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Europe

German Press Review: Filling Gerster's Shoes

Germany’s newspapers on Monday focused on the events surrounding the dismissal of the head of the Federal Labor Office. A few tackled Germany’s involvement in the proposed prisoner exchange program in the Middle East.

The Heilbronner Stimme pulled no punches when it wrote that there was little point in finding a successor to Gerster. Another bureaucrat to sit at the top of the administrative behemoth would suffice, the paper lamented. According to the paper’s editorial, Gerster’s dishonorable dismissal has proven once again that the office cannot be reformed. No one who has the slightest modicum of sense or personality would dare to enter what the paper described as a pit full of snakes.

Florian Gerster’s demise is a severe blow to the government’s reform endeavors, wrote the Stuttgarter Nachrichten. His dismissal is a major setback to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder who had personally installed Gerster as the new head of the labor office, the paper commented. Gerster’s credentials were based on his performance in the state of Rheinland- Palatinate where he’d managed to bring down the unemployment level from 9 percent to 6.6 percent over four years. However at the federal level it’s not enough just to have a good concept, the paper added, you also need the appropriate staff.

The Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung was slightly more optimistic about the lessons to be learned from the events. The idea to find a business player instead of a political one is to be welcomed, the paper wrote. For decades, the post as head of the labor office was politically appointed and the appointee usually served political interests. They were the guarantors for a steady status quo, the paper wrote. Gerster was supposed to be a modernizer, however that too backfired, because he was still too much a politician, according to the paper. His interim successor Frank Jürgen Weise is from the world of business and knows his way around the labor office. “So why not stick with him?” the paper asked.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung followed in a similar vein, writing that the office needs, above all, an efficient new boss, preferably not a political figure. The chancellor should opt for a successful business manager, the paper recommended, someone from a leading company who would also have the opposition’s support. But, and it’s a big but, the paper said, who would be willing to follow in Gerster’s footsteps and willing to work for a salary well below those earned in the free market? Schröder needs to find a successor quickly and painlessly, the paper concluded, saying that a protracted affair would delay the labor market reforms even further.

Die Welt newspaper in Berlin wrote that the challenges for Gerster’s successor are manifold: He or she needs to keep up the impetus for reform but at the same time be able to keep the various lobby groups and wage partners in the labor market happy and convince of the necessity for reform, the paper said. There are good examples of leading managers who have managed to run a successful business despite public involvement or co-determination. This is what the labor office needs otherwise the agency has no future, warned the paper.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Lausitzer Rundschau newspapers addressed the possible repercussions of the exchange of Israeli and Hezbollah prisoners and the German mediation efforts. The FAZ said that in the past Germany’s influence in the Middle East has been overestimated. However the latest case shows that the German government is capable of acting as a mediator trusted by both sides, the paper wrote. This is quite something, it exclaimed, given that the Americans recently more or less admitted that the mid-east conflict is intractable.

Meanwhile, the Lausitzer Rundschau wrote that Israel will pay a high price for the prisoner exchange. Not only will it have to expect terror acts by Hezbollah in and around the Palestinian territories but also along the Lebanese-Israeli border. Hezbollah wrote the paper, is fast becoming very difficult to control.