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German Press Review: Europe's Paper Curtain

German editorialists commented Monday on the latest European Union expansion, which took place on Saturday and Germany's economic malaise.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented that the European Union promises a peaceful future, because Europeans agree there should never again be soldiers' graves in Europe. But the paper warned that a technocratic super state is not what the people want. That’s why the individual paragraphs of the new European constitution are not as important as the spirit in which they are intended.

The historical division of Europe is over, wrote Der Neue Tag from Weiden, but a new curtain is growing across the old continent. Despite all the festivities over the weekend, there was no great effusion of emotion and no real joy, despite all the symbolic photo ops. Instead of an iron curtain, Europe now has a paper curtain, consisting of work permits and minimum taxes. In eastern Europe, the paper warned, people do not really feel welcome.

Magdeburg's Volksstimme disagreed, saying there was every reason to celebrate. The attribute “historic” is appropriate, the paper notes, but, of course, now the efforts begin to ensure that everything functions as it’s supposed to.

In the wake of EU expansion, the Nordwest Zeitung commented on the ghostly atmosphere surrounding upcoming elections to the European Parliament. Hardly anyone is interested in the issues and arguments. That’s because the average person does not feel understood by a parliament that basically has no power anyway. Most people don’t know for whom to vote or for what. And the politicians? They don't trust the voters, which is why they would rather not have a referendum on the European constitution.

As if there weren’t enough problems with Europe, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has a faltering economy at home to deal with. The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung said Schröder is like a disc jockey. If he can’t get people in a good mood, he plays a different record. If the hard rock of reform doesn’t work, he turns to the soothing sounds of improving education and innovation.

The Stuttgarter Nachrichten noted that it’s beginning to dawn on the chancellor that he has painted himself into a corner. The grandiose trumpeting for innovation had died down without results, the empty coffers and unfulfilled prognoses remain.

The Leipziger Volkszeitung agreed and wrote: there is no alternative to structural reforms. No growth, no jobs and no social justice. Germany’s Social Democratic-Green government risks not only having to change horses in mid-stream, but having no horse to ride at all, the paper said.

Die Welt saw Schröder facing two options: massive tax hikes or higher debts. Neither one, the paper emphasized, is going to improve the general mood of the country. After decades of living beyond their means, the paper concluded, Germans have no other alternative but to proceed with a painful consolidation.

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