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Europe

German Press Review: Turkey and the EU

The dearth of apprenticeships available to German youth and Turkey’s bid to join the European Union dominate the editorial pages of Germany’s biggest papers on Tuesday.

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Commenting on the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan to Berlin and the renewed debate over Turkey's EU membership bid, the Hannoversche Allegemeine Zeitung wrote that political debate belongs to a democracy, but to do this while visitors are here is "just as rude and embarrassing in political life as it is in the family." It continued: "German political parties are just as divided as the EU itself over Turkey's membership bid. One offers Turkey full membership while secretly hoping to prevent it." It would be much more honest, suggested the paper, to tell the Turks that political and economic bonds can be forged through other ways and that EU membership is not a condition for friendship.

The Berlin-based Die Welt wrote that, sooner or later, Turkey would slip into the EU because Germany has not said a definitive ‘no’ and not offered a viable alternative. Every doubt of Turkey's compatibility with Europe, the paper wrote, "is shouted down as racism." The paper asked, Do we really want Turkey to join? Do we want the same freedom of movement, employment and property rights guaranteed to EU members for Turkey as well?

The Frankurter Allegemeine Zeitung commented on the new Iraqi transitional cabinet appointed by the U.S.-backed Governing Council. The cabinet is ethnically and religiously balanced, and many hope that such a system will succeed in Iraq. But the Iraqis still don't have their own leader and where would such a leader come from with so many diverse groups, the paper asked? For now, the paper said, authority for Iraq's shaky transitional government will remain with U.S. governor Paul Bremer.

Describing the administration the United States has set up in Iraq as a "parody of Washington’s promise of democracy," the Frankfurter Rundschau strongly criticized Bremer for not interrupting his vacation after Friday’s deadly bombing in Najaf, which killed a top Shi’ite Muslim cleric and many of his followers. "Then came two dozen people who belong to the so called governing council who have nothing to govern and then come 25 cabinet ministers -- conveniently excluding the positions of defense and information ministers," the paper noted.

The Märkische Oderzeitung opined that every year brings the same story: At the start of the new apprenticeship year there are thousands of young people who miss out on the opportunity because there is no slot available. The government’s recipe to fix the problem is to beg, make threats and even subsidize apprenticeships using public funds – but none of these measures seem to work. The lesson, the paper concluded, is that Germany’s highly praised apprenticeship system of practical training alongside theoretical schooling only functions in a healthy economy. Before the government can fill the void of apprenticeships, it must work to repair the economy, the editors wrote.

Chemnitz’s Freie Presse wrote that the German economy has already missed its chance. Hopes for thousands of young Germans beginning their working life have been crushed, and the danger they will miss an opportunity is great. Of course, employers are struggling under the bad economic conditions, but to cut apprenticeship places is only a short-term solution. "A normal apprenticeship takes about three years and the economy could have taken the proactive measure by investing in the future," the paper wrote.

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