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German Press Review: Schröder and Chirac -- a Friendship of Harmony or Delusion?

On Tuesday, German editorials continued commenting on leadership changes in the SPD, others weighed in on a meeting between the German Chancellor and his French colleague Jacques Chirac.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung took a look at Monday’s meeting between German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac. "The two main architects of European integration looked rather weary," observed the paper. "Both are in trouble at home, with Chirac being tantalized by his would-be successor Sarkozy and Schröder having to give up part of his power before it was taken from him by his own rank and file." The FAZ noted that in such a situation "what could be a better option than to demonstrate power in an area where they can count on universal approval in their respective home countries. That’s why they spoke out clearly against increasing EU-expenditures and granting smaller EU members more voting rights," the paper concluded.

Ever since the two heads of state came together during the Iraq crisis, there has been an "abundance of harmony" between Schröder and Chirac, observed the Märkische Allgemeine. One example of this is the French president's request for Schröder to speak in the name of France when talking to acting EU-President Bertie Ahern. The paper cautioned that despite all areas of agreement, "Germany and France are running the risk of downplaying the differences that still exist between them." According to the daily, the primary difference is that a failure to come to an agreement over a new EU constitution would have more serious implications for Germany than for France.

Editorialists throughout the country also continued to pour scorn on Schröder’s announcement to step down as leader of his the Social Democrats while remaining chancellor.

"What was intended as a new departure has ended in a fiasco," opined the Rhein-Neckar Zeitung. "Not only has Schröder ruined the Social Democrats Party, he now leaves them to savor in their own downfall."

The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung regarded Schröder’s announcement to postpone a major government policy speech to mid-March as a provocation. "After Friday’s surprise reshuffle, Germans don’t want to wait that long to hear more about new plans," argued the paper.

"Schröder’s junior coalition partner, the Greens, are now left wondering how durable the latest reforms will be," wrote Die Tagespost in Würzburg. "So far, the Greens have always seen themselves as the engine of change within the government. However, their initiatives have often been thwarted by the Social Democrats," the paper noted. "They can’t allow this to continue or else they risk being dragged down with them."

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