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Europe

German Press Review: Berlin's take on Welfare and Energy

German newspapers on Friday focused on planned welfare cuts and the government’s energy policy.

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Some want Germany to keep coal fired power plants like this one in Hesse.

The Hamburg-based Financial Times Deutschland was critical of Chancellor Schröder’s handling of the government’s social welfare reform policies. According to the paper, the leader of the conservative opposition, Angela Merkel, knows only too well that Schröder will fail to deliver in all his promised reforms this Autumn without the help of the liberal and conservative parties, which control the majority of the upper chamber in parliament. Schröder, who likes to play the big man, said the FTD, is dependent on his political rivals, and on the economic trends. But all he could conjure up, the paper noted, is "our programme is necessary, saying 'no' is not enough." That leaves the chancellor on the wrong footing ahead of the scheduled talks with the opposition.

German Finance Minister Hans Eichel said the social welfare state has no funds for the middle generation in the coming years, wrote Berlin’s daily Tagesspiegel in its editorial. At the same time, paper said, the chancellor has declared an end to the distributive social welfare policy. They're both right. But this acknowledgement really comes too late for a government that's been in office for five years, and has for the last four years warmly praised the social welfare state, the paper pointed out. The statutory level of pensions should not sink below 67 percent of the net pay, according to its law on retirement pensions, the paper said. Today's pensioners, listening to the finance minister and chancellor’s gloomy outlook, are preparing themselves for cuts in their entitlements. At the same time, the Tagesspiegel concluded, the chancellor and his finance minister are signalling that there won't be much left for those contributing into the pensions funds now.

The General Anzeiger in Bonn discussed the German government's energy and environment policy. "It's quite possible that Chancellor Schröder didn't want Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin -- a potential loose canon - at the dinner table,” the paper said, referring to a meeting Schröder had with the bosses of Germany’s leading energy concerns. If Schröder already had an idea in which direction he was steering when he discussed the energy supply, emission trading and new power stations, then Wolfgang Clement - the economics minister – is, from the chancellor's perspective, the right man for the job, the paper said. It concerns the possible billion-euro investment for the construction of new power plants, said the General Anzeiger, which the electricity lobby wants to plan in a reliable manner. The paper advised Schröder not to think too short-term. Perhaps he still needs Trittin. The subject of the environment was a priority that grabbed the headlines, and it has been a decisive factor at elections, the paper

concluded.