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Europe

German Press Review: Cell Divisions

German newspapers debate a speech from a leading cabinet official signaling that Berlin may loosen its law regulating stem cell research.

The Bonn General-Anzeiger reminded its readers on Friday that, only last April, the German parliament allowed research on embryonic stem cells under strict conditions. "Now, backed by the chancellor, the German Justice Ministry has pleaded for a relaxation of the law." Though Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries used "ethical and constitutional arguments, her initiatives must be viewed in an economic context," the paper argued. However, it’s editors went on to sharply criticize Zypries’s timing. "It looks as if Zypries didn’t want to miss a good opportunity – because her initiative comes exactly at a time when the public attention is mainly focused on social reform issues."

When it comes to embryonic stem cell research, German legislation is full of contradictions, Berlin’s Die Welt pointed out. The current law, the paper noted, allows the import of a product that is illegal to produce in Germany. This contradiction could have two solutions: either the government should allow stem cells to be produced domestically or it should ban their use altogether. The paper also went on to note other contradictions and inconsistencies in German laws regulating stem cell research and reproductive rights. National law permits sperm donors but bans egg donations and it permits abortions but bans the production of stem cells. "How can it be," the paper asked, "that a human being is given legal protection from the earliest moment, but 12 weeks later that can be eliminated without reason?" Either country should change its stem cell import law or its abortion law or both, the paper concluded.

The Stuttgarter Nachrichten also argued that the current law must be amended. "As soon as the first promising therapies based on stem cell research are tested," the paper predicted, "the subject will be back on the tables of the German parliamentarians. Then they will finally have to decide at which point a human being begins to be a human being with full personal rights." And that’s a decision that reaches the limits of human judgement, the paper wrote.

Other German papers commented on the sharp rebound of the United States economy. "A 7.2 percent rise in third-quarter gross domestic product, that’s the highest growth in 20 years," wrote the Financial Times Deutschland. "Whoever is reminded of the economic policies under U.S. President Ronald Reagan is perfectly justified." The paper argued that the parallels to the ‘80s are as impressive as they are worrying: "In both cases, the causes for the expansion are historically low interest rates and a financial policy of aggressive tax cuts financed by new debts." But the editors also warned of the dangers of a heavy public debt load, predicting that, sooner or later, the U.S. government will have to shift to a consolidation course again" -- just as it did after Ronald Reagan.

Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel opted to contrast the growth in the U.S. economy to stagnation here in Germany. "The American companies and consumers have kick-started the upturn. They produce and they consume. Their approach is clear: ‘Let’s do it.’ And what are we doing in Germany," the paper asked? "We only lament, we are afraid of reforms and we are worried about our pensions."