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German Press Review: Turkey Needs a Helping Hand

German newspapers set their sights on conservatives opposed to future European Union membership for Turkey and the outrage over Rolf, a man who lives in Florida on his German welfare payments.

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Turkey still has a long way to go toward democracy, but German papers conclude that western guidance would make that process move quicker.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung noted that German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder chose weighty words for his Turkish visitor when he told Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan it was in Germany’s national interest for his country to have closer European Union ties. Erdogan appeared to hear this with "great satisfaction," the paper wrote, since none of Schröder’s predecessors have ever spoken out in favor of allowing Turkey to join the EU.

The Düsseldorf-based Rheinische Post opined on the reality of any serious political discussion about Turkey in Germany: It raises people’s blood pressure. A lot of the arguments are overblown, the paper wrote, while others are swept under the carpet. The government is annoyed that the opposition conservatives want to prevent Turkey from joining the EU. But what's new about that, wonders the paper? "Christian Social Union leader Edmund Stoiber made that very clear last December -- he simply wanted a public debate on the issue which never occurred," the paper wrote.

Hanover’s Neue Presse dismissed the opposition conservative’s position on Turkey as short-sighted. "If their European policy 50 years ago had been as short-sighted, the EU may never have been created," the paper’s editors opined. "And Germany would have had a much more difficult time finding its path in western politics. The post-war conservative Chancellor Adenauer cemented Germany’s position in the West and thereby secured its liberalization just the just as the conservative Muslim Erdogan is trying to do now. One wishes he could have as courageous and clever partners as Adenauer would have been," the paper concluded.

Dresden's Sächsiche Zeitung pointed out that the EU -- whether it fits into the screeching German conservatives plan or not -- gave Turkey a European perspective back in the 1960s and strengthened this by giving it official candidate status in 1999. The paper noted that more than one German conservative government played a role. Still, Turkey still has much left to do in order to bring the country in line with the most important EU criteria.

Two weeks after the mass-circulation Bild newspaper published an article about "Florida Rolf," a German living on welfare in Florida, German Social and Health Minister Renate Schmidt is tightening regulations. The Badische Zeitung in Freiburg noted that, despite all the hype, a mere 959 Germans receive social welfare overseas – making up 0.024 percent of all those on benefits. The paper added that "the majority of people receiving benefits overseas are single mothers fighting for custody of their children, prisoners who may be sitting wrongly accused in prison as well as the aged and ill who are unable to travel. That the government is using its position to appear tough is more worrying," the paper concludes.

The Leipziger Volkszeitung wrote that the 2.8 million people receiving welfare in Germany can only dream of sunny Florida. "Of course there are some people happy not to have to slog away at work or those attached to the bottle from dawn to dusk, there are thousands of those who would be happy just to have a job," the paper opined, before underlining the real problem: which is that there aren’t any jobs. And that, the paper noted, would be a much more important issue to solve than the outrage over Rolf in Florida.

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