Wednesday's German papers commented on the price of oil and over the state of the German economy, which are not unconnected. They also looked at U.S. President George W. Bush's speech on Iraq.
The Stuttgarter Zeitung said Bush has failed to deliver answers to the most pressing questions. He did not tell the Americans when the troops will be coming home, nor did he say how many more lives will have to be sacrificed. He did not tell the Iraqis how intends to bring Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis together under the single roof of a supposedly sovereign transitional government. He also failed to explain how an Iraqi government can be sovereign if foreign troops are still in the country doing exactly as they please, according to the paper. How seriously are Iraqis going to take a government that has no influence over the conduct or presence of U.S. troops, it asked in conclusion.
Another German paper, the Volksstimme in Magdeburg, also asked that question. In a reference to Bush's plan to build another prison in place of the notorious Abu Ghraib jail, the daily then wondered whether a prison is really an appropriate symbol for Iraqi reconstruction? Won't it just remind the Iraqis that they are only considered fit to run their own country when under foreign supervision? This point is taken up by the Thüringer Allgemeine which concluded its editorial by saying Bush has yet to reveal how he intends to make the delicate balancing act between the powers of the occupiers and those of the transitional government work in practice.
Die Welt saw Bush's speech in a more positive light, saying it contained a measure of clarity that has been lacking in recent weeks. However, there is still the feeling in the world at large that Washington alone is responsible for Iraq. That idea must now be dropped, the paper said. The U.S.-British UN draft resolution should be taken on board - at least as an outline. In addition, the Europeans should reflect on how they can help Iraq -- not because they want to come to the aid of the Americans, but because they wish to look after their own interests. If Iraq is permanently engulfed in war and crises, then sooner or later it will turn into a threat to Europe, the daily concluded.
In a similar vein, Financial Times Deutschland said the Iraqis, the coalition and the international community will have to work together if there is to be a chance of bringing stability to Iraq. The chairman of the Iraqi governing council wants complete control of the security forces and the oil industry, the paper explained. This is now a matter for negotiation. But the Americans appreciate that they are doomed to fail if they stay in Iraq on their own. Perhaps President Bush should tell American voters that in his next speech, the daily suggested.
Several German papers have been commenting on the recent dramatic rise in the price of oil. The Westdeutsche Zeitung was convinced that gasoline will never be really cheap again in Germany. It also wouldn't make much sense to lift the ecologically-motivated levy on petrol, even if there were a parliamentary majority in favour of such a move. Then motorists would be even less likely to use fuel sparingly.
Unlike previous oil crises, this time round there seems to be scant interest in energy conservation. The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger saw high oil prices and the risk of new terror attacks as external factors that go some way to explaining why German economic growth is failing to pick up. But the government in Berlin shouldn't just sit and wait for the global economy to recover, it should try and press ahead on three fronts - pursue fiscal policies that are sound and dependable, deregulate the labour market and draw up credible, long-term plans for the social welfare system, the daily concluded.