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Europe

German Press Review: Greens Back Schröder's Reforms

German newspapers on Monday were split over the reasons behind the Greens party's decision to back the government's planned social welfare cuts and labor market reforms. The papers also commented on protests in Iran.

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Greens party delegates voted overwhelmingly to support Chancellor Schröder's reform agenda.

Over the weekend, a Greens' party conference cleared the way for a package of economic and social reforms proposed this spring by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. At the core of the reforms are proposals to cap welfare benefits and loosen job protection rules in the hopes it will spur Germany's stalled economy. Some editorials said the Greens, junior partners in a coalition with Schröder's Social Democrats, reaffirmed their reformer status by backing the proposals, while other papers saw the party simply trying to hold onto power.

The Abendzeitung from Munich wrote that the junior partners in Germany’s ruling center-left coalition have demonstrated that they have become a "party of responsibility". In backing Schröder’s planned cutbacks in the country’s social welfare system by a large majority the Greens have shown their understanding of "bitter obligations" and they have prepared the way for further reforms which will be necessary in order to lift the country out of its economic malaise. That's good news for the chancellor, the paper opined, adding that it is now his turn to transform it into practical policy.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung suggested that the Greens party is mainly clinging to power writing: "It seems that even the most outspoken critics of Schröder’s reform agenda brought something with them to the special party congress that was more important than even their wish for a policy of social justice. And that was their determination not to put the survival of the coalition at risk."

The Stuttgarter Zeitung felt the Greens missed an opportunity to push for more sweeping reforms. "The Greens have repeated again and again that they are the reform engine of Germany’s ruling coalition. But in fact over the weekend they gave away the chance to send out a real signal for far-reaching social and economic reforms." The real reform debate has yet to come, the paper predicted. "Everyone attending the special party congress must have been aware that what was agreed to was not sufficient to prepare Germany’s social system for the future."

Other German papers looked at the ongoing demonstrations in Iran, where progressive students are demanding the country speed up social and political reforms.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung from Munich carried an editorial entitled "Iran’s Hot Summer" and compared the current situation with the start of the Islamic revolution 25 years ago and pointed out certain similarities: "In both cases a system had lost its backing from the majority of the population – back then it was the regime of the Shah, now it is the Ayatollahs’ system. And again there are public demonstrations." The paper, however, said there was one major difference: "A quarter of a century ago there was a powerful opposition with a fresh ideology, political Islam, a charismatic leader, Ayatollah Chomeini, and an organized network. There is nothing comparable today," the paper wrote, adding: "Without being pushed from outside, the Islamic republic will not collapse."

The Financial Times Deutschland said that the United States has damaged the Iranian reform movement by openly supporting the protesters. "The reformers in the Iranian government and in the opposition are now being weakened," commented the FTD. American support will strengthen the religious hard-liners in Teheran and can be used as an excuse to crack down on the demonstrators, warned the paper.