Germany's papers kicked off the week with a critical look at the Social Democrats' congress and Chancellor Schröder's efforts to reform the party.
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The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung noted that 90 percent of delegates backed Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s plans for Agenda 2010 during a special Social Democrat Party congress on Sunday, and referred to the vote as more clear-cut than many had expected following the weeks of painful discussion that preceded it. Credit must go to Schröder himself, who undertook a wearisome tour around the country to canvass support for the extensive reform package, the paper added while cautioning that this was only a partial victory. A majority at a party congress is not a majority in parliament, the paper concluded.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, quoting from the Chancellor's speech to the congress, said Germany does indeed need to change its mentality. More responsibility needs to be shouldered by the individual rather than by the state, the paper observed. But, it continued, this change in mindset will be difficult to achieve, a fact that is being shown by the number of Social Democrats quitting the party, and by the lament from one left-wing critic that the party has abandoned its election manifesto.
In its editorial, the Badische Zeitung was of the opinion that many delegates did not vote for the austerity package out of conviction; but rather they just succumbed to the Chancellor's discipline. The prospect of being banished from the government benches to the opposition terrified them more than any scruples they may have had about betraying their principles. One could say that the Social Democrats have been forced to face up to reality, the paper wrote. But the SPD members have also been made to realize that neither the government nor the party have a persuasive concept for the form or shape of future Social Democrat policies. Agenda 2010 is just a stop-gap measure to avert fiscal disaster.
The Münchener Merkur commented dryly that the left-wing revolt inside the Social Democrat party had been put down, but Chancellor Schröder was only able to achieve this by mobilizing all resources at his disposal. "Right up until the last minute, we would switch on the television and see trade unionists demonstrating on the
streets, the Chancellor threatening to resign and left-wing Social Democrats bewailing the collapse of the welfare state -- huge commotion for belated reforms that can only be regarded as a tentative first step," the paper said.
From Berlin to Evian and the G8 summit, the Financial Times Germany observed that President George W. Bush did not cross the Atlantic to make polite conversation. The president had been barely twenty four hours in Europe when he gave the opponents of the Gulf War a kick in the shins, the paper stated. This was not the time, the president said during a speech in Poland, to divide a great alliance. The paper argued that those who believe there was an element of self-criticism in his statements are wrong. He did not mean that Washington was guilty of diplomatic misjudgment. On the contrary, without naming names, this was a warning directed at Paris and Berlin.