Germany's Social Democrat finance minister, Hans Eichel, and Bavarian Premier and head of the opposition Christian Social Union (CSU), Edmund Stoiber expressed optimism on Wednesday that the government and the opposition would be able to come to a speedy agreement on a comprehensive tax reform next year. Eichel told the mass circulation newspaper Bild, "We want to reform the tax system. We can come to a quick agreement with the Union – I’m sure of that." CSU leader Stoiber agreed. "Next year we have to disentangle the mired tax system under the motto less taxes and fewer expenditures. Other countries have long had a clear-cut, simple system with low tax brackets. We must achieve that in Germany, too, together." Last Friday, German Chancellor Schröder won parliamentary approval for labor and tax reforms after marathon negotiations with the opposition conservatives, clearing the way for an $18.6 billion tax cut next year. Together with health reforms agreed earlier this year and planned changes to the pension system, it represents an unprecedented overhaul of Germany’s welfare state. But many critics have charged the measures do not go far enough.