European Press Review: German Democracy | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 21.09.2004
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European Press Review: German Democracy

Europe's editorialists on Tuesday were still worried about advances far-right parties made in two German state elections over the weekend and what effects they could have on European democracy.

In Italy La Repubblica saw Berlin trying to calm itself and its allies, aware that the revolt in the east is quite decisive to the future. A majority in the east used the ballot box to show their anger at the political system, the paper wrote.

The right-wing and left-wing fringes in east Germany are similar in as much as their sympathizers loathe taking any initiative of their own, Austria's Die Presse argued. One has to imagine them as self-satisfied losers in love with their own misfortune.

De Volkskrant in Holland observed that east Germans were used to the state doing everything. The paper continued that they haven’t yet fully realized that the state is no longer the bringer of prosperity, the paper added.

The east of Germany is still hurting badly 15 years after the fall of the Berlin wall, and mainstream German politicians have not responded to their pain, the Financial Times in London remarked. Eastern Germany needs a new economic system involving a clean break with the west in areas of labor and product market regulation, as well as a weaning off of the dangerous drug of transfer payments, the paper suggested.

No politician dares to admit that these subsidies have done more harm than good, the Daily Telegraph analyzed. However, the elections' outcomes don't pose a major danger to German society. The paper didn't see a Hitler waiting in the wings, and even if there were, German democracy is robust enough to resist him, it commented.

Corriere della Sera in Rome asked, but couldn't answer, the question: Why the €1.250 billion ($1.53 billion) transferred east did not produce the flourishing landscapes promised at unification.

While Germany's labor and welfare reforms were overdue, Chancellor Schröder failed to prepare people for the unavoidable costs of unification, The Times of London found. It’s not skinheads, but doctors and business people who’ve accepted the far-right National Party's hostility to foreigners, the paper noted.

It's the left-wing Party of Democratic Socialism's claim to be the champions of the disadvantaged east Germans has given it a broad base in the region. Not people’s persuasion that their weird economic ideas make them better able to solve problems, the Salzburger Nachrichten of Austria opined.

Wremja Nowostej in Moscow didn't think the success of the right would undermine German democracy, but the growing popularity of both the right-wingers and the post-communists is a slap in the face for Chancellor Schröder’s government.

Germany isn't threatened by fascism, the Berlingske Tidende in Denmark commented. The eastern German states are stuck in an economic and political morass that has worked for the right-wing parties, but they remain marginal, able to pick up at most six to nine percent of the votes in the impoverished parts of former communist East Germany, the paper pointed out.

Although the political center got a resounding slap in the face, one shouldn’t exaggerate the threat from anti-democratic forces in Germany, the Politiken also in Denmark reflected. It added that there are also strong right-wing forces in France, Austria and Denmark without the world going under.

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