The new wave of protest confronting German Chancellor Schröder as he struggles to overhaul a creaking social welfare system caught the attention of European papers on Tuesday.
The Tagesanzeiger in Geneva spoke of a volatile mixture of fear, uncertainty and anger especially strong in eastern Germany, where the losers in the reunified country are to be found. Unemployment there is high and there is a deep sense of despair. It is understandable that these people want to express their anger on the streets, the paper commented. The indignation may be mounting and could put Schröder's government at risk. But those who believe that the coalition of Greens and Social Democrats is about to collapse are deceiving themselves, the daily wrote. Germany's welfare state needs to be overhauled. It will be a painful process, but there is no alternative.
The Norwegian paper Aftenposten noted that Chancellor Schröder is under pressure on two fronts. He is facing opposition to his social and welfare reforms, and his old party rival Oskar Lafonatine has turned against him once more. The knives are out, the paper said. Reforms to the health service and cuts to unemployment benefits will generate massive turbulence in German politics. The trade unions are fighting for the rights they have inherited and Lafontaine is out to wreak revenge on Schröder.The Russian paper Izvestia looked at the discussion over the spelling reform that has broken out anew in Germany. Media organizations and publishers want to return to the old way of writing and spelling in German. The chancellor is annoyed by how conservative his countrymen are, the paper remarked. The Swiss and the Austrians, who also signed on to the spelling reforms, are far more stoic and relaxed about such things, it noticed. But under Schröder this is the stuff of heady politics.