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Europe

German Press Review: Fewer Troops, Fewer Jobs

German editors Wednesday reacted to the United States’ announcement that it will pull thousands of troops out of Germany in the coming years. Commentators also took another look at reforms to the German welfare state.

The Mitteldeutsche Zeitung in Halle lamented the US decision to withdraw its troops, reminiscing that the American way of life has influenced generations of people -- from their musical to their fashion tastes, but also in issues such as openness and mutual tolerance. On the other hand, the paper wrote, the American "big brother’s" behavior has also warranted criticism, evidenced in protests decades ago against the Vietnam War. The recent announcement about the withdrawal of troops is cause for sentimentality. That has nothing to do with the fears about economic losses near the bases in Germany once the American troops leave. Even the fairytale that Washington wants to teach Germany a lesson for not getting involved in the war in Iraq doesn’t change the feelings of sentimentality, the paper contemplated.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung noted that despite all the recent conflicts and plans for withdrawing troops, the United States remains an irreplaceable partner for Europe. However, there’s also a debt to be discharged at the creditor’s domicile. If Europeans want to be involved in international political discussions, they will not only have to learn to toe the same line, they will also have to equip their joint armed forces for the conflicts of the future. Not for mere adventure, but to respond to legitimate concerns, the paper predicted.

Turning to the announced reforms to Germany’s unemployment and social assistance benefits, known as Hartz IV, and the regular Monday demonstrations where thousands of people protest those reforms, the Neues Deutschland newspaper in Berlin commented that the more than four million unemployed people in Germany aren't looking for financial hand-outs from the state. What they want, the paper pointed out, is a good, honest job that can allow them to live a decent life.

The protests are primarily directed at the Social Democratic-Green government coalition right now, but what protestors are really responding to is the entire German system, including the opposition Christian Democrats, who are amazed that they cannot capitalize on the ongoing protests, the Schwäbische Zeitung said. All of these parties are part of a long process of adapting to the new situation, and the entire country will have to deal with tough changes for quite a few years. The government and any government to follow can do nothing but bite the bullet and try to improve the infrastructure, especially in hard-hit eastern Germany, the paper concluded.

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