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Europe

German Press Review: Punishing Those Responsible

The conviction of a former senior politician in East Germany responsible for killing people as they tried to flee to the West is a topic in Wednesday’s editorials along with the euro’s Stability and Growth Pact.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung applauded Tuesday's verdict, which found 73-year-old Herbert Häber guilty of ordering the killings of East Germans who attempted to flee to the West over the Berlin Wall. The paper said the trial of the former Politbüro man an "honorable attempt to bring about justice instead of simply writing the casualties off as victims of a political system. It was an attempt to hold decision makers responsible and not just go after the border guards who pulled the trigger." The ruling is correct, even though the court decided not to punish Häber, the paper wrote: "The court had to let Häber go. Herbert Häber no longer had any political clout in the former East Germany and therefore no immediate responsibility at the time of the murders. But the decision to let him go free now also means that again there is no real signal that justice is being done."

Other editorials fumed over how Germany looks set to breach the EU's tight budgetary guidelines for the fourth year in a row in 2005. Many wondered where that leaves the euro zone's Stability and Growth Pact.

The Stuttgarter Nachrichten remarked that the stunning loss of Germany’s financial reputation within the European Union would be "tolerable if there were signs showing an end to the mess. Germany, once a model European country which pushed for the Growth and Stability Pact in the first place, has now breached the three percent deficit limit three years in a row." That is embarrassing enough as it is, commented the paper. "And now even the latest promises by the government sound hollow," it said. The paper admitted that the pact may be in need of reforms but Germany's deficit failures disqualify it from being a serious partner in the European circle.

"The statement made by the head of Germany’s Social Democrat party, Franz Müntefering saying that it’s better to have 3.0 percent of GDP earmarked for education and research, than it is to stick to the 3.0-percent deficit limit of the Stability and Growth Pact is wrong," stated the Schwarzwälder Bote. The paper argued that the situation should be the other way around: saving more leaves more to spend on education, it said.

The Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten observed that more governments are breaking the euro zone's Stability Pact, above all Germany and France. It pointed out that the next generation will hardly be able to control the astronomical debt. "And now Italy has escaped a reprimand from EU finance ministers for breaking the Maastricht budgetary criteria, delivering another blow to Brussels," it concluded.