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Europe

German Press Review: Working Longer till Retirement

German newspapers on Friday commented on the long-waited report by the Rürup Commission, which has riled many by suggesting postponing retirement until age 67, and Tony Blair's appearance before a government inquiry.

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Economist Bert Rürup officially handed over his report to Health Minister Ulla Schmidt on Thursday.

Germany was told on Thursday by the so-called Rürup Commission to raise the retirement age to 67 and freeze benefits in order to reduce the burden on its pension system caused by an ever-ageing population. Berlin-based conservative Die Welt said these proposals for the financing of Germany's social welfare system won't last very long. The half-life of once-in-a-century reforms is frequently only a matter of months. If Chancellor Schröder, as promised, takes his time picking over the proposals, then little will be left of them afterwards. There are signs that this is exactly what is going to happen and that is a pity said the paper. For in spite of all the criticism being hurled at it, the commission has done a good job. It has injected new ideas into tired political debate, which in itself is worth a lot. Unfortunately, the commission focused only on the consequences of the pension crisis. But the causes of the crisis are equally important. A job market that offers young people too few opportunities and, at the same time,

rids itself all too gladly of the services of senior members of the community will find pensions a perennial problem.

The Kölner Stadt Anzeiger explained the arithmetic behind the raising of the retirement age. In the year 2050 with a retirement age of 60, there would be 78 pensioners to every 100 citizens working. If the retirement age is 67, then there would be only 48 pensioners to every 100 in work. Clearly, the number working will continue to decline and the number of pensioners will increase, in line with growing life expectancy. But what about the 55 year-old worker whose company has just gone bankrupt and whose dozens of job applications meet one reject slip after the other? How does he bridge the gap until he is 67?

The Ostsee Zeitung published in Rostock welcomed the principle behind the Rürup Commission -- that 26 experts huddle together to reflect and discuss how to revamp the social welfare system so it can meet the challenge of an ageing society. But that elephant known as the Rürup Commission that trotted in circles in our midst, attracting fierce controversy, only to give birth to a mouse, is indeed a most dubious beast. Moreover, the sceptics appear to have the upper hand, even on the government benches. Even some members of the Commission itself think the proposals are lop-sided and short on social justice.

On Thursday's Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared before a judicial inquiry looking into the suicide of government scientist David Kelly, who was the main source for a BBC report that alleged that the government had exaggerated the Iraqi threat to justify going to war. The Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten said the damage to the prime minister's image is enormous, but Blair will not resign. Committees of inquiry never have direct consequences in Britain. In the long term, however, Blair will find that the storm won't blow itself out until weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq. The electorate can also punish him, but perhaps they will soon forget the details of this convoluted affair. It is unlikely, though, that they will dispense absolution for telling blatant lies, the paper wrote.