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Europe

German Press Review: No End in Sight

German editorials on Thursday looked at release of two Italian hostages in Iraq, retail chain KarstadtQuelle's restructuring plans and a quota for German-language songs on radio stations.

The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung summarized the Italian aid workers’ release by saying it followed three weeks of being held hostage, included two courageous women and resulted in a moment of joy for Italy. The Islamists spared the two Simonas, who had gone to Iraq to help the people. The women were not beheaded like other hostages, so while rejoicing the women’s liberation the explosive question emerges whether Italy gave in to blackmail, the paper noted. Since a change of heart surely did not occur among the captors, the daily concluded that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his government must have offered something in return. Yet the paper believed that Italy did not allow itself to be brought to its knees. It said that Italy found a way to save the hostages, but has not turned its back on Western allies in Iraq nor on the government in Baghdad. Berlusconi has made it clear that

Italian soldiers will stay in Iraq, regardless of what kidnappers demand. It’s a hard line, the paper wrote, but the only solution.

The Lübecker Nachrichten asked where things go from here in Iraq. Sure, everybody’s happy that the Italian women have been freed. And the Italian diplomats and agents should be commended for maneuvering this miracle in Iraq. But there’s no time to stop and catch one’s breath since other hostages are still fearing for their lives in Iraq. Anarchy is spreading in the country. Insurrectionists have control of areas that occupation forces don’t dare to enter anymore. One would hope, pondered the paper, that the liberation of the two women would prompt people to reconsider policies concerning Iraq in general.

Turning to Germany and the restructuring of the department store chain KarstadtQuelle, the Stuttgarter Nachrichten called it the most prominent example of the downward spiral of economic crisis. The Retail Trade Association is anticipating a loss of 35,000 jobs this year in Germany, not including those at KarstadtQuelle. And the end is nowhere in sight. A lot of stores are standing empty in big cities, even in the best areas. So the department store chain is going to have a tough time finding a buyer for its stores. In the end, it’s going to be the employees losing their jobs who will pay the price, the paper wrote.

The Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung summed up the KarstadtQuelle situation in a nutshell by asking who’s supposed to buy the stores from the company when they’re not even good enough for their present owner? And, casting a glance at the music scene in Germany, Bielefeld’s Neue Westfälische newspaper recalled that demands for a quota for German songs on the radio were unsuccessful back in the 1990s. And as German musicians start making the same demands again, the chances aren’t much better now. But quotas could make sense, the paper argued, since new songs sung in German make up only 1.2 percent of the music broadcast on German public radio. That’s definitely not enough and makes it virtually impossible for German music that relies mainly on airplay to succeed on the market, proclaimed the daily.