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German Press Review: The U.N., Iraq and Cleaning Women

German newspapers on Tuesday looked at Washington’s efforts to get the United Nations more involved in the reconstruction of Iraq and Berlin’s decision to take a softer line against illegal cleaning jobs.

First and foremost, wrote the Kölner Stadtanzeiger, the U.S. offer to include the United Nations in Iraqi reconstruction efforts is pure rhetoric since the United States will continue to be in command. Washington is only willing to compromise in the fields of the economy and administration. It’s therefore quite natural that the U.N. shows little interest in helping out, contended the Cologne-based paper. On the other hand, the international community cannot afford to let the opportunity slip away to prove that the world body indeed has the power to act, argued the daily.

It’s already quite clear that soon enough the United States will knock on Brussels’ doors to pass the buck -- militarily on to NATO and in terms of financing to the European Union, predicted the Frankfurter Rundschau. If Europeans then fail to have a clear concept, they will once more become driven by U.S.-politics which is becoming dangerously erratic with every new turn of events in Iraq, wrote the paper.

The security situation in Iraq continues to be bad, said the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung from Halle. And at least the Shi’ites are opposed to the U.S. schedule for the transfer of power to the Iraqi people. They want to elect a government now, at a point where they are comparatively unified. But elections at this point are an illusion, warned the daily. The paper thinks the situation could be defused if the Iraqi governing council – which Shi’ites believe does not possess enough legitimacy - would receive a U.N. mandate.

Several German papers commented on a decision by the German Finance Ministry not to turn illegal household work into a crime, thus repealing an earlier announcement by Finance Minister Hans Eichel who had held out the prospect of hefty fines.

Once more, a trial balloon of the German government is quickly loosing its air observed the Leipziger Volkszeitung. Now, the government doesn’t consider a case of illegal home help to be that bad any more. All in all, the paper applauded the turnaround, arguing that tightening regulations with regard to illicit household work would only lead to ordinary people denouncing each other. And that, wrote the newspaper would ultimately only lead to the outbreak of war between neighbors.

Pedaling backwards - that’s one thing the German government can do after all, wrote the conservative daily Die Welt. Before even coming out with a draft for a new law on illicit work, they have realized that they would have gone too far in declaring some three million German households to be “hot beds of crime.” But now the government will have to decide whether to start pedaling again, argued the paper, only forward this time, by creating opportunities to employ domestic help without getting in conflict with social insurance or tax regulations.

The Münchner Tageszeitung said the government should “think first and speak after.” That’s something Eichel should have done before announcing that everyone who employed an illicit domestic help was a criminal. Now, everything remains the same as before and the only thing Eichel has achieved with this public discussion, wrote the Munich-based paper, is that no one feels guilty for employing an illegal cleaning woman..