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German Press Review: Wake-up Call for Germany

German newspapers on Friday focused on the ongoing financial and job crisis at carmaker Opel and Germany’s retail giant Karstadt-Quelle.

Cologne’s Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger wrote that Opel, a subsidiary of US auto giant General Motors, and Karstadt-Quelle are rightly shaking the republic. But at the same time, it said, they are an urgent warning for the country for what can happen unless necessary decisions are taken in time and then implemented enthusiastically. The paper concluded that the chronologies of the decline at Opel and Karstadt-Quelle reveal striking parallels to the agonizing reform processes within German industry.

The Bonner General-Anzeiger wrote that as long as after the Second World War, consumer demand continued to rise for decades, there was little compulsion to specialize. What was produced was bought. But those times are over, the daily wrote. At Opel and Karstadt, the employees are having to pay for the mistakes of the management. But, the paper pointed out, redundancies and wage cuts will at best solve cost problems. Not until the right answers for the strategic problems have been found will the workforce be able to relax, it predicted.

Berlin-based newspaper Neues Deutschland wrote that management at Opel and KarstadtQuelle seek to push through wage freezes with the trite argument that it’s better to have a badly-paid job than none at all. But, the pointed out, in view of the losses of income, that is not only disastrous for the economy, but it also seems to confirm the neo-liberal premise that Germany as an industrial base is ailing above all because of excessive labor costs.

Other papers commented on the final television duel between US President George W. Bush and his democratic challenger John Kerry.

The Ostthüringer Zeitung in Gera wrote that it's still too early to say whether Bush will lose the election as opinions polls show an extremely tight race. But, it said, it is significant that Bush has lost ground since he was confronted with critical issues in the public debates and often appeared both speechless and helpless. So it turns out that the controversial TV duals, strictly regulated and highly artificial media spectacles though they are, can have a substantial value for the formation of political opinion after all, it concluded.

Munich’s Abendzeitung praised John Kerry for using his chance to present himself to the electorate as an alternative. However, the paper wrote, it's astonishing that although opinion polls indicate that Kerry is running neck-and-neck with Bush, he has not been able to overtake him – despite the President’s poor performance where the economy is concerned and the way he has split the country. The paper said it is all the more surprising that Kerry has been unable to benefit substantially from Bush’s Iraq debacle. But, it concluded, absurd as it sounds, the disaster may even help Bush. There are voters, it said, who want the president to sort out the mess that he got the US into. And besides, they may think that in a crisis as serious as the one in Iraq, you don’t change the president, the paper concluded.

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