German Press Review: The Opposition′s Reform Alternatives Present No Real Alternative | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 17.06.2003
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German Press Review: The Opposition's Reform Alternatives Present No Real Alternative

The country's editorialists looked at the conservative oppositions alternative to the government's proposals for a major overhaul of Germany's costly healthcare system.


Germany's expensive healthcare system is on parliament's agenda for Wednesday.

The German parliament is set to debate the government's draft proposals for redesigning the healthcare system on Wednesday. Just two days before, on Monday, the opposition conservatives put forward their alternative.

The opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) and Christian Socialists (CSU) cobbled together their proposals for German healthcare reform at the very last minute, wrote the Berliner Kurier, and it shows. Theirs was not a well-thought-out concept. Broadly speaking, the two parties decided the patient should foot the bill. High earners would largely be coerced into taking out private health insurance. But nothing would be gained by this, the paper wrote, and the public health insurance companies would lose their best paying customers.

It's now up to the government and the opposition to forge a compromise, wrote the Financial Times Deutschland. But the paper said the fundamental reforms that Germany so urgently needs will fall by the wayside. So far, it wrote, neither the governing coalition of Social Democrats and Greens nor the conservatives have come up with any convincing proposals for financing the healthcare system in the long run.

Cologne’s Express was also unimpressed by the draft put forward by the conservatives. CDU leader Angela Merkel recently described the government’s reform agenda as a few “tottering steps,” but she herself was not exactly striding along in seven league boots, it commented. The CDU/CSU countered the government’s proposals for healthcare and tax reform with criticism, but with no solid concepts of their own. The conservatives were paralyzed by the power games and squabbles that Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and co. had managed, on the whole, to avoid, Express remarked.

Several German papers also marked the 50th anniversary of the workers uprising in communist East Germany. It was a heroic day, wrote the Bild Zeitung tabloid. Hundreds of thousands had courageously taken to the streets to shake off the yoke of the communist dictatorship until Russian tanks crushed their efforts, Bild wrote. It called for June 17 to be reinstated as a national holiday as it had been before German unification in 1990 -- to commemorate the East German struggle for freedom and democracy.

But Cologne's Kölnische Rundschau said the decision to move German Unification Day to October 3, once East and West were united, was the right one. June 17 stood for an uprising that was crushed and -- until the 1970s -- the longing for German unification, while October 3 stands for the actual unification, the daily wrote.

Let’s not kid ourselves, wrote Berlin’s Die Welt. June 17 had been more or less forgotten. The most surprising thing about all these memorial events was that, thanks to the 50th anniversary, the rebellion seemed to have suddenly regained significance, the paper commented. In the eastern states in particular, many people were commemorating the day, which -- despite its tragic outcome -- was one of the finest moments in German history, the paper said.

The Berliner Zeitung daily was appalled that the events of June 17 were no longer on the syllabus in German schools. If no one has the strength or the will to teach history and values to the younger generation, it wrote, we can spare ourselves the empty pathos of memorial services.

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