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Europe

European Press Review: Shaky Transatlantic Ties and a Faltering German Welfare State

European papers focus their spotlight on the state of Germany’s welfare system, Chancellor Schröder’s battle to reform the economy and the growing separation between Europe and America.

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Under the heading "A partnership heading for a destructive separation," Britain’s Financial Times comments that differences between Europe and America have turned the transatlantic relationship into a partnership of convenience. The transatlantic alliance cannot be sustained if the U.S. remains dedicated to its current doctrines, the paper postulates, except as a state of dependency on one side and mastery on the other. There are two alternatives, the paper notes: one is a divorce and the other is a pragmatic partnership.

Germany’s Die Welt looks at the new UN resolution on Iraq, which Washington has reworked several times to reflect demands by the EU, and France and Russia in particular. The paper says that quite the opposite of its worst critics, the U.S. is not some autistic hyperpower with the concomitant hubris. Its willingness to work for a new UN resolution shows that Washington is not interested in ruling the world alone. A new resolution also means that the US cannot shirk its responsibility, and the United Nations will be involved in the process.

Another German paper, the Berliner Tageszeitung, agrees and urges the German government to stop its dogmatism. It must finally represent German interests and not anti-American ideologies, the paper states.

At the moment, the German government has bigger worries than its relations with America. On the domestic front, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is fighting to win support for his package of major economic and social reforms. Austria’s Der Standard notes that despite Schröder’s threats to resign, his party’s rebels have won a first battle by getting a debate of Social Democratic Party principles on the agenda for June’s special party conference. Tough resistance from the SPD’s left-wing is wearing Schröder down, the paper says. Anyone who threatens so often to resign, must be prepared to accept the consequences, the Austrian daily concludes.

Russia’s Kommersant paper from Moscow, shows support for Schröder, arguing that the chancellor had no choice but to threaten to resign. He cannot remain chancellor when a portion of his party is against him. The SPD-Green coalition is just too shaky, and the only alternative is opening the door to the conservatives which would pave the way for even more drastic reforms, the paper warns.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph suggests that although the situation in Germany isn’t as bad as it was in Britain in 1979, many of the problems are identical: high unemployment, unreformed trade unions, exploding welfare costs. But in Germany there is no one in sight to deal with the mess, the paper notes, and certainly, Gerhard Schröder is not the answer. What Germany needs, the paper concludes, is a Margaret Thatcher.