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Europe

German Press Review: Labor Problems

The unemployment numbers in Germany and the admission by Donald Rumsfeld, that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda were top stories in German newspapers on Wednesday.

The Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that during the first negotiations over labor market laws two years ago, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder buckled under the pressure of the upper house of parliament, which is dominated by the conservative opposition. At the time, employers were freed from secondary labor costs for minimum wage part-time jobs, which was cause for celebration in the business sector. This gave people hope that the economy would pick up speed. But what is the situation like today, asked the Hannover paper. There are more people with work but at the same time more unemployed than two years ago. Instead of creating low-wage jobs in addition to full-time employment, companies cut regular positions and replaced them with the part-time jobs. Such experiences should be a warning to the politicians in the future when making labor market reforms, wrote the paper.

The Financial Times Deutschland in Hamburg cautioned its readers that the unemployment numbers mustn’t be interpreted too badly. The situation in the labor market is indeed catastrophic for the people, for companies, for the social welfare system and for the government in Berlin. But the editors also optimistically pointed out that things can and will get better. If the economy continues to grow, then at some time in the future new jobs will be created. If policy makers in Berlin maintain their reforms and the European Central Bank keeps interest rate hikes on hold, then there just may be a spring after the winter on the labor market, the daily predicted.

The state of the labor market is still critical, began the Märkische Allgemeine. A drop in unemployment, as hoped for, didn’t happen in the summer. Germany’s labor agency is afraid the next round of reforms in January will worsen the situation. Based on the lack of new apprenticeships, the Potsdam daily pointed out that Schröder's administration rightfully fears that businesses won’t create jobs and that Berlin’s labor policies have reached an all-time low.

The Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten called on Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to hold the course. Despite the threat of almost five million unemployed, the government has done many things correctly and much less has gone wrong than feared. Without the proper economic impulses and more optimistic companies, there won’t be much improvement. The Dresdner daily demanded that all involved give everything they can.

The admission of Donald Rumsfeld that there was no evidence of a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda was fodder for almost all German editors.

The Freie Presse from Chemnitz noted that Rumsfeld’s declaration must have been a cold shower for the White House. With the statement, the last argument for Washington’s attack against Iraq went up in smoke. Despite Rumsfeld’s weak explanation a few hours later that he had been misunderstood, he most likely has lost his role as a player in the Bush camp, the paper observed.

What was obvious for most Europeans from the get-go must be clear to all Americans now, wrote the Neue Presse. Many wanted to believe there was a link between Saddam and al-Qaeda, now they will be brooding about their mistaken belief. With some satisfaction, the Hannover daily wrote that democratic presidential candidate John Kerry will be happy about Rumsfeld’s blackout, or might it even be senility? The paper suggested that the democrats should elect Rumsfeld to campaign as helper of the month.