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Europe

German Press Review: Chancellor's Catch 22 for Concept 21

Newspapers across the country focused on the tax reform put forth by the opposition Christian Social Union and its implications for Chancellor Schröder.

"Bavaria’s Christian Socialists have put forward a concept for tax reform that’s well thought-through, affordable and more realistic than that of its sister party the Christian Democrats," wrote the Ostsee-Zeitung in Rostock. "The red-green coalition government of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has already shown interest in Concept 21 (that’s the obligatory snappy title), as well as in the CSU’s offer of talks because," the paper said, "this is a serious offer that could pave the way for a grand coalition and a thorough tax reform."

Another northern German paper, the Kieler Nachrichten, was more skeptical. It asked, why the opposition would help the government achieve a success like this in 2005, just one year before a general election. The paper also doubted the CSU’s balance sheet. "The proposals are supposed to relieve the tax burden for ordinary people by 15 billion euros. This is certainly more realistic than the 24 billion promised by the conservative CDU, but its still a utopian prospect," the paper commented, adding that the CSU is being careful to wriggle out of naming the subsidies that will have to be cut in order to finance the tax reform.

The left-wing paper Neues Deutschland in Berlin said it sensed a "trap." It contended that Chancellor Schröder can neither reject nor accept Concept 21. "If he rejects it, he’ll be accused of blocking reform," the paper maintained; "but if he accepts it, he’ll be casting doubt on the efficiency of his own economic policies."

Berlin’s mass tabloid B.Z. was fed up with the whole discussion. "Stop talking about far-reaching reforms and do something!" it cried. "Our economy can only boom when taxes and interest rates are cut. We consumers can only buy more when we have more money in the bank," it said, "and people will only invest in business when they’re not overburdened with taxes and bank loans."

The Neue Westfälische in Bielefeld turned its editorial focus on the news that beef has been reaching German shops without being tested for BSE or mad cow disease. "This sounds alarming," the paper said. "But looked at reasonably, it’s only a very small percentage, and it’s very unlikely that precisely this beef was infected." Nonetheless, it argued that every cow that hasn’t been checked is one cow too many.

"So much for German thoroughness," wrote the Heilbronner Stimme. "Instead we’re hearing about sloppiness and a breakdown in procedure in the very country which was in a state of virtual hysteria over BSE three years ago. This news may not be a cause for panic, but it’s certainly a cause for concern, and a good way of losing the hard-won trust of consumers," the paper concluded.

And the Mannheimer Morgen commented that if people react by buying less beef, they have every reason to do so. "After all," it said, "we consumers have every right to expect checks in the food industry to be especially thorough." According to the paper, the question is whether politicians and business will be able to set up a truly infallible control system – "because where humans are involved, human error is always a potential factor."