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German Press Review: To Pay or Not to Pay?

The German press on Tuesday focused on allegations that the German government had paid ransom to secure the release of hostage in the Sahara. Other papers concentrated on the ongoing pension reforms.


Times may get tougher for Germany's old as the pension system undergoes reform.

The Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) criticized this comment by the Green Party Parliamentary Speaker Ludger Volmer for saying, “Germany does not pay ransoms -- and if it did, it wouldn’t admit it.” The paper called his comments “extraordinarily clumsy” and said they indicated to potential kidnappers "that blackmailing the German government out of a few million euros is child’s play.” The FTD continued: “The hostage takers have got what they wanted. It’s no solution to let the local government buy them off and then transfer the money under the guise of development aid.” It went on to say Volmer’s remark highlighted the government’s dilemma. “A state cannot give in to the demands of bandits and terror groups, but at the same time it is responsible for every one of its citizens, and this responsibility doesn’t end at the German border.”

The Braunschweiger Zeitung warned the end of the Sahara hostages’ ordeal didn’t mean Germany had been given the all-clear; rather quite the opposite. It saw the likelihood that the German government has paid a ransom of possibly millions of euro, as an encouragement to terrorists all over the world to lie in wait for new victims.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung agreed. “The government shouldn’t let itself be blackmailed, certainly not by terrorists or greedy criminals,” it wrote. It also commented that questions would now be asked about the degree of responsibility on the part of the hostages themselves. “They travelled to a country not renowned for its safety, knowing that someone would come to their aid if the worst came to the worst,” the paper wrote. “One could hold that against them,” it said, “but it would be better to do this behind closed doors.”

Several German papers however didn’t heed the FAZ’s warning to be discreet. The Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung asked why daredevil “extreme” tourists continued to ignore warnings about regional conflict zones crime and violent separatists. “The southern Sahara has long been considered dangerous territory,” the daily wrote, “but for people looking for adventure, this is a kind of encouragement: it’s the warnings that make the area interesting.”

According to the Münchner Merkur, when the rich travel to poor countries an adventure can all too easily turn into dance with death. The Munich-based paper concluded that the Third World’s struggle for survival was not compatible with the need rich societies had for fun.

Dresden’s Sächsische Zeitung turned to the debate over pension reform in Germany and recalled the infamous words of former Labor Minister Norbert Blüm that pensions are secure. “However,” the paper wrote, “this statement now only applies to the pensions of politicians and civil servants.”

The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger thought it inevitable that today’s employees must make more private provisions for their pensions than at present if contributions to the pension system were to remain stable and a slide into poverty in old age avoided. At the same time, the paper said, there must be an end to the practice of adapting pension payments to the economic situation. “People have a right to reliability, all the more so because pensions will fall reliably,” the Cologne-based paper wrote.