European editorials on Thursday discussed the emergency laws passed by the new interim Iraqi government and the debate surrounding the fifty hour working week in Germany.
According to the official line, the emergency laws are designed to secure public safety wrote Switzerland's Tages Anzeiger. "But in reality", the paper suggested; "they are a well known method of gagging the opposition and preventing a civil society from emerging and they create the ideal conditions in which to cement an authoritarian regime." "Exactly the opposite is expected from the new interim government in Baghdad which will now have to work hard to prove that it needs these laws and is only using them to reign in the chaos in the country," the paper wrote.
Democracy in Iraq is a strange thing, according to Germany's Sueddetusche Zeitung. "Firstly it was supposed to be brought to the Iraqi people through the US invasion," the paper observed. "Then it was to have begun with the end of the official occupation of the U.S.-led coalition forces and the hand over of sovereignty to the Iraqis." Now the new government has brought attention to itself with two new laws, the introduction of the death penalty and the state of emergency, the paper wrote. "This is not an ideal beginning for a fledgling democracy," the paper lamented, "but how else is this to come about in a situation that a country like Iraq is in?"
The British daily Guardian noted that on the day the law was announced, a running gun battle broke out in the city centre of Baghdad, killing four and injuring 20, making it difficult to convince ordinary Iraqi's that their government does not need draconian laws or indeed that the death penalty should not be reapplied. But the paper also pointed out that the interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi "is not working with a clean sheet," as the paper stated. "This is still an Iraq where 8000 people are detained and disappear into a legal hole". And there are major ambiguities about the relationship between coalition commanders and the Iraqi executive, wrote the daily.
Meanwhile, on a different subject, the proposal to allow a working week of up to fifty hours in Germany won't help solve the country's economic problems argued the Danish paper Information. It wrote that lower wages will only help individual companies who want to reduce their costs to push down prices. Yet the paper pointed out this won't help any company if the customers buying their products are unemployed, or not earning enough to afford them. "Reducing wages is not the wonder drug to save companies," declared the paper adding that companies need well paid employees with enough leisure time and money to go shopping, travel, go to the movies or buy things for their garden sheds!
However the French daily Le Figaro disagreed. "There needs to be more movement when it comes to working hours," commented the daily citing the example of the US where productivity did not slow down in response to a weaker economy as it did in Europe. This, argued the paper, highlights the need to remove the barriers and burdens of the overly bureaucratic labor regulations and "the governments, the unions, and the employers need to stop buying for time and throwing the ball in the others court."