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German Press Review: Schröder's Comeback?

German editorials on Tuesday focused on the ruling Social Democrats’ annual party congress in Bochum. There, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is trying to persuade demoralized party members to back his reform plans.

Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung had words of praise for the chancellor’s efforts to convince fellow party members of the need for his reform agenda. Schröder has not been play-acting, he has not been pretending to be the preacher or prophet of a new era, the paper wrote. As he referred to Germany in the year 2010, he was clearly moved by emotion. Probably, the paper said, because he suspects that a Social Democratic government won't be in power in 2010.

Schröder can deliver speeches that make the Social Democrats pull together -- if he wants too, wrote the Frankfurter Rundschau. And this time, the paper said, Schröder even did his best to develop a clear policy line that goes beyond the rough and tumble of day-to-day politics: The aim of his speech was to demonstrate that Social Democrat party leaders do have the wherewithal to draw up a vision for Germany's future.

The Handelsblatt said Schröder underlined that there are clear limits to the redistribution of wealth when the economy stubbornly refuses to expand and state coffers are being burdened by a rapidly aging society. But for the first time, the paper said, Schröder was able to give this message a positive spin: Once social and welfare reforms are in motion, it will be possible to invest more in research and development, education and child care.

The conservative paper Die Welt remained unimpressed by Schröder and his Social Democrats. It seems that far-reaching economic reforms are out of the question, the paper complained, as is the dismantling of a collective bargaining system that prevents the creation of new jobs. This is bad for Germany and risky for the coalition government. When negotiations with the opposition start, they will apply pressure for more reforms and will have the power of persuasive arguments on their side.

Finally, the German tabloid Bild wrote that as head of government, Schröder is obliged to keep the unwieldy Social Democrat tanker on course. This is difficult enough with the Social Democrats in any event, grumbled Bild, but to depart from a given course in the midst of an economic crisis and unemployment, calls for almost superhuman strength. But a change in course is necessary, said the tabloid: "Schröder is at the helm. By next year we will know whether the economy is recovering: If not, his days are numbered."