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Germany

Greens Back Chancellor Schröder's Reformist Agenda

The Green Party, German Chancellor Schröder’s junior coalition partner, has given solid support to the chancellor’s controversial package of social and economic reforms at a special party conference.

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German Foreign Minister and Green member Joschka Fischer urges delegates to support reforms.

Chancellor Schröder’s bold attempts to overhaul Germany’s overburdened social security system and rigid labor market found further acceptance on Sunday with Green party voting overwhelmingly in favor of his reform course.

At the end of a two-day special party conference in Cottbus, more than 90 percent of the 700 delegates threw their weight behind the controversial reform package known as "Agenda 2010" unveiled by the chancellor in March this year. The move follows a similar show of support by the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) earlier this month.

The reform package, which has drawn ire from both left-wingers and traditionalists in the SPD and Greens in recent months, includes capping the amount and duration of unemployment benefits, melding unemployment benefits and welfare benefits into one monthly check, streamlining the health care system and making it easier for German employers to hire and fire people.

"A new perspective for Red-Green"

The Green party leadership urged party delegates during the conference to back the much-needed reforms, which are needed to shake Germany out of its economic slump and tackle unemployment, and warned that a failure to do so could threaten the coexistence of the SPD-Green government.

Party Head Reinhard Bütikofer said it was a core concern of the Greens not to leave a heavily indebted nation to the next generation and that reforming the generous social system was a matter of survival for the coalition. ""If Red-Green manage to get a grip on the reforms, then we can even change the mood in the country," Bütikofer said in a reference to the general pessimistic outlook in Germany on account of a near-stagnant economy.

The Green Party’s most prominent member and Germany’s Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer characterized the reform vote as an acid test for Green beliefs and principles. "It’s a question of whether we manage to carry through the reforms on our own, instead of leaving it to the right of center parties," he said. Fischer emphasized the implementation of reforms wasn’t just meant for the country, but also to give "a new perspective to Red-Green."

Critics say reform package socially unfair

But despite broad support for the reformist agenda within the Greens, several critics within the party have once again voiced fears the reform plans are socially unfair and aren’t suitable for solving pressing problems plaguing the country.

Green economics expert Werner Schulz lambasted the chancellor’s plans, saying it didn’t solve the structural problems, but "rather burdened the weak in a one-sided way with reform costs." Several left-wingers also criticized "Agenda 2010" as socially unbalanced and a betrayal of basic party principles.

In particular the chancellor’s health care reforms which include charging more to patients for prescription drugs in an effort to control spiraling costs have come in for much flak.

In addition, a left-wing base is also renewing its demand for the implementation of the wealth tax, which foresees levying a one percent tax on more prosperous companies and individuals, and managed to push it through with a majority.

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