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Europe

German Press Review: Exchanges and Changes

German editorials on Tuesday ranged from addressing the government's involvement in the Middle East prisoner exchange program, the on-going story of Florian Gerster’s dismissal and the search for super universities.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung covered the planned prisoner swap between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla group. The paper lamented that such a success is often only seen as marginal in this complex conflict. But the swap shows that even in the tangle of bloody arguments small progress is possible. The paper noted that the unofficial peace plan drafted by Palestinian and Israeli politicians -- known as the Geneva Initiative -- was of similar quality. Even though Israeli leader Arial Sharon deemed it worthless, the paper believed such confidence-building measures might make it easier for both sides to eventually accept a painful peace.

Other German papers turned their attention to the dismissal of the head of the country’s labor agency. Florian Gerster had been caught up in a scandal over consulting contracts that were allegedly never put through a bidding process.

The Hamburger Morgenpost remembered that it was two years ago that Chancellor Gerhard Schröder declared Florian Gerster to be the best man for this most important agency. If that was the case, then the board of directors and not the boss of the federal agency would now be looking for another job. The paper thought that it boiled down to a bad choice of key people on the part of the chancellor -- and it’s not the first time that’s happened.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung considered the controversy surrounding Gerster receiving compensation with his dismissal after a vote of no confidence, and noted that management is often rewarded for doing a bad job. The German public expects only competent candidates to be given such important positions. But without financial incentives, top managers won’t take the risk, it wrote. The paper summed up the situation thus: We want top-class managers but we want them as cheaply as possible – a seemingly impossible demand.

On to a different political topic in Germany, the leftwing Neues Deutschland considered a popular culture craze that is now being applied to policy: the search for the new super university. The paper opined that Germany is forever searching for super things; a super pop star, the super athlete, the super chancellor. Five institutions will be chosen in the next couple of years by a jury in the latest quest to find something "super". This is the education minister Edelgard Bulmahns’ concept of creating elite universities. But the paper wondered if this isn’t just another mistake waiting to happen. Simply calling a university elite won’t necessarily make it so. The paper wrote that what really needs to happen is a complete overhaul of the entire higher education system: more money, less bureaucracy, better professors, and more autonomy.

On the same subject, the Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten wrote that Bulmahn, the grey mouse of the red-green cabinet, has done a good job over the last years but her proposed elite university search, built on the American model, isn’t what German campuses need.