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Europe

German Press Review: Autumn Optimism

German newspapers led on Wednesday with the EU diplomatic coup in Tehran. They also weighed in on one of the few positive economic report the country has seen lately.

Things couldn’t have gone better for Joschka Fischer and his colleagues in Tehran, wrote the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. Iran’s agreement to suspend enriching uranium and sign a new nuclear protocol, thereby allowing unrestricted access to UN nuclear inspectors, are key wishes of the Europeans and the Americans. But the paper preached caution and skepticism. It warned that there aren’t any signatures on any agreements yet, and pointed out that Iran still reserves the right to resume enriching uranium.

The editors of the Frankfurter Rundschau wrote that the drama’s just beginning. Iran made a deal allowing it to import nuclear fuel rods from Europe in return for suspending its own uranium enrichment program. This can only cause more problems in future, warned the paper, and Iran could try to play off the Europeans against the Americans.

Bonn’s General-Anzeiger pondered whether this might mean all the problems in the Middle East can now be resolved through diplomacy. "No," it wrote, "you can’t compare Iran with Iraq. But it is encouraging as a demonstration of the importance of peaceful crisis management at a time when diplomatic failure is all too prevalent."

Meanwhile, the editorialists at the Düsseldorf-based Handelsblatt agreed, writing that while unity in the West has led to success in Tehran, it would be a mistake to see this as an example for successful foreign policy in contrast to that of the United States. On the contrary, the paper added, it was not the isolated efforts of Joschka Fischer, Dominique de Villepin and Jack Straw that led to the success, but the concerted efforts of the international community.

But the Stuttgarter Zeitung celebrated their success, saying Fischer, Straw and de Villepin should be proud of having written a new chapter in European history. Tuesday’s meeting in Tehran signaled the birth of an increasing European cooperation in international diplomacy, it wrote. For so long the Europeans failed due to internal divisions, whether in the Balkans or over Iraq; or, as in the Middle East, they simply didn’t have enough influence. But, the paper wrote, in the Iranian capital they have shown they can be masters of diplomacy, and that their negotiations are more successful than U.S. threats.

On the domestic front, the autumn economic forecasts predicting a 1.7 per cent growth rate in Germany received much attention on Wednesday.

The Märkische Oderzeitung wrote that "for the economy to really move forward in order to create new jobs, fill state coffers, and for the citizens to feel good again, Germany needs growth rates of three or four percent." Instead, it commented, "we have a third year of economic stagnation and the unemployment rate is increasing to 4.5 million."

The Mainzer Allgemeine Zeitung comments that "only after tax reforms are completed with a clear plan will trust in the economy necessary to create jobs grow." The paper’s editors jibed that they hoped the opposition conservatives could afford to pay for new advisors, since the leading economic institutions have thrown their weight behind Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s plans. If the opposition doesn’t want to be seen as putting the brakes on the plan, they’ll "have to stand behind him," the paper warned.

The Berlin daily Die Welt offered an alternative perspective. Instead, the paper wrote that it favored the conservative opposition’s reform proposals. "The state should withdraw its sticky fingers from the pockets of its citizens and introduce bigger tax cuts" the paper opined. It went on to sayt hat the opposition has recognized this, and, it said, "the red-green government should abandon its present policies in favor of their ideas."