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German Press Review: Lost Innocence

German papers on Friday commented on the decision by Germany's parliament to extend the Bundeswehr mission in Afghanistan as well as the ongoing discussion about EU asylum camps in Africa.

German papers generally concurred with Germany's parliament that the Bundeswehr operation in Afghanistan should be extended. Where they differ is their larger contextual interpretations of this mission. For example, Die Welt from Berlin saw it largely as loyalty to the international community. The paper didn't see the government as engaged in some "vain craving for recognition" in Afghanistan. Rather, it's a "contribution to the stabilization of a crisis region." What counts is that "the Germans are keeping to their word," the paper wrote.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung predicted that this is just one German mission in an ongoing fight against terrorism and securing of the peace -- and that German will engage itself "more, not less" than before. "Since Chancellor Gerhard Schröder so vehemently made the military into something that wasn't taboo anymore," the paper wrote that "Germany finally lost its

innocence."

The Berliner Zeitung wrote that it will take "decades, or perhaps never" for Afghanistan to function without outside help. "But to give it up would mean ignoring -- or not wanting -- all the successes that have happened until now," the daily added. For example, "Afghanistan is now a country where girls can go to school again." The paper accused "anybody who doesn't see that as success as putting their hands in front of their eyes."

The Handelsblatt from Düsseldorf also counted successes in Afghanistan: "It's just a few days until its first free presidential elections," and "more and more refugees are going back to their hometowns." The paper imagined that "to pull out of Afghanistan would mean to give the land back over to the Taliban."

Only the Berliner Kurier was critical of the operation: The paper's logic was that "the purpose of the soldiers was to protect and support the democratization process." But since Thursday's attack on German soldiers, "we have to ask ourselves if that's possible." The paper also wondered "if the Afghans want it." And so the paper believed that "really Germany has as little to do in Afghanistan as in Iraq."

Other newspapers turned their attention to German Interior Minister Otto Schily’s support for opening refugee camps in North Africa.

“Yesterday, hundreds of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East took the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean in rickety boats to find the shores of Italy,” wrote the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. “These people are only the most recent example of a mass movement that has been underway for months. Politicians have no response – with one exception: Otto Schily.” The paper went on to point out that coordinating such camps would require the cooperation of the very countries many of the refugees are fleeing. “This calls Schily’s recommendation into question,” the paper concluded. “It is also not solution to simply close off Europe’s borders. Rather, the only help will come through solving the problem of poverty in the states the refugees are fleeing.”

Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung picked up that thread, pointing out that the European Commission has advocated policies designed to target poverty in an effort to ensure that only those with political motives seek asylum in Europe. “When you consider this, Otto Schily’s suggestion seems less absurd than you would think by just looking at the debate inside Germany,” the paper wrote. Although the paper conceded a degree of impracticability, it also

points to wide contradictions among critics: “Some say such a camp would become a magnet for African refugees, while others say it will remain empty because refugees would quickly realize that by entering such a facility they will never reach Europe,” the daily noted and concluded: “Such a camp only makes sense for one target group: the thousands who are fished from the Mediterranean by the EU Coast Guard every year.”

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