German Press Review: On the Road to Reforms | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 04.11.2003
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German Press Review: On the Road to Reforms

German editorialists divided their attention between domestic issues such as taxes and economic reforms and the continuing violence in Iraq, Israel, and Afghanistan.

Friedrich Merz, chairman of the German opposition conservative party's parliamentary fraction, put forth a new proposal for reforming the country’s tax system. Compared to the old system, it's radically simpler. But not everyone is embracing it as openly as the Christian Democrats Union. On one hand, the TZ paper from Munich, expressed its frustration that Merz even made his proposal at all. "Germany is in its greatest crisis," the paper said with alarm, "and the people are afraid." They're worried about their jobs, their pensions and their security. The TZ called for a halt to the proposals and commissions and to a return to negotiations, otherwise Germany will talk its way into a standstill.

But the General-Anzeiger from Bonn called for a bit more patience and wondered why people were talking about a standstill? Everybody is talking about reforms, it said. Health, pension, and tax reforms are all on the table. "Germany is on its way to reforming itself," it concluded.

"It’s a catch-twenty-two situation," wrote the Stuttgarter Zeitung. "The longer reforms are discussed, the more people will expect politicians to come up with concrete solutions," it commented. And for the opposition conservatives that means the longer the debate about tax reforms continues, the more people will agree with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder that the political parties need to come together. But the paper observed that the conservatives are showing signs not of agreement, but disagreement with the Social Democrat-Green coalition government. Previously, they spoke out against removing bonuses for homeowners and commuters and now, the Merz proposals call for those same benefits to be removed, the Stuttgart daily observed and concluded, "The conservatives can't contradict themselves much longer."

The Nordbayricher Kurier from Bayreuth admitted it was confused by the German tax system as a whole. "It attempts to be fair in individual cases, but as a whole it's unfair. If you're a millionaire who can pay for a good tax advisor, you can optimize your taxes to end up, in the ideal case, paying nothing at all." The paper concluded by saying the current system "sucks blood from the average taxpayer."

In international news, the Frankfurter Allgemeigne Zeitung questioned how much the newly drafted constitution is worth to the average Afghan. "Can the desire for unity in Afghanistan overcome regional particularities?", the paper asked. "In the Hindu Kush, the outlook isn't good: although the local leaders act ready to compromise, they actually rule by force."

On the situation in Iraq, Die Tagespost from Würzburg called for the creation of a European Iraq policy separate from that of the United States. "U.S: troops in Iraq are not bringing peace to the Middle East, but are causing emotions to boil over," the paper said. It argued that the unpredictability of American foreign policy, and the geographical proximity of Iraq to Europe, make a separate European policy an urgent necessity.

And on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Märkische Oderzeitung pointed out that since the Intifada began, economic growth in Israel has shrunk, unemployment has grown and industrial production has slowed. Plus, the paper wrote, defense, settlement, and the security fence are all putting more strains on the government’s finances. Irrespective of the moral issues at stake in the Middle East, there's a simple question: how long can the Israelis afford to continue their conflict with the Palestinians?