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German Press Review: Chirac's Lack of Discipline

Many of the country's leading newspapers on Wednesday ask why Europe should loosen the pact ensuring the stability of the euro in order to accommodate France's homegrown problems?


Jacques Chirac wants to loosen it, but German papers say he should zip it.

European Union economics and finance ministers on Tuesday pushed aside calls to soften the EU's Stability and Growth Pact, which ensures the stability of the euro. But the raging debate over how to apply its rules controlling state spending could erupt again after they get back to business following the summer vacation.

"Hands-off the euro!" wrote the editors of the Rostock-based Ostsee-Zeitung in Rostock. Anyone loosening monetary policy has to know they're heating up inflation and diminishing people's savings, the editors said. "If breaches of the pact become the rule, the political foundation of the euro will crumble away. Politicians had to do their homework, and that meant structural reforms."

"Many countries, and certainly Germany, are so highly indebted that if they keep borrowing, they commit sins against future generations," wrote the editors of Die Welt in Berlin. The paper concluded that French President Jacques Chirac would likely continue with his efforts to scrap the pact.

"Luckily inflation is no issue," wrote the editors of the Märkische Oderzeitung in Frankfurt on the Oder in eastern Germany, "and the euro is quite stable against other currencies. But that seems to be encouraging politicians in France, Germany and Italy to try to bury the pact, made under German pressure, once and for all."

In the more familiar Frankfurt on Main, the Frankfurter Rundschau wrote that many governments worked hard to meet the criteria, while the French let things drag for months, fobbed off offers of help and now want special treatment. "Instead of attacking the unloved Brussels corset, Paris should take its cue from Berlin, tell the French hard truths and urgently launch reforms," the paper wrote.

"Just as well the EU finance ministers immediately stood on the fuse Chirac was trying to light," commented Bonn's General-Anzeiger. The "no" in Brussels to loosening the stability pact and allowing any amount of government borrowing was an important act of self discipline, the paper wrote.

German newspapers are also closely following Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's talks in Washington with American leaders.

The Westfälische Nachrichten in Münster noted that the Bush administration will probably have to admit that, though it can be easy to win a war, it is incomparably harder to bring about peace. Even if the US at some point had plans to extend its campaign to Iran and Syria, it would not dare to stir things up again. Still, the paper wrote, there's no reason for Fischer to feel malice toward Washington, which is now openly asking Germany and France to help with nation-building in Iraq. "The time to polarize and polemicize on both sides is over," the editors concluded. "Iraqis are suffering. The need now is to tackle things together again."

The simple reason why the Bush administration's phase of pigheadedness is ending so abruptly, opined the Mannheimer Morgen, is that the United States needs help, including Germany's. The unexpectedly bloody and costly postwar presence in Iraq has brought Washington to the realization that it can't carry the reconstruction load alone. But as much as Chancellor Schröder wants reconciliation with the U.S., it will be hard for the German government to meet American wishes, the paper's editors wrote.

Even if it could, there are other challenges ahead. Before any German troop deployment to Iraq could be considered, the Ruhr Nachrichten of Dortmund wrote, there would have to be minimum safety standards there. Even in Afghanistan, where that minimum level is maintained, soldiers are in great danger even though the population is friendly towards the Germans. "Those most responsible for the state Iraq is in have to act now. Then should follow those states who couldn't shout 'Hooray!' loudly enough to go to war at the side of the United States and were called the 'New Europe' by Donald Rumsfeld." "Once civilian reconstruction is the agenda," wrote the Ruhr Nachrichten, "Germany will not refuse to join in."