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Europe

European Press Review: Germany Lacks Talent

European editorialists assessed the candidacy of Horst Köhler, former head of the International Monetary Fund, for the country's president as well as Greek elections and the upcoming Russian presidential poll.

The Financial Times in London said Horst Köhler's nomination reflected badly on Germany's political elite in a globalized world. It was apparently so lacking in talent that the opposition needed to recruit of one the country's few international officials to be presidential candidate. That elite was so parochial in outlook, the FT continued, that nobody had asked whether Köhler would not be better employed staying at the IMF to complete his allotted task.

The German business daily Handelsblatt did, however, address that very question and concluded that the Köhler episode had left Germany at a disadvantage in the international arena. Nonetheless, the paper said, Köhler would not find it difficult to convince German public opinion that his leadership at the IMF was one big success story. The reality, though, was not so clear cut. Good intentions, a number of successes, but also numerous setbacks and U-turns were the constituent parts of what IMF officials are referring to as the "German intermezzo" or "Köhler's Unfinished."

In Greece on Sunday a general election brought a conservative victory, bringing to an end eleven years of socialist rule. Greek papers were saying policy blunders had finally caught up with the Socialist PASOK party. The paper Ta Nea noted it was a punishing vote for past mistakes, weaknesses in education, health policies and a fumbled attempt at pension reform. The Greek paper Avriani, carried front page pictures of outgoing government officials, and proclaimed, "These are the gravediggers."

Corriere della Sera from Rome cautioned Greece's conservatives against celebrating too soon. Having won by the slimmest of margins, they might have to fight another election next year.

El Mundo from Madrid looked at China's National People's Congress. The country was moving forward with the steps of a dwarf, it said. Beijing wouldn't dare abandon the tenets of communist orthodoxy. It confined itself to gestures for public consumption, such as a plan to send female astronauts into space. China was opening up to the West very, very hesitantly. It was still the country in which more people were executed than in the whole of the rest of the world. Its economic problems, in spite of the positive impact of a mixed economy, were enormous. Yearly between nine and 10 million Chinese lose their jobs, the paper noted.

Europe's papers were already looking ahead to the presidential elections in Russia on Sunday. Vladimir Putin was certain to be re-elected said De Standaard from Brussels. The election would only become embarrassing if the turn out was very low and the Kremlin was forced to improvise. But, the paper said, there would be no protests from abroad. Every now and again one heard unpleasant remarks about the Chechen disgrace, the paper observed, but Putin was usually greeted cordially by foreign officials, such as Italian President Silvio Berlusconi. Nor did Washington complain. Putin guaranteed stability, the paper explained.

On the occasion of International Women's Day on Monday, La Tribune in Paris drew a comparison between France and Sweden, which it said should give pause for thought. In Sweden, the average difference in pay between men and women was less than 10 percent; in France, it was 25 percent.