German Press Review: Embarrassing Eichel | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 14.07.2004
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German Press Review: Embarrassing Eichel

German papers on Wednesday commented on the fate of 37 African refugees in Italy, who had been saved by a German ship as well as the court ruling against the decision by EU governments to suspend the stability pact.

Last year the European Commission wanted to impose specific measure on Paris and Berlin to bring their budget deficits down in 2004. But Germany and France were in the end saved by EU finance ministers who voted to suspend the stability pact rules for them. Europe’s top court has now unexpectedly annulled that decision.

Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung said that the commission’s complaint to the European Court of Justice against the finance ministers’ decision initially looked like a poor loser seeking revenge. In hindsight though, it was necessary because the ministers gave the impression that they thought they were above EU laws, the paper wrote. It was right for the commission to stop such precedents being set – everyone, including finance ministers, has to play by

the rules, the daily continued and called the decision a milestone for Europe.

The BZ in Berlin agreed. The 3 percent deficit limit also applies to Germany, the daily wrote, adding that the commission has the right to hit countries with heavy financial penalties if they break the rules too many times. It also saw this as a heavy slap in the face for German Finance Minister Hans Eichel, who can now expect a new set of savings measures to be imposed on him by Brussels.

Die Welt in Berlin also saw the decision as an embarrassment for Eichel.

But the Financial Times Deutschland went even further: It said there are a number of reasons why people should demand Hans Eichel’s resignation, but the decision by the court isn’t one of them. The paper didn’t elaborate any further. It continued by noting that the court has now put the ball back in Brussels’ court. EU governments and the commission must come up with a compromise on the interpretation of the stability pact, the paper concluded.

Other papers commented on the African asylum seekers who were rescued by German aid organization Cap Anamur in the Mediterranean and finally allowed to disembark in Sicily after weeks of political wrangling over who should take responsibility for them. The captain of the ship Cap Anamur and two others have been taken by Italian officials for questioning over whether the group was aiding illegal immigration. Original reports said the men were fleeing from Sudan’s Dafur region, but officials later said they were probably from Nigeria and Ghana.

The Tagesspiegel in Berlin said even if the refugees did come from Dafur, dubbed by the UN the world’s worse humanitarian crisis, they wouldn’t have been guaranteed asylum in Europe. But the daily did see something positive in the controversy over the fate of the refugees: It says the more attention on what’s happening in Dafur, the better.

The assistance provided by the European Union for refugees isn’t in this case assistance at all, observed the General-Anzeiger in Bonn, and the captain of Cap Anamur has been caught in this paradox. A German ship isn’t German territory, said the daily, and Berlin rejected the men’s asylum applications. The paper said this just proves that Europe is not the Cape of Good Hope.