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Europe

German Press Review: Eastern Dilemma

German papers on Tuesday commented on the meeting yesterday between the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the prime ministers of the eastern German states.

The premiers have been complaining that a major reform of conditions for the unemployed, under which many long-term unemployed will get less money, will affect the inhabitants of their states disproportionately since it's the eastern states which are most affected by

unemployment.

The Ostsee-Zeitung from Rostock said the dispute reveals a split between the west and the east which was thought to have been long resolved. All the parties in the east are sceptical about the reform, which is supposed to encourage and help the long-term unemployed to get back into work. But in the eastern states, where it's not uncommon for 40 people to be chasing one job, the reform is simply the wrong instrument, the paper said: "Here, it's not a matter of pushing shirkers to stand on their own two feet, here more jobs are needed in the normal job market. In Berlin, the serious fears of the eastern prime ministers are simply being swept to one side."

Die Welt in Berlin showed less understanding: It said that the meeting with Chancellor Schröder was only designed to show that the eastern prime ministers are doing everything they can. But the paper also pointed out that the west is paying out €1 billion ($1.2 billion) to help soften the effects of the new law on the east. That's the problem, said the daily: "Everyone knows that it's tough in the east and that a lot of people are unemployed. But the situation won't be changed by the eastern state governments always holding out their hands and asking for more help." The paper concludes: "There has to be a major reorganization in the east so that it will be more attractive to investors. But you don't need a meeting with the chancellor for that."

Berlin's die tageszeitung sees a fundamental change going on—"a real revolution," it calls it: "Germany is writing off the east. It may sound over-emotional, but it's true." It's not just that neither government nor opposition has any good ideas, said the paper—it's been like that for the last 10 years; what's new is that the political concept of a program to build up the east has been abandoned.

The Nordbayerischer Kurier from the Bavarian town of Bayreuth agreed with Die Welt that for the east simply to ask for more money is the wrong answer. The new law is supposed to bring movement into the unemployment scene, it says. "That will be made even more difficult if things are left as they are in those places where the unemployment rate is particularly high." Pouring out subsidies with the watering can, would go against the realities of regional labor markets. "There are structurally weak areas in the west too," it pointed out defiantly.