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German Press Review: Schröder's Small Concessions

The concessions on job market reforms Chancellor Schröder made after street protests and the naming of new EU commissioners by incoming President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso grabbed the attention of German editorials.

German papers have wildly differing opinions on the state of the so-called Hartz IV job market reforms.

On the one hand, Die Welt from Berlin loved them. The paper said reducing social payments "is right and necessary and reasonable. The time of having the state support people long-term is over," the paper proclaimed. "Papa government is broke." The paper saw "pessimism" as "Germans' main problem." In Die Welt's analysis, "other countries have successfully modernized their social system and job markets," and Germany can too, if it gets past its "defeatists, tacticians, and destructive criticism."

On the other hand, Neues Deutschland, also from Berlin, denounced the proposed reforms as the product of "ignorance, arrogance and incompetence." The paper wrote, "The protesters plan to continue next Monday, regardless of attempts to dismiss them as populists." The paper then asked, what's so populist about rejecting a proposal that -- despite the Chancellor's "small concessions -- continues to hurt the majority and bring a few cents more to a minority?"

Now that protesters know "pressure from the streets is effective," they may actually be more motivated to continue next Monday, the Financial Times Deutschland from Hamburg predicted.

German papers were, however, very much in agreement about the choice of German Social Democrat Günter Verheugen as the new EU Industry Commissioner. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had called for a EU "super commissioner" for economy and competitiveness, but all the papers agreed, "Verheugen will be no super commissioner." But they hoped he would bring a new level of German influence to the Commission.

The Frankfurter Rundschau called the elevation of Verheugen a "face-saving compromise" between the EU and Schröder's government, which pushed hard for Verheugen's appointment to a more influential economy-related post.

Even as Industry Commissioner Verheugen "will be one of the heavyweights around President Barroso's table," the Südwest Presse from Ulm thought. He "made a good name for himself when he was Enlargement Commissioner, pushing forward European integration without losing sight of national interests," the paper reminded readers.

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