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German Press Review: Private Autobahns?

Many of Germany’s papers on Thursday commented on the proposal by German Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement to privatize the country’s autobahns.

The Nürnberger Zeitung wondered how the message will be received by car drivers: The German taxpayer is starting to look paralyzed in view of the demands that are raining down on him and will no doubt accept yet another piece of bad news, the paper wrote. Germans are no longer aware of the fact that they once financed the autobahns, it said. Now the government, relying on taxpayers’ contributions, will decide on the highways’ further use with the greatest of ease, according to the daily.

Neues Deutschland in Berlin asked: Have you heard anything about “Super Minister” Wolfgang Clement lately? He is supposed to boost the economy and ensure more jobs are created, the paper noted. But instead he has given some thought to transport and to whether the state-run autobahns should be privatized. Not unexpectedly, the daily continued, the motorists’ lobby protested and Clement immediately sought to appease, saying he had merely wanted to set people thinking. He‘s achieved nothing, it said, but at least everyone’s talking about him again.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung pointed out that Transport Minister Manfred Stolpe – suspecting what reactions Clement’s proposal would trigger – immediately sought to play it down, saying there would not be a motorway toll for cars. The paper cynically remarked that the transport minister’s word is absolutely credible – after all he’s been consoling the public for months because Germany still hasn’t managed to introduce the scheduled autobahn toll for trucks.

Other German papers continue to comment on the ruling by Italy’s Constitutional Court that the immunity law blocking Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s bribery trial is unconstitutional. The Mannheimer Morgen wrote that even a Berlusconi is not above the law. Will he have to go to prison for corruption? For the time being, it continued, the judges have only taught the “cavaliere” a lesson, but it is doubtful whether the government chief will draw the right conclusions. For Berlusconi is immune to criticism, the daily said, and moves on the political stage as if he were suffering from paranoia. Because he thinks he is surrounded by traitors and has lost any sense of reality, he is suppressing the simple fact that he has caused the crisis in the country because of his dubious business dealings and his attempts to cover them up.