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German Press Review: Spain's Pullout

Spain's expedited troop pullout from Iraq dominates the editorials of most major German papers on Tuesday. Few found consensus over whether the decision was good or bad.

German editorial writers on Tuesday offered mixed reactions to Spain's decision to pull its troops out of Iraq.

The most critical voice was Die Welt from Berlin, which wrote that "democratic states have made themselves dependent on the goodwill of murderers. They have shown the effectiveness of terrorism, something which invites repetition, and are causing a division in the West. On one side you have the countries pulling out of Iraq, and nothing happens to them, and on the other those hanging on, who will suffer even more violence." Spain's decision was a "fatal error" wrote the paper, because it didn't think about these consequences. "Everyone has doubt that the Iraq situation may not come to a good conclusion," the paper concluded, but Spain's pull out was too quick, and didn't wait for the negotiations for a U.N. mandate.

The Financial Times Deutschland from Hamburg agreed, adding that because Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero pulled out when he did, we can accuse him of feeding terrorists. "They'll think of the pull out as a victory, regardless of the intentions of the prime minister," the paper wrote. Spain could have waited until the danger of this misinterpretation was smaller, even if the situation were made more complicated by the recent kidnappings in Iraq.

However, Cologne's Express newspaper defended Spain's decision, saying the Madrid pullout sent a signal to other countries that they, too, can join the so-called "coalition of the unwilling" and thereby bring about problems for United States President George W. Bush. "Countries that go into Iraq have to fight two fronts -- one in Iraq, and one against extremists in their homeland. The U.S. can only get out of this dilemma when it finally puts a coherent political plan for Iraq on the table under the auspices of the United Nations," it concluded.

The Berliner Kurier newspaper similarly supported Zapatero's decision, saying the Spanish people have certainly not sacrificed their pride by pulling out of Iraq and that Zapatero had demonstrated his trustworthiness as a politician by making good on a campaign promise. "The new prime minister isn't pulling his troops out to anger George Bush or because he is a wimp," the paper wrote. "He's keeping a promise. He was against the Iraq War when he was on the opposition bench, and then he repeated his rejection of the war in the parliamentary election. Now that he is in power, he is doing what he promised: and that's not the usual practice in politics."

Meanwhile, closer to home, a number of German newspaper criticized plans by the Social Democrats to introduce a new system forcing certain companies to create training positions for young people seeking employment.

The Südwest Presse in Ulm called the plan a "callow and bureaucratic instrument of inner-party politics." It added: "The plan is a bonbon with which the Social Democrats are trying to soothe critics of their economic agenda. A part of the Social Democrats still believe that an all-mighty state can fix problems that globalization and old-fashioned job market structures have caused."

Meanwhile, the Freie Presse of Chemnitz wrote that "the necessary apparatus for the plan is going to burden the budget for a long time, even when it's not going to reduce unemployment, because there are not enough applicants." The paper called on the Social Democrats to throw the plan into the waste paper basket.