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Europe

Don't Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth, Herr Schröder

German editorialists agree that the opposition CDU/CSU bloc has given Chancellor Schröder's reform package a boost by presenting their own version -- despite themselves.

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The best of the German press, digested for you daily.

Commenting on Schröder's planned social and economic reforms, Berlin's Die Welt writes: "Despite warnings by the Social Democrats that the coalition could collapse if the reforms are not accepted, the opposition shouldn’t get too excited. The coalition is not dead yet. And now that the opposition has released its reform agenda, the Social Democrats can make the case that with a change in government, things would only get worse."

Munich's Süddeutsche Zeitung says the trade unions risk putting themselves in a tight corner by protesting too loudly over the governments planned reforms. Some union leaders admit they won't oppose everything, highlighting their negotiation tactics: demand a lot but be happy with a little. But this tactic could backfire since not only trade union members but also the general public take the demands very seriously.

The Berliner Kurier says the opposition has achieved what the Social Democrats still aim for: a compromise on social reforms. In just five hours the CDU and its sister party the CSU agreed to cuts in the social and welfare network. But the paper doubts whether this harmony will remain for long since the sticking points over pension and health reforms have not yet been touched upon by the opposition.

The Hamburger Abendblatt writes that three things are apparent about the opposition's reform plans. Firstly, the CDU/CSU have not reinvented the wheel. Secondly, they have shown as little courage as the governing coalition has in proposing necessary reforms. And thirdly, they have not departed as dramatically from Chancellor Schröder's reform agenda as they claim. If the governing coalition manages to overcome internal disagreements over the reforms and bring them before parliament, the opposition will hardly be able to come up with a convincing counter argument.

The Stuttgarter Nachrichten agrees, saying the chancellor can be pleased with the opposition's reform plans, since they back up his own agenda. And that means he'll have fewer difficulties getting his reforms through parliament and an opposition-controlled upper house.

Washington benefits most from the European Union's splintered foreign policy, the Neue Ruhr/ Neue Rhein Zeitung from Essen says. U.S. diplomacy manages to neatly divide Europe into a coalition of those willing, which suits the U.S.'s current security needs. The only way for the European Union to be viewed as an equal partner to the U.S. is for it to come up with its own common foreign and security policy.

The Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten is critical of Germany's currently poor relations with the U.S.. The paper says a sulking Chancellor Gerhard Schröder should now take a cue from Defense Minister Peter Struck and visit Washington to ease tensions over Iraq. The paper comments: "Even though the U.S. defied international law by invading Iraq they did remove a terrible dictator. And if the U.N. can return to Iraq, Berlin must do everything to improve relations and support the reconstruction and rebuilding of democracy in the war-torn country."