German newspapers devote their editorial pages Thursday to the dramatic and heart-warming rescue of 11 Russian miners and new European Union plans to sharpen consumer chemical rules.
After days of superhuman efforts, the Berlin-based Die Welt wrote, the Russian miners have finally been saved. "They were trapped in a coal mine with standards that would be considered 19th century compared to those of Western Europe." For a society that "had to witness a president who didn’t utter a word of regret after a submarine with a 100-man team on board sank," that means a lot. "It’s a wondrous incident, if one thinks of the freeing of the hostages from the Moscow musical theater that left so many people dead last year," the editors wrote. "To appreciate human life, to save it while risking one’s own life, that’s a huge step which leads from the dark mine shafts to the light of humanity," Die Welt concluded.
The Nürnberger Zeitung suggested that the rescue of the miners was successful "because their fate rested in the hands of their comrades" and not those of Russian officials. "Ironically enough, it was the realization of a long-delayed Soviet propaganda fairly tale: Comrades saving comrades and people becoming the redeemers of the people," the paper wrote.
The Reutlinger General-Anzeiger newspaper added that Russian politicians as well as the directors of the mine had known about the lack of safety, but failed to act. The paper noted that the Novoshakhtinsk miners didn’t have any choice but to labor under miserable conditions. "In the economically weak regions of Russia, the only alternative to exploitation underground is poverty and hunger day and night."
Other German papers commented Thursday on the European Union's proposal to give heavier scrutiny to the chemicals used in consumer products. The Düsseldorf-based financial daily Handelsblatt described the proposals as a "monstrous jungle" of paragraphs, adding: "1,200 pages rule which substances will be produced and processed in the future. In the end, the European Union will decide about every single substance." Ultimately, the paper argued, that would lead civil servants from Brussels to interfere with the investment plans of international companies. "Bureaucratic centralism is a chronic illness of the European Union", the paper concluded, and "now it has broken out again."
The Potsdam-based Märkische Allgemeine viewed matters very differently – it welcomed the EU’s plans to protect citizens from dangerous chemicals and to protect the environment from poisonous waste. "In the pharmaceutical branch, it goes without saying that the pills are tested before they are put on the market. Why shouldn’t the same be applied to chemicals," the paper asked. "The companies have to take over responsibility for what they offer the consumer," the editors concluded.