German Press Review: Will the Social Democrats Stick to the Reform Course? | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 16.02.2004
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German Press Review: Will the Social Democrats Stick to the Reform Course?

On Monday, some German editorials continued mulling over the leadership changes in Germany's ruling Social Democratic Party, while others weighed in on the Cyprus road map.

German papers commented on the regional congress of the Social Democrats (SPD) over the weekend which saw Chancellor Gerhard Schröder reaffirming his resolve to push through painful social and labor reforms after he stepped down as party chairman last week.

The Westdeutsche Zeitung wrote that there was no doubt that Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the new front-man of the Social Democrats (SPD), Franz Müntefering, outshone everyone else at the weekend party congress. Schröder showed no sign of giving up and Müntefering even managed to instill some confidence in his fellow party members. And the two strongmen also left no doubt that despite all criticism they will push ahead with their reform agenda, the paper wrote.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung wondered how stable the new partnership between Schröder and Müntefering is. What if reality brings new unreasonable demands? What if the initial euphoria evaporates? The paper said that by appointing Müntefering as the Social Democrat’s new party leader, Schröder has solved one of his problems, but Müntefering is still facing his greatest challenges.

Düsseldorf-based Handelsblatt wrote that the instant harmony at the party gathering was deceptive. There is still a lot of frustration among the party’s rank and file about the social cuts in the Agenda 2010, which many SPD members consider to be unfair, the paper commented. If the new front-man simply continues with the old policies, the paper predicted, that would only revive former criticisms. Müntefering therefore has no choice but to make concessions in areas other than the reform agenda, the daily concluded.

Some German newspapers focused on the breakthrough in Cyprus peace talks with both Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders agreeing ground rules for relaunching a drive to reunite the divided island.

Only very recently, a re-unification of the divided island seemed as unlikely as a re-unification of Germany seemed 15 years ago, wrote the Märkische Oderzeitung. The fact that the Turkish leaders on the island have agreed to a U.N.-sponsored road-map for developing a federal solution can be credited to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. The paper said because he wants Turkey to gain entry into the EU, he has withdrawn all support for separatist forces on the island.The Schwäbische Zeitung also saw the Cyprus-question as the litmus test for Turkey’s wish to gain entry into the European club. Only if both parts of the island become part of the EU in May this year, wrote the paper, will those who claim that Turkey is not a suitable candidate, be silenced.