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German Press Review: IG Metall's Odd Couple

The editorial pages of German newspapers on Monday weigh in on the new leadership team at Germany’s biggest industrial union, the beleaguered IG Metall, and the ongoing crisis in Iraq.

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Papers: Solidarity may be difficult for new IG Metall Chairman Jürgen Peters to build.

The Bild Zeitung observed that the new leaders of IG Metall, Jürgen Peters and Berthold Huber, are off to a bad start. Their election results were the worst in the history of Germany’s biggest industrial union. Though the pair seems intent on striving for common goals, it’s unclear what those might be, the paper said, given that one is a traditionalist and the other a reformer. The paper concluded that the men have tough decisions to make: Almost 100,000 workers have left the union in recent years and those who remain expect a clear course for the union.

The Frankfurter Rundschau took an even more critical view, calling the poor election results not only a "setback" for the new leaders but also a "reminder of their failure." The paper’s editors wrote that "political, strategic and tactical mistakes were committed during the last strike." But any mention of the union’s problems was "half hearted," a weakness the paper said was leading many unionists to remain skeptical of the new leadership team.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung wrote that, with the power struggle now over, there is a longing for coherence and a return to a position of strength within IG Metall’s ranks. But the paper warned that Peters and Huber would have to convey that message to union members. "They carry a massive burden," the paper wrote, "bridging the gap between different opinions. They won’t be accepted as a mediating power in the short run, since the two men have a history of emphasizing their differences." At the end of the day, solidarity is not something one can order, the paper concluded.

German papers on Monday also discussed the ongoing crisis in Iraq.

The Berlin-based Tageszeitung said that, although it was right for the United Nations to abandon any political, military, economic and humanitarian activity until security is established in Iraq, it wondered what the organization would ultimately do if the United States were unwilling to give up its leadership role. The paper’s editors believe the "rest of the world has to refuse to cooperate," which they conclude would force Washington to agree to turning control over the U.N. But, the paper advised, "maybe it’ll be necessary for the U.N. to praise the Iraq war effort so the U.S. doesn’t lose face." And if that saves lives, the TAZ concluded, then there’s "no problem with it."

The Hannoversche Allgemeine wrote that German troops could only be deployed in Iraq under a U.N. mandate. German politicians have spoken out against sending Bundeswehr soldiers to Iraq, but the paper asked how it might respond if the request for troops came from the U.N. "Maybe Berlin should remember that there’s not much difference between Iraq and Afghanistan anymore. In both countries peace needs to be secured after the (collapse) of a terrorist regime." But the paper questioned whether German troops were capable of such a task.

The Mannheimer Morgen wrote that unlike the U.N., the U.S. doesn’t have any experience cleaning up after a war. So it is now crying for help. But the reason it can’t bring the situation in Iraq under control is different: Washington didn’t deploy enough troops after Saddam’s fall. The paper’s editors complained it would be too easy for Washington if others were to clean up the mess now.

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