German Press Review: Losing Trust | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 05.04.2004
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German Press Review: Losing Trust

German newspaper editorials on Monday focused on last weekend's demonstrations opposing the German government's welfare, pension and healthcare spending cuts.

Even if millions of people were to take to the streets – there is no alternative to the Berlin government’s reforms, said the Pforzheimer Zeitung. If one believes the opinion polls, the paper continued, Germans are aware of the seriousness of the situation and they are in favor of revamping the social welfare system. It is the same old story, the paper pointed out: Reforms are okay as long as they don’t affect anyone. But the protests are understandable as they provide a vent for the helplessness and the feeling that those “up there” are again taking money from “them down here,” the daily concluded.

Other papers agreed with that assessment: It was a black day for the Social Democrats, said the Hannoversche Allgemeine, adding that the party’s most valuable goods have been damaged. The citizens no longer have trust that the party will make sure that the reforms of the social welfare system are just. Of course the demonstrators are disappointed, the paper believed, adding that the Berlin government took a long time before it finally took action. Cuts in social welfare came in a crash course while reforms remain vague, the daily noted. But all the same, just shouting “no” to reforms isn’t a concept either, the editorial continued.

People are not distancing themselves from politics, said the Süddeutsche Zeitung. They are taking to the streets and trying to influence politics, and that is a different matter altogether. At first sight, the Munich paper noted, the protest movement against welfare, health and pension spending cuts is negative, because it appears only to reject. But there is more, the paper believed: There is the search for different political guidelines. The Europe-wide demonstrations are a call on the respective governments to create a certain amount of economic decency in a globalized world, the daily concluded.

The Hessische-Niedersächsische Allgemeine warned that millions of people stand behind the hundreds-of-thousands who actually took to the streets, people who no longer want any part of the Berlin government’s chaotic politics. The paper urged the government to take the weekend demonstrations seriously as a an outcry against its work.

The Frankfurter Rundschau drew conclusions from the demonstrations, saying that a growing minority is not prepared to go along with the current course of events. The people are in rebellion and they are urging politicians to take into account their worries and needs, the paper wrote. The outcome of this process is uncertain, the paper assessed, explaining that parliaments do not appear to have the necessary majorities. Another conclusion that follows from the weekend protests is that the unions are back on the political stage, the paper wrote.