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Europe

German Press Review: Stability Pact Crisis

German newspaper editorials on Wednesday looked at Germany's woes with the EU growth and stability pact, as well as U.S. President Bush's visit to London.

The European Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Pedro Solbes, is trying to force Germany’s Finance Minister, Hans Eichel, to start saving, wrote Der Tagesspiegel. He’s supposed to lower the budget deficit by 0.8 percent by 2004, which translates into five million euros. But, the paper said that’s only going to happen if the government follows through with the third leg of the tax reform proposals. But the way things are going, it’s unlikely to happen... and the government is to blame. It hasn’t saved enough and hasn’t reformed enough. The daily wondered, though, if Eichel would be able to ignore the pressure from the commission.

Cologne’s Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger thought Germany’s promises of co-operation were not enough. The European Commission has already been too patient, it said, and pointed out that other euro zone countries have been able to keep their deficit below the 3 percent mark or have even generated a surplus during difficult economic times. But it’s realistic to assume the commission’s suggestions to Germany will be halted by EU finance ministers, especially Germany and France. The daily asserted that the stability pact – which should be the foundation for the population’s faith in the euro – isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. It went on to say this was a heavy blow just before 10 new countries join the EU.

Die Welt, in Berlin, echoed that view. It wrote that the stability pact is dead, even though many try to claim it’s still alive. The little spat between German Finance Minister Hans Eichel and EU Commissioner Pedro Solbes proves it’s death. The paper thought the German government certainly tried to find a middle ground. It increased social payments, which the EU applauded. But the changes haven’t been enough, which is reflected in the gigantic debt being loaded onto the shoulders of the next generation. The paper did acknowledge that it’s difficult to save four billion euros, but wondered why the government is still allowing subsidies -- worth billions -- for the mining industry.

One of the other topics of Wednesday’s editorial comment was the state visit to Britain by U.S. President George Bush. It could have been magnificent. Bush and Blair together with the Queen in Buckingham Palace after a triumphant victory in Iraq. However, the Tageszeitung in Munich noted, it didn’t quite work out as the two leaders had planned. But friends have to stick together during bad times, which is why Bush needs Blair right now. However, the thousands of Britons taking to the street in protest to Bush’s visit don’t seem to see this need. The paper thought his visit was like, quoting the words of the Guardian newspaper, “a stripper at a wedding”.

The war has chained Bush and Blair together like slaves on display. Even if Blair wanted to, he couldn’t separate himself from his brother in crime, argued the Schwäbische Zeitung. They can only hope the storm building in their countries calms and a miracle in Iraq happens, especially before the next US presidential election. The paper thought Blair was at the mercy of Bush, who holds the steering wheel in Iraq. If they pull-out early, chaos will follow. If they stay, the number of dead soldiers will rise and the opposition to their governments will grow. The only choice Bush and Blair have, the paper said, is to choose the lesser of the two evils.