German editorials on Monday discussed this weekend's cabinet meeting, where the government announced it wouldn't fundamentally change its controversial proposed reforms package but try to implement it.
The editorials were generally critical of the outcome of the cabinet meeting in Neuhardenberg. The Süddeutsche Zeitung from Munich doubted that the meeting will have much long-term positive effect on the public's view of the government. The paper expected that "Germans will personally feel most of the reforms next year, because that's when four of the projects come into effect: job market reform, taxes on pensions, and new rules for dental benefits and nursing care insurance. These will require Germans to sacrifice themselves financially. It's going to cause people to ask the question: What is the reason for all of this," the paper predicted and counselled Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to "find an answer to this question as soon as possible."
The Freie Presse from Chemnitz was also unimpressed with the performance of the ministers. Schröder said "they need to get a handle on the reforms," the paper pointed out, but that "should already be the case. Schröder's call for discipline, seriousness, and thoroughness from his ministers" made the paper "wonder about their performance until now."
Bild from Hamburg agreed that "the call at the meeting to implement the reforms implies that, until now, the reforms have been carried through in a slipshod manner." The tabloid said that the ministers simply accept this fact with a shrug," and lamented that Schröder "does not have new plans to tackle misery in Germany, or a vision for the country. He is keeping quiet and practising slow-motion politics," the paper wrote. n the whole the meeting produced "good photos but not good news for Germany."
The Thüringer Allgemeine from the eastern German city of Erfurt also agreed that "not much will happen until" the next elections in 2006. It looked at the meeting from a perspective of the former East Germany and regretted that "15 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there's still no clear vision of how Germany will develop as a single country." The "east will be the loser" in the chancellor's job market reforms, the paper wrote and elaborated: "The part of the reforms that combines" and thus cuts back on "unemployment aid and welfare payments will put a particular burden on former East German states," where unemployment is the highest. "The cabinet members simply don't know where they money and job opportunities in the east will come from to help people currently on welfare." The paper sighed that "job openings in the east are incredibly rare and government coffers are dry."
Express from Cologne commented on another aspect of job market reform: the call to increase working hours. The paper didn't like the way that the public discussion on the issue "ignores the right for people to rest and recuperation. There's nothing taboo about calling for longer working hours or reducing the number of holidays," the paper believed, "but making changes across-the-board, or lengthening everybody's working hours equally, won't improve things." The paper thought these decisions shouldn't be made at a federal level because "every different branch of the economy works differently."