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German Press Review: Striking at Schröder

German newspapers on Monday dissected the growing dispute between Gerhard Schröder and the country's unions as well as a new left-wing party that could become a hurdle for the chancellor.

Munich's Süddeutsche Zeitung noted that, apparently, it's fashionable to cause panic among the general public. "Those who have jobs should work more for the same income and sacrifice one week of their holidays, while those who are unemployed face severe cuts and more restrictions from job center bureaucrats," the paper wrote. It also went on to blame the parties, the unions and the employers for preferring to tear each other apart rather than demonstrating concertedly that the reforms are an opportunity.

The latent dissent between the SPD and the trade unions has erupted into an open battle commented Die Welt from Berlin. According to this daily the tactic of some trade unions is to align themselves with the new left wing grouping in order to pressure the party leadership into obliging their wishes. However, the paper said it supported comments from Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, in which he argued that whoever fiddles with the reform plans sets the country back several years.

Bonn's General Anzeiger saw the creation of a new party as seriously putting into question the long-term ability of the Social Democrats to govern. The paper pointed out that, in many regions, the SPD is already in third-place behind the Christian Democratic Union and the Greens and is facing increasing pressure in the eastern states from the revamped communist party the Party for Democratic Socialism. And it adds, "for the SPD the new left-wing alliance has triggered alarm level red."

The Braunschweiger Zeitung drew parallels between Germany's economic situation and football. "The politics and economies of the traditional European leaders are plagued with old and crusty structures, too little movement and too much routine," the paper wrote. The editors also drew a parallel between the European soccer championships, saying Germany's performance on the soccer field mirrored the country's politics and society. "We must get used to, or at least register, the fact that we no longer belong to the cream of the crop," the daily lamented.

However, the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper described the European Football Championships as grandiose. The paper wrote that, compared to past finals, this time there were only winners. "The host nation Portugal beat England and Spain to reach the finals bringing the normally depressed country to a football frenzy," it commented. The paper also celebrated the Hellenic soccer nobodies who beat favorites France and the Czech Republic to reach the finals and write sporting history to win the championships. "And the Germans can celebrate because the Greeks used the same football tactics that helped Germany win the Euro cup in 1974," it concluded.

"It was a wonderful soccer festival," gushed the Nordsee Zeitung in Bremerhaven, "so good it was addictive." The paper thanked the Portuguese hosts for providing a unique football event full of dribbles, drama, technique, tricks and suspense of the highest caliber. But the paper had sobering words for Germany, pointing out that the team is now second rate, and that does not bode well for the country which is hosting the World Championships in 2006.

However the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger from Cologne disagreed: "The Euro 2004 was a kind of therapy, a deliberate distraction from reality and a dream," it wrote, and the next dream, which is already causing goose bumps, is the 2006 World Cup Championships in Germany.

The Mitteldeutsche Zeitung from Halle said the standard of this year's Euro Cup was clearly higher than that of past tournaments, with the best teams playing at breathtaking speed, and with great strength and amazingly good precision. "With the big players like France, Italy, Spain, Germany and England being knocked out early," wrote the daily, "the smaller teams provided additional suspense that led to the record television ratings."

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