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German Press Review: ‘Depressingly’ High Unemployment

The country’s latest unemployment figures dominated the editorial pages of major German dailies on Friday. The mood of editorialists: pessimism.

The General-Anzeiger in Bonn wrote that the old federal labor office may now call itself the Federal Job Agency, but in reality the German labor market has failed to take account of such cosmetic corrections. The unemployment figures released on Thursday, the paper pointed out, were, just as they were before the Nuremberg office’s renaming, depressingly high. The paper wrote that the chances of an improvement this year were minimal, and so it’s of little consequence that Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, in his New Year address, urged consumers to buy more.

The Düsseldorf-based business daily Handelsblatt offered a no less pessimistic view. The paper’s editors wrote that the head of the Federal Job Agency, Florian Gerster, may have done a good job, since unemployment figures in Germany this winter are unlikely to reach the 5 million mark many experts had feared. But it’s not the elimination of jobs that has been slowed down, it’s just that people are not making a serious effort to find a job are removed from the statistics.

Commenting on the soaring euro, eastern Germany’s Ostthüringer Zeitung wrote that it seems almost as if it is getting its revenge: ever since its introduction, the paper opined, it has been suspected of being a soft currency but now it is proving the exact opposite to its critics. The daily went on to say that although many exporters may now be getting rather worried, it should not be forgotten that the vast majority of German exports go to Europe and are paid for in euros.

Die Welt attributed the euro’s continuing high altitude flight in relation to the dollar to the fact that the European Central Bank has declined to cut interest rates despite urgent requests from industry. The Berlin paper wrote that the ECB’s new president, Jean-Claude Trichet, is keeping calm in the realization that economic demand is rising worldwide and, in addition, many raw materials and supplies from the dollar area are becoming cheaper.

Munich’s Tageszeitung commented on reports of slipshod testing for BSE or "mad cow disease" in Germany. German authorities have said attempts to save money may have been the reason for lapses in mandatory testing of beef for the disease last year. A comparison of the number of slaughtered cattle and of tests for BSE showed meat from more than 500 animals may have reached consumers without first having been tested. The paper wrote that several conclusions can be drawn from the findings: first, that there is no such thing as 100 percent safety; secondly, the controls are at least effective in that they uncovered the lapses; and third, there is no reason to panic, for in an overwhelming 99.95 percent of cases, tests were carried out properly, meaning that the risk of being run over by a car is in Germany 1,000 times higher than being infected by BSE.