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European press review

February 18, 2012

Opinions are divided on what Christian Wulff's resignation represents. Commentators variously point to Germany's hubris in the debt crisis, Wulff's long-standing image problems and a press with too much power.

European press review: Christian Wulff
European press review: Christian WulffImage: dapd

Reflections on public morality mark the European press' response to Christian Wulff's resignation from the office of president. Some newspapers see Wulff as a blight on the German government's credibility both at home and abroad as it takes a strong hand in managing the eurozone debt crisis. Others diminish the significance of the charges facing Wulff while calling the media's ethics into question in its coverage of the affair.

Italy's Corriere della Sera writes that Wulff's damaged reputation mirrors Germany's conceited handling of the debt crisis: "But all of this is happening while the chancellor and her ministers dish out lessons in public morality to other eurozone countries. In its handling of the debt crisis, Germany has shown arrogance and a sense of superiority. Some humility would help promote a solution to Greece's problems and give Europe more room to breathe."

The Budapest daily Nepszabadsag argues that Wulff's resignation is the appropriate response and part and parcel of national politics. "Once the general trust in a politician has been shaken, when he is continually forced to offer explanations, then he is no longer credible and not in a position to serve as a worthy moral compass of the country," it says, adding, "But that's exactly what people are justified in asking of their national leaders."

Several newspapers see Wulff's resignation as a blow to Merkel's reputation at home and speculate that Wulff's successor will be less partisan. The left-leaning Bulgarian newspaper Sega suggests the German chancellor took a too headstrong approach when nominating fellow Christian Democratic Union party member Wulff for president and is now compelled to work together with opposition parties to find a replacement. "Merkel is likely taking this unusual step in an effort to avoid a disruptive national debate when she is trying to concentrate on getting the eurozone debt crisis under control," it notes.

Prague's conservative daily Lidove Noviny points to Wulff's image problems while in office and the power of the media in highlighting those problems. Calling him a classic example of someone from a lowly background becoming fascinated with the wealthy, the paper also claims that many never forgave Wulff's selection over the popular and nonpartisan preacher Joachim Gauck. On the media's role in Wulff's resignation, it says, "The President's message to the editor in chief of the Bild daily was interpreted as an effort to silence journalists. But really Wullff would have been justified in asking for a bit of mercy - the media have an immense power in some arenas."

The Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung went a step further in its criticism of the media, calling the Wulff affair "a disreputable chapter in the interchange between German politicians and media." It adds, "Perhaps now after their successful slaughter, the media's moralizing Buddha's can turn with equal fervor to presenting the ways in which journalists are seduced - from coveted invitations to trips and discounts in such a degree that would cause members of almost any other industry to blush."

Compiled by Greg Wiser
Editor: Andreas Illmer