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German Press Review: Brussels' Split Personality

German papers on Wednesday took another look at the impact of Schröder's resignation as party leader. Many papers also focused on the debate over the EU budget.

Berlin's Die Welt questioned the usefulness of the change of leadership within the Social Democrats. "Is this really about selling the government's reform agenda with a more sensitive party leader like Franz Münterfering?" asked the paper. "Because he could have done that as chairman of the parliamentary faction," the daily noted. It said the resignation of Schröder has forced the SPD into a difficult situation that it may not recover from. The political compromise of reforming in small doses won't help repair the major economic ills within Germany, warned the paper.

The entire mood of the Social Democrats has changed in the few days since Gerhard Schöder's resignation as party leader, observed the Frankfurter Rundschau. "And it's unclear how much of a future the Chancellor's favorite reform-minded minister, Wolfgang Clement -- with his tendency not to toe the party line -- will have under the new party leader Franz Munterfering."

Gerhard Schröder did not do much to prevent the floodgates from opening, opined Bonn's General Anzeiger and added that they've already begun to leak around Wolfgang Clement. But he's not allowed to do what his predecessor did, namely threaten with his resignation, the paper observed. Politics can be paradoxical, commented the daily. "Schröder goes, and wants it to be known that stepping down is a form of freedom," but the paper added, "if Clement were to go, then the SPD and the government would be split.

Commenting on the new overblown EU budget proposals by Commission President Romano Prodi, the Stuttgarter Zeitung noted that the economically weaker member states won't allow any cuts to their EU regional development funds which means Brussels will not be able to implement the sensible savings it needs to. But the paper suggested there's still room to maneuver within the regional development funds of the richer nations and the agricultural policy. "EU money needs to be focused on those regions which really are weaker, which means Eastern Germany will lose out."

If Romano Prodi wasn't a politician, then one could assume he suffered from a split personality, remarked the Nürnberger Zeitung. On exactly the same day he presented a new EU budget almost 160 billion euro's over the original amount, he threatened EU member states with the dreaded blue letter for overstepping their budget ceilings. "As the budget of the European community is not financed by Martians," the daily quipped, EU member states will have to go further into debt to fulfill the wishes of the EU President."

The Handelsblatt in Düsseldorf agreed. It maintained that larger member states, under the pressure of their own budgetary constraints are reluctant to transfer more money to Brussels. At the same time, the Commission turns around and complains about the same states it turns a blind eye to when they go over their own budget limits and break the EU stability pact. It is a joke only Brussels understands, noted the paper.

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