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German Press Review: How Long Can the Lights Stay On?

A day after the lights went off in Italy, German editorialists cast a light on the energy situation within their own country and abroad. They also commented on the meeting between Bush and Putin.

Sunday’s power outage in Italy was the fourth major such blackout in six weeks after the United States, London and Copenhagen. In Germany, the electric companies are sitting contentedly, Das Handelsblatt from Düsseldorf wrote. "The lights go out in Italy and the energy bosses in Germany are happy about it. All the spectacular blackouts give giant German electric companies help in making their case. They power industry has been countering calls for liberalization and lower prices for years with the buzzword ‘Versorgungssicherheit’ – security of supply."

The Westdeutsche Zeitung took a similar stance in criticizing German complacency. "Our regrets go out to the millions of people who have suffered damages in America and Italy – even if they ‘only’ had to throw out the contents of their refrigerator or ‘only’ experienced fear," the paper wrote. "Let’s not have a false sense of security in Germany," the paper reprimanded. "As one example of the danger facing us, we are dependent on only two suppliers for gas – Norway and Russia."

The Badische Zeitung from Freiburg examined Germany’s perspective on the energy problem. "We Germans know one thing," the paper wrote, "that this kind of blackout couldn’t cross over to Germany." Praising the preventive nature of the German system, it continued, "Our specialists immediately turned on a pumping station that sent electricity into our power network. At the same time they throttled the power stations. Our power network is one of the most secure in the world, according to the power companies. It’s some how nice to know that something in this country still seems to work well. Hopefully soon we won’t have to put our foot in our mouth."

The editorial in Financial Times Deutschland focused on the meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Small presents make a friendship. Bush has been following this rule. And he made Putin very happy at Camp David by saying Chechnya is a target in the international war on terror," the paper observed. It added that Bush needs Putin’s support in Iraq, "but Iraq and Chechnya alone won’t make peace between Russia and the United States over the long term." For this reason, the paper said the two will continue to "give each other more presents in the future."

The left-leaning Neues Deutschland from Berlin commented on the American President’s ulterior motives for getting friendly with the Russian president despite his country’s siding with Germany and France in opposing the war. "Putin is still a ‘good guy’ for Bush, even though he was on the German-French axis during the Iraq War. It’s clearly not Russia’s economy that is the reason for preferential treatment by Bush, but the ‘good guy’ still has atomic weapons, veto power in the United Nations Security Council, and connections to Iran and North Korea, which are still part of Bush’s axis of evil," the paper opined.

In domestic issues, the subject of Friday’s parliamentary vote on health care reform also made the editorial pages. Six of the parliamentarians from the ruling Social Democratic Party broke ranks and rejected a compromise bill drawn up with the support of the conservative Christian Democrats. The Süddeutsche Zeitung said the no-votes within Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s own party "are a major warning to take the objections to proposed reforms more seriously in the future." The healthcare proposal was only the first of several reform bills coming before the parliament as part of the chancellor’s Agenda 2010, a major overhaul of the country’s social system designed to revive the economy. When the next vote comes up in mid-October, "the government can’t allow its weaknesses to be exposed a second time," the paper wrote.