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Europe

German Press Review: Moral Bankruptcy

German editorials on Friday focused on the call by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for an international force to protect UN staff as well as the high price of oil and a report on the state of the German economy.

"Kofi Annan is utterly alone," wrote the Financial Times Deutschland: No country is willing to meet the plea of the UN Secretary General to protect the UN mission in Iraq. This is a sign of moral bankruptcy especially for all those countries who accused the United States of unilateralism and demanded a greater UN role in Iraq, the daily continued, adding that this includes the German government. It's paradoxical enough that Kofi Annan will have to rely on US troops defending his envoy in Baghdad, the paper concluded.

According to the Handelsblatt from Düsseldorf, the return of the United Nations to Iraq is crucial to the country emerging from the current spiral of violence. There must be some perspective for the future despite all the terror, the paper wrote. Under the current plan, general elections are due to take place at the end of next January and the paper believed this can only occur if they receive the seal of approval from the UN. Without the international body, the elections will be worth nothing -- if they take place at all, the paper noted.

Commenting on the high price of oil the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger said this is very different to the Middle East crisis in 1973 which was politically motivated. This crisis, though, is due to economic growth, with rapidly expanding economies like China increasing the demand for oil. The paper argued that while the high oil prices are especially annoying for car drivers they by no means stifle economic growth. But the prices are reason enough to begin moving away from the current dependency on oil, the daily wrote.

The Lausitzer Rundschau from Cottbus disagreed, writing that "one gets the feeling that OPEC and Russia are holding the financial markets on a short leash." At first they say there are no more oil reserves available and then suddenly the taps are opened by an extra 1.5 million barrels a day, noted the paper. It does not believe OPEC when it says the high oil price is due to global economic growth, from which Germany as an export nation will profit. Domestic demand will falter as soon as higher fuel costs absorbs a modest increase in disposable income, the paper warned.

Turning to the OECD's economic report for Germany, Erfurt's Thüringer Allgemeine was fairly skeptical, saying economic experts may speak of moderate financial relief. But in plain language this means nothing other than the economy will continue to grow more slowly than the average rate of the industrialized countries, the paper noted, adding that the unemployment rate will only begin to decrease in 2005 at the earliest. The tageszeitung from Berlin compared the OECD prognosis for Germany to the same feeling of hopelessness when describing developing countries: They are told to invest in infrastructure, education and health. While the paper noted that Germany has enough autobahns, it criticized the current level of investment in education. It maintained that "German children are lagging far behind their counterparts in other industrialised countries, some don't qualify for an apprenticeship and we allow ourselves the luxury of writing 50-year-olds off as unemployed rather than organising further vocational training." Much needs to be done in the area of training to lower the current stubborn unemployment levels, the paper concluded.