German Press Review: Protest Rally | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 19.10.2004
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German Press Review: Protest Rally

German editorials on Tuesday focused on the crisis at car maker Opel, General Motor’s German subsidiary. Workers halted production at the Opel factory in Bochum for the fifth day. GM plans to slash thousands of jobs.

Neues Deutschland in Berlin wrote: "the fact that the factory employees just switch off the conveyor belts and show what happens when it’s not pedants at the parent company headquarters but the workers who shut everything down has fatal consequences for the management." If Bochum doesn’t supply, the paper pointed out, other Opel plants will start to falter. That costs a lot of money and is very harmful to a company’s image.

Die Tagespost in Würzburg agreed that the Bochum workers are demonstrating their power but thought that by doing so they are jeopardizing the entire concern. The daily feared that above all it will be the colleagues in GM’s other plants who will have to bear the brunt of the protest action and not the American parent company’s top management, which it said has no idea about the European market. Their mistakes will go unpunished. The Bavarian paper suggested that GM directors in Detroit might be laughing up their sleeves for having succeeded yet again in playing the employees in Europe off against each other.

Cologne’s Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger thought the justifiable anger with management eclipses a more profound problem, namely that for concerns operating internationally Germany is becoming less and less attractive as an industrial base. It pointed out that the advantages that it used to have "high productivity and qualification of employees, a good infrastructure, little tendency to strike" have been more than made up for by other European countries.

Another topic that received a good deal of attention is the crisis faced by Germany’s opposition Christian Democrat leader, Angela Merkel, amidst suspicions that party rivals are conspiring against her. Merkel suffered a further blow on Monday when former parliamentary floor leader Wolfgang Schäuble rejected her offer to become the party’s influential finance and economics spokesman in parliament to replace her former rival, Friedrich Merz, who stepped down last week.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung was convinced there is no conspiracy against Angela Merkel; she is injuring herself. Ever since she has been coming up with her own solutions for everything and not even her deputies have been able to assert their own ideas, she doesn’t need to be surprised about her declining support. The Frankfurt paper recalled Merkel’s “Quo vadis Germany?” speech a year ago, and thought it would be a success for her if she could now determine at least which way her party was going.The Coburger Tageblatt thought the situation is gradually becoming embarrassing for Merkel, saying a snub like the one she was given by Wolfgang Schäuble would not have happened under former party leader, Helmut Kohl. The daily went on to say that the fact that Merkel is not even able to arrange things discretely to avoid being made a fool of in public is a sign of her loss of authority. The daily also dismissed talks of a conspiracy, concluding that such rumours instead have the purpose of stabilizing the embattled CDU leader, because the party is rallying around her in a show of solidarity.