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Europe

German Press Review: Reforms With a Social Conscience

Several German newspapers on Wednesday pondered the message contained within President Rau’s Christmas address to the nation, in which he pleaded that economic considerations shouldn’t dictate all spheres of society.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that Rau is the only public figure who’s saying these kind of things. The paper quoted a part of the German president’s Christmas address to the nation. "If all areas of life are to be governed by economic rules," Rau said, "society will be heading for a dead end." According to Rau, this kind of thinking is even permeating families and partnerships, and the way people relate to their children: what will this cost me, what will I gain from that?

The Südkurier based in Konstanz asked, "Is our society so warped that the president is forced to remind us of things we should be able to take for granted?" The paper wrote, "Who’s arguing that cost-efficiency considerations have no place in the family, at the sick bed, or in the sphere of education? And yet financial concerns are increasingly playing a decisive role in what should be humanitarian or personal affairs." Rau’s speech, according to the paper, has strengthened the arguments of all those who work in these areas.

"Johannes Rau has remained true to himself and his role as the conscience of the German nation," the Schwarzwälder Bote in Oberndorf wrote. " That’s why his Christmas message won’t please everyone. But his call for reforms with a social conscience is appropriate," according to the paper. "In a society that’s becoming increasingly dictated by figures – stock market figures and profit and loss figures, but also statistics on unemployment and the social divide."

Rau is of course right to remind us of the importance of commitment and solidarity, Berlin-based Die Welt wrote. "But although there’s been lots of talk about far-reaching reforms, these still haven’t taken place. Germany is a long way from being an efficiently and economically structured society," it wrote. The paper underlined that it is the duty of politicians to give people the courage to face the changes and see the opportunities they bring. Yet, unfortunately Rau’s warnings rather do the opposite, the paper commented. "In fact," the paper wrote, "focusing a bit more on economic concerns, particularly with regard to the state and education sectors, would do us all a lot of good."

The Heilbronner Stimme asked why Rau didn’t voice his concerns before now. "The impression we’re left with is that the president is there to put the warmth into German politics, while it’s the chancellor’s duty to carry out cold-blooded action," the paper wrote. " Yet even Rau can’t have failed to notice that, while economy and economic considerations certainly aren’t everything, everything else is nothing without them," the newspaper concluded.

The Märkische Oderzeitung in the eastern town of Frankfurt an der Oder prophesized that Germans will be celebrating a quieter Christmas than usual this year. "Quieter, less hectic, and less commercial," the paper wrote. "In uncertain times people seek security and comfort in the community. And the times are uncertain," according to the daily. "World peace is more endangered than ever because those who won the war against Saddam Hussein have failed to win the peace, and hate- fuelled terrorism is even more of a threat."

Insecure, worried about the future, and generally weary was the Frankfurter Rundschau’s diagnosis of Germany’s mental state – one in which, it said, we’ve lost interest even in the usual panacea of consumerism. "Nonetheless we do still seem to need the usual frantic Christmas commercialism. The affluent society is throwing a farewell party at dumping prices," the paper wrote. "Let’s hope that when it comes round from its hangover, it’ll start thinking about what it’s actually still able to afford and sets priorities - not just at Christmas."