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Europe

German Press Review: Schröder Running Out of Steam

German papers on Friday focused on Chancellor Schröder’s parliamentary speech on the necessity of his painful social and labor market reforms and his effort to rally Germans behind the unpopular measures.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung admitted that it’s quite an achievement for Chancellor Schröder to have remained on course in the difficult situation in which he finds himself. “But,” the paper said, “he knows that a u-turn in the reform policy would be the beginning of the end.”

On the other hand, the Frankfurter Rundschau saw some movement in the Chancellor’s position. “While the Chancellor will be grateful that the decisions of the past can no longer be reversed,” it wrote, “he wants to set a new accent in the future.” A year ago, the chancellor played the role of the Iron Chancellor, now, the paper noted, “more between the lines than openly, he’s singing a new tune”. The daily added that ordinary people have already made their sacrifice; business though has so far refused to make a contribution, saying that extra burdens will damage German competitiveness.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung was disappointed. "Nothing new," it said. "All the same, Chancellor Schröder said he wasn’t going to take back any of the tough measures of last year, even if the unions and the left wing of his party don’t like them," the paper wrote. " What he did do, though, was to provide the emotional context for his policy which he should have provided a year ago." The paper added, "If he’d done so, he might not have had to give up the party leadership."

The Berlin-based BZ tabloid was pessimistic too. "The government deserves respect for sticking to its course in spite of opposition from within its party, but it doesn’t have the strength to continue with further reforms," the paper opined. It added that the opposition may be calling for elections, but it won't get them. “So the country will drag itself along like an old, sick man, without spirit, without energy and without goals," the paper concluded gloomily.

The Karlsruhe-based Badische Neueste Nachrichten said that both the government and the opposition seem to have run out of steam. The government is playing at wait-and-see, the opposition doesn’t quite know what it

wants, and the economy is only recovering in slow motion, the paper wrote. "Both sides applauded their leaders in the Bundestag with long ovations --it was a strange contrast to the reality of the situation.”