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Europe

German Press Review: Schröder’s Reform Agenda

German newspapers on Thursday had a mixed opinion of the approval of a major welfare reform package by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s cabinet.

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Some fear Schröder’s reforms aren't as heavy as they look.

The conservative Berlin-based Die Welt took a dim view of Schröder’s initiative, saying that “the real problem is that all parties have waited too long to introduce reforms. Now all the reforms are happening at once, and they are mixed together. That is very unsatisfying. None of the parties had the courage to simplify the tax system, and at the same time cut subsidies. The reforms aren’t good, because there was fumbling at the highest levels of government. Germany won’t regain its momentum.”

The Neue Rhein Zeitung agreed, opining that “the government, headed by the Social Democrats, is stumbling along, trying to repair the country with the principle of trial and error. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has changed his position so many times that German citizens don’t believe he is on a clear course. There must be reforms. There must be deep cuts in social benefits. But the people also want to know in which direction the country is moving. Gerhard Schroeder is like a person who builds up little corners of his house, without following an architect’s plan.”

The Mittelbayerische Zeitung from Regensburg said Schröder’s package has hurt him politically. “It’s not Schröder’s attempts at reforms that are losing him votes,” wrote the paper. “Rather it is his indecision and lack of clarity as the reforms are put into action.”

The Kölnische Rundschau, however, praised Schröder’s package of reforms, “The reforms,” it wrote, “don’t give the impression that everything is monolithic, or not well calculated. They also prove Schröder’s willingness to introduce reforms. He knows exactly how to manipulate the public psychology into one that’s good for economic development.” The Offenburger Tageblatt also had a positive take on the welfare reforms, but was unsure they would make it through upper house of parliament: “Altogether, the package is a strong signal that the economic situation will improve. The package is going to be effective from the first day it is put into effect. The Red-Green Coalition proved itself to be able to create reforms. But is Germany itself ready to reform? The federal system traditionally allows German states to block national policy. That’s a bad sign for Schroeder’s reform.”