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Europe

German Press Review: Waxing and Waning Divisions

The German press on Thursday was divided between lamenting the apparent closing of the political divide in Germany and condemning the widening one between the occupation forces and the illusion of control in Iraq.

A number of editorials in Thursday’s German newspapers took a cautious view on the current state of German politics and the blurring of party borders and policies.

The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung wrote that there were dangers to excessive amalgamation, saying that, if the opposition parties are too quick to reach compromises, they may, in the process, lose that which distinguishes them from one another politically. The paper wrote that, if policies become indistinguishable, the opposition parties run the risk of being judged on the strength of their individual political figures and not on the strength of the policies they represent. And on the personality front, the paper said, Schröder and Fischer are a tough act to beat.

The Saarbrücker Zeitung agreed and added that Guido Westerwelle, the leader of the Free Democrats, may not exactly be doing himself a favor by getting to close and cuddly with the two other bigger and stronger opposition leaders. He may, in the process, the paper warned, lose face politically.

The Cellesche Zeitung looked ahead to Thursday’s meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Arbitration Committee and followed the same thinking, stating that the opposition and the government were not as far apart as one would think on a number of key issues. Both sides want to see lower taxes, fewer subsidies and more initiative on the part of the unemployed to look for work, the paper reported. As always, the devil seems to lie in the details, the paper concluded.

On another subject, Cologne’s Express newspaper commented on the annual report on the state of the German economy issued by a group of experts known as the “Five Wise Men.” Although the report criticized the government’s tax policy, its overall verdict on the government’s reforms was positive. The paper wrote that the message is a simple one: the current reforms are correct but much too timid. And if the country and the economy are to boom again, it added, more than anything else an end must be put to the constant to-ing and fro-ing in the tax policy. The paper advised the government and the opposition to reach agreement.

Elsewhere, a number of papers continued to focus on the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, especially since Wednesday’s attack on an Italian police base in Nassiriya. The Financial Times Deutschland wrote that the attack shows once again that increased security measures are no great challenge for determined terrorists.

The Tagesspiegel in Berlin pointed out that the Italian soldiers killed on Wednesday were not in Iraq as conquerors but only to safeguard relief supplies for the country’s population. The attack showed that the extremists who are not seeking an end to occupation but rather an end to any hope of the creation of a new Iraq, the paper commented.

And the Schwäbische Zeitung wrote that a death toll of 40 U.S. soldiers a week in Iraq has forced the once optimistic United States to recognize that the price in lives in Iraq in now much too high, even for a world power.