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Europe

"Too Few Children, too Many Pensioners"

German editorial writers comment on a variety of topics ranging from the SARS epidemic, OPEC’s decision to raise oil production quotas and painful pension reforms in Germany.

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The Fuldaer Zeitung comments that the hysteria surrounding the SARS virus is spreading around the globe faster than the virus itself. And that's having untold consequences for the economy, the paper writes. The World Bank estimates the economic damage at $15 billion for East Asia alone. The paper predicts that this sum could quickly multiply if the epidemic continues to spread and cautions people to be careful, but not to resort to panic.

The Financial Times Deutschland comments on OPEC's decision to raise oil production quotas. The cartel was expected to cut back on extra pre-Iraq war supplies. The FT thinks that OPEC is facing the toughest crisis in its history. The U.S. -- the largest oil consuming nation --has control over Iraq's oil supply. It's not going to formally become an OPEC member, the paper says, but the whole world knows that the future government in Baghdad is going to be kept on a short leash in the beginning, with U.S. President George W. Bush indirectly sitting at the table.

The papers are still reacting to the formation of a new Palestinian cabinet which will see prime minister designate Mahmud Abbas playing a key role in the Middle East peace process. The Stuttgarter Zeitung says that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has suffered the defeat of a lifetime, because if the Palestinians really do get their own state at the end of this process, it will be Abbas who goes down in the history books, not Arafat. But, the paper comments, Arafat is not giving up without a fight, and predicts that he will use all the means at his disposal to torpedo the work of the new prime minister.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich is confident that the end of Arafat's regime is near, commenting: "Soon, he'll have no role to play. When German foreign minister Joschka Fischer next visits the region, he'll be negotiating with Abbas, not Arafat."

The Berliner Kurier comments on the suggestions of a special committee set up to reform Germany's health care and pensions systems. On Thursday, the commission suggested raising the retirement age by two years to 67. "Do you know how much pension you're going to get," the paper asks?" Be glad you don't, because if you did, you'd just be in a bad mood. "It continues: "For 16 years under Helmut Kohl, we were told that our pensions were secure. But now we know it was all a big lie. Now, every expert is saying what the average citizen has slowly come to realize -- the system doesn't work. And there's a very simple reason for that -- too few children, and too many pensioners."