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German Press Review: Taking the Easy Way Out

Friday's editorial pages in Germany commented on the failure of Chancellor Schröder to challenge Russian President Putin on his handling of the oil giant Yukos. The longer working week also made the editorial pages.

Munich's Süddeutsche Zeitung scolded the Russian government for taking such a hard line in demanding taxes from Yukos. The paper wrote that it understands the state has an interest in collecting overdue taxes. "But while President Vladimir Putin goes so violently after Yukos," the paper commented, it does not see "the government threatening other oil companies with divestiture." The paper defined Putin as "not a dictator of justice, but a dictator of his own arbitrary will" and said "his authoritarian state is not yielding order but disorder."

The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger from Cologne said dictators "often justify the problems in their country as an 'internal necessity.'" That how German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder explained away the Yukos case, when questioned about it in his visit to Russia. But the paper commented that Schröder shouldn't "endorse the methods" of a dictator. The chancellor is trying to build economic ties with Russia, the paper said, so he should "demand fairness and transparency." But in Moscow "Schröder closed his eyes," the paper commented, saying that indicated "Schröder's lack of instinct for democracy."

The Frankfurter Rundschau from Frankfurt sarcastically quipped that "it would be asking too much of the chancellor to discuss Russia's move from democracy" to what the paper calls "democratism: a political system that appears democratic, but where the power actually comes from the top down." Schröder's silence "does damage to Russian civil society," the paper wrote, "and also to the German-Russian friendship, because friendship requires openness."

The Rhein-Zeitung from Koblenz and Mainz wrote that it does not agree with proposals to universally extend the work week past thirty-five hours. "Twenty years ago," the paper wrote, "unions were touting the shortening of the work week as their instrument to decrease unemployment." But "shortening working hours wasn't a panacea, and now by lengthening the work week we would be making the same mistake: following ideology that has nothing to do with economic reality." The paper said the best solution "is what employers have always

wanted: each business should be taken as an individual case, sometimes shortening, sometimes lengthening work hours." Potsdam's Märkische Allgemeine looked at the effect of lengthened hours on poorer states in the former East Germany. "If people work longer in the west, then the east will lose its one advantage: workers who are willing to work longer, most of them for less money. The paper predicted that pressure on employees will increase. "They will have either to work longer hours, or the firms will leave Germany," perhaps going to eastern Europe.