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Europe

German Press Review: The Finance Minister, Germany's Scapegoat

Germany's budgetary problems preoccupied the nation's newspapers on Tuesday. They warned the European Union and Germany not to make hasty decisions.

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For the second time, Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has failed meeting the criteria of the European Union pact ensuring the stability of its common currency, and Brussels is worried that the stability pact could soon break down, the daily Märkische Allgemeine wrote on Tuesday. While the euro was continuing its seemingly unstoppable rise, opting out of the pact would be a mistake. The euro was as strong as it was only because the dollar was so weak, the paper said. As soon as confidence in the U.S. economy was restored, which could happen soon, the dollar would recover. Getting into further debt would have negative consequences on the euro and on all the euro zone economies, it wrote.

The Berliner Kurier pointed out that German Finance Minister Hans Eichel had become the nation's scapegoat. While he had stoically put up with criticism from his political opponents, his own comrades would not turn their back on him, the paper wrote. Their commitment to the luckless minister was almost shocking. But the paper warned that Eichel should not rely on these expressions of support. The SPD leadership and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder still held the keys to the treasury, it said, but that was no guarantee that they would survive.

The Märkische Oderzeitung from Frankfurt am Oder commented on the current situation in Iraq. It said that the Bush administration had a problem. One month after the fall of Baghdad, the U.S. was already having to replace the leader of its civilian administration in the country. And because American special forces had still been unable to find any chemical and biological weapons, they were going to be replaced by a new team. Both developments were indications of a fiasco.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung commented on the German government’s proposal to keep children in school all day. If you ignored the problem of financing, the paper wrote, the idea was definitely a good one. There had been consensus for a long time in the areas of education- and family-policy that families with children in Germany needed more support. But the paper said it was likely that the projected cost would rise above four billion euros, and the program would probably have to be cut back.

The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung commented that in these tight economic times the plan to have all day schools could not be respected enough, since it had an impact on the right people, children. More and more kids were left on their own as soon as school was over at 1:00 p.m., without supervision and without proper meal times. All day schools were an important step in social equality, the paper contended.