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German Press Review: Tightening the Army’s Belt

On Tuesday, most German newspapers commented on the planned cuts to Germany's army, the Bundeswehr, and the ripple effects that could have on the country's community service programs.

The Berlin-based Tageszeitung’s commentary completely rejected a compulsory community service year. Those of legal age have a right to decide themselves what sort of experience they would like to gain. Being forced to serve an obligatory year of community service goes against the constitution. Compulsory work in a democratic nation is not an option, particularly when the issue centers around community and social services, the paper’s editors concluded.

But the Mannheimer Morgen newspaper opined that, while a year of voluntary community service is good in theory, the trend is going in a completely different direction. Responding to the news of the PISA report on pupils’ bad performance, kids are now supposed to go to school and get their diplomas at an earlier age. Those who take a year off prefer to go abroad rather than volunteer to work in an old people’s home. If social services and volunteering are to become more appealing, than they have to provide kids with something that will advance their education. But that would require the help of professional associations, and the money saved by doing away with the bureaucratic compulsory community service system would have to be invested in the endeavor. That doesn’t look like it’s going to happen very easily, the paper wrote.

The Frankurter Rundschau commented that the decisive factor in reforming the national community service system is that money that has been allotted to the program until now does not land in the coffers of the finance minister. A substantial amount of the €900 million that has flowed into the system will have to be used if the reform is going to succeed. Community service has been largely underestimated, the paper wrote. Volunteering has to be made more attractive to young people. Without the pressure of obligatory community service, they can choose to volunteer and gain experience for their later lives.

In its commentary, the Lübecker Nachrichten weighed in on the proposed law that would permit genetically modified plants and food in Germany. After a lengthy debate, the coalition government of Social Democrats and Greens introduced the proposal on Monday. The paper commented that Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Renate Künast had no choice but to consent to the proposal, despite being a member of the Green Party and hardly a true supporter of genetic engineering. The paper wrote that it was only a matter of time before Germany followed the lead of global and European markets. Resisting the cultivation of genetically modified corn would certainly not have withstood the test of the European Court of Justice. When the law is passed by Parliament, things could get underway by summer. However, the paper added, the law also foresee that guidelines have to be followed, and that’s important. Quality checks will be essential.

The Kölnische Rundschau in Cologne commented that the proposed law will help farmers because it lays out clear guidelines for all. Whether for the small minority that will grow genetically modified plants, or for the conservative majority or for organic farmers. The paper noted that Künast has introduced a proposal that is far from ideological. Instead it is factual and objective. Soon it will be up to consumers to decide for themselves what they want when they shop in supermarkets. They will be the ones to decide if they will buy a product stamped free of genetic manipulation or if, in the end, only low prices will be what really counts, the paper argued.