bailout conditions that asked to extend Greece’s bailout programme by six months while conceding to some demands by creditors. Ministers are to “face off” today in Brussels, the paper writes. The Daily Telegraph leads with news that millions of savers are paying “rip-off fees”. According to the paper, fund managers are “charging extra fees for investment expertise when ISAs and pensions are doing no more than tracking the FTSE stock market”.

British Media on China

On China and wildlife: While sheep have been in the spotlight during recent Chinese New Year Celebrations, elephants and tigers, and their relationship with China, have made the headlines in The Guardian and The Independent. The Independent reports on footage appearing to show “the first Chinese Siberian tigers ever to be filmed in the wild”, with the film marking a triumph for Siberian tiger conservationists who have tried to establish a Siberian tiger population in inland China. The Guardian covers the same story, with a second piece on its website reporting calls from David Attenborough for Chinese President Xi Jinping to end the ivory trade. Celebrities and politicians have signed an open letter to President Xi “urging him to act now to save African elephants from extinction”, the paper writes.

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