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Europe

German Press Review: Compromising on Immigration

Tuesday's editorials looked at the possible end of the row over the new German immigration law and continued to comment on Horst Köhler's election as Germany's next president.

Much of the comment concerned itself with whether the German opposition can consider the election of its candidate to the presidency as a sign of a future change of government. Die Welt was certain. It noted that foreign papers of every political hue have seen the development as a "adjustment of the balance in the German political setting." Some, it noted, speak of "a clear signal for conservative change." They all emphasize the strategic and personal success of Angela Merkel, the leader of the Christian Democrats, who first put Horst Köhler up for the job. The daily wanted to know why the Germans can't simply breathe a sigh of relief. Horst Köhler's acceptance speech, with its impatience mixed with knowledge and empathy, was a life-giving draught for a politics which has almost ceased to exist, it concluded.

The General-Anzeiger of Bonn was a bit less enthusiastic. Horst Köhler should take it a little slower, it recommended. Perhaps it's not quite appropriate for him to taking part in talk shows before he's even got the job. (He only becomes president on July 1st.) The paper considered that his criticism of the political world was justified, but aimed at a very broad range of targets. People might begin to suspect him of populism, said the daily.

As Die Welt pointed out, the election of Horst Köhler can well be seen as a success for the Christian Democrat leader, Angela Merkel. The Stuttgarter Zeitung said she's now ahead of all her inner-party competitors. Unless something very unexpected happens, predicted the paper, she will be the next conservative candidate for chancellor.

Finally on this topic, Germany's biggest paper, the tabloid Bild, returned to the simple statement of the new president in his acceptance speech: "I love our country." He said it without any false pathos, commented the paper: It's a sentence full of the gratefulness of a poor refugee child to whom this country offered so many chances. It's the expression of a servant of the state, who came back from his influential job in Washington because he thinks he can help his country. Let us take an example from him, said the daily.

The other big issue in the German papers was the continued dispute over the new immigration law. On Tuesday, the Chancellor will meet with political leaders to thrash out some kind of compromise. The Stadt-Anzeiger of Cologne said the argument is mainly about showing up the political competition as a loser. The chancellor, however, wants to find a formula which everyone can interpret as a sign of victory, according to the paper. "The interest of citizens in solving the problem is unfortunately fairly insignficant to those on both sides," it concluded.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung said the fact that the conservative opposition is expected to give up on its demand for imprisonment for foreigners who are merely suspected of some connection with terrorist offences will be described as a sign of good will, and the Chancellor will use this as a way of stopping all those quarrelsome elements, like the churches and the Greens, from continuing to oppose all the other ways in which the law will be made tougher. And the Berliner Zeitung pointed out that long-term imprisonment merely on suspicion is simply unconstitutional. If you don't have to find someone guilty of terrorism before you can imprison them on terrorist charges, what criteria are you going to use, asked the paper: Membership of a particular religious group? A previous conviction as a shoplifter?