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Europe

German Press Review: Slowing Down

German papers on Wednesday commented on the state of the German economy against the background of the latest annual report by top research institutes. The report said the economy would see a slowdown in growth in 2005.

In their traditional autumn report, issued on Tuesday, Germany's six leading economic research institutes actually revised upwards their growth forecast for the current year to 1.8 percent from 1.5 percent previously. But five of the think-tanks said they expected growth of the eurozone's biggest economy to slow to 1.5 percent next year.

Commenting on this, the Nordbayerischer Kurier took the view that Germany is drifting sideways instead of upwards. Two per cent and more growth is needed for more jobs, the Bavarian daily wrote, but that is nowhere in sight. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder will be burdened with the unsolved problem of mass-unemployment at the next general election and that will cost points which cannot be compensated even by elaborately staged meetings in Bedouin tents with Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

Cologne’s Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger was less pessimistic, saying the country has basically moved on since a good year and a half ago. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s Agenda 2010 package of wide-ranging welfare and jobless benefit cuts -- and that is also confirmed by the autumn report -- has pointed the way forward. But, the paper continued, in the long run the poor employment situation cannot be settled just with wage restraints and cuts in labour costs – new jobs are created if more ideas are transformed into marketable products.

Of course, the unofficial strike by workers at the Opel car factory in Bochum facing mass-redundancies again attracted a good deal of comment.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung pointed out that in only six years Opel and Saab have accrued a loss of €2.5 billion ($3.14 billion). No business concern can afford that forever, not even the world’s biggest carmaker. The Frankfurt paper thought redundancies will be unavoidable, and painful though it is for all involved, getting rid of excess capacity is important for Opel’s salvation and with it the long-term preservation of thousands of jobs at General Motors plants in Europe. That’s why putting Opel back on an even keel is a greater sign of solidarity than the wildcat strike in Bochum. Die Welt in Berlin wrote: "Despite their mass protest action, the Opel workers in Bochum should have no illusions." The paper thought that for many of them it’s only about securing better conditions for their final departure. It is so difficult to calm the strikers, Die Welt added, because they have no perspective. They feel they are the losers of globalisation -- particularly when they hear that the workforce at Opel’s subsidiary in Poland is being stepped up considerably.