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German Press Review: Building a Coalition of Convenience

A day after Chancellor Gerhard Schröder announced he was prepared to meet with opposition leaders to discuss tax reforms, the country's newspapers questioned where such cross-party cooperation would lead.

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Chancellor Schröder and CSU party leader Edmund Stoiber have agreed to stop butting heads over tax reform.

German editorials on Wednesday responded to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s announcement that he was prepared to meet with leaders from the opposition Christian Democrats and its Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union to talk about implementing a huge tax cut program. The conservative party leaders Angela Merkel (CDU) and Edmund Stoiber (CSU) had written to Schröder offering to share joint responsibility for the country.

The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung commented that the opposition has obviously come to the conclusion that it has nothing to gain and everything to lose if it blocks the tax cuts. In particular, the trust of its voters and of consumers and investors is at risk, it wrote. For Germany’s citizens, the CDU and CSU’s gesture of cooperation is a welcome change in attitude, the paper said, and evidence that the federal government has succeeded in including the opposition in one of its main reform projects. That is quite a political feat, especially for the chancellor, the paper concluded.

According to the financial daily Handelsblatt, it would be a blessing for the German economy if the red-black "coalition of convenience" would actually come about. Handelsblatt suggested that together with subsidy cuts and structural reform, the tax reforms could wield a positive symbolic power. The two most powerful political parties would be able to prove their ability to cooperate – something that is doubted by many, the paper noted. And this is exactly the sign of change that is needed by the many German consumers, investors and workers who are disillusioned with their country’s politics, the paper claimed.

The Stuttgarter Nachrichten hoped that the meeting between the two major parties was a sign that change was on the way. In any case, for the last three years stagnation has been the rule in Germany, the paper stated and asked what the opposition had been doing all this while. At least things are now on the move as both sides seem to have decided to work together, the paper observed. As to whether or not the tax reforms are moving the country in the right direction, the Stuttgart paper left the verdict wide open and concluded by saying the fight against stagnation seems to be more important than balancing the budget.

The Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung took a more skeptical view and warned against too much euphoria. Once again, wrote the paper, Germany avoids solving structural problems in its tax laws, and merely shifts the burdens of today onto future generations. The Hanover daily pointed out that the disposable income which Chancellor Schröder wants to free up for consumers, will someday have to have to paid back by others – and with added interest at that.

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