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Germany

Press Review: Germany's New Chancellor

After a long and complex path to the top, Angela Merkel was sworn in as Germany's new chancellor on Tuesday. Read what German and international newspapers have to say about the woman at the top.

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The focus is now on her

In London, The Guardia n newspaper wrote that Germany's "foreign policy is in the hands of the SPD, though Ms Merkel's first trip abroad does not suggest any radical departures. She follows tradition in heading to Paris - a reminder that even if France and Germany are no longer the motor of European integration, they are a force to be reckoned with when they act together. After an equally obligatory visit to Brussels comes London, but only because Tony Blair is running the EU and she wants to bend his ear about the urgency of resolving the budget row. But the chancellor's most important foreign trip will be to Washington, where she will be mending fences after Gerhard Schröder's attacks on George Bush's Iraq war adventure."

Berlin's left-wing taz newspaper said that "the vote which secured Angela Merkel the office of chancellor was not exactly a resounding endorsement of the coalition. If the new SPD secretary general, Hubertus Heil, described it as "very, very good," then one has to question what he had been expecting. But the result is not proof of an instable alliance, such as the opposition politicians like to suggest."

What with the arduous election campaign, the close call, the tough coalition talks and now these average election results, Merkel has got off to a very "mediocre" start, wrote the Vienna-based Sta n dard daily. But it added that perhaps such low expectations are not an entirely bad thing for the new chancellor. "When the red-green coalition took over in 1998, so many hopes were hanging on its performance, that it was impossible for Gerhard Schröder not to disappoint so many people. The main expectations of Merkel are that she sticks with it and does a half decent job of overhauling the budget. Who knows, perhaps in a couple of months time, Berlin will be admitting to having underestimated her again."

"Mrs Merkel," wrote the Fra n kfurter Allgemei n e Zeitu n g daily, "must be interested in having pro-reform Social Democrats in positions of state responsibility." The paper added that if she were to succeed, in "winning over the Social Democrats for a reform alliance for Germany's renewal worthy of the name, then this coalition could actually become a great one." But it also warns that Merkel's reliance on the Social Democrats is her "greatest weakness."

"Mrs. Merkel takes power in Germany at a time of crisis, with the economy in a prolonged state of stagnation, unemployment over 10 percent and a public deeply divided over what to do," commented The New York Times. "Moreover, in exchange for getting the Social Democrats' participation in a coalition, she had to jettison important aspects of her original program, which was aimed at loosening up Germany's strict and costly labor laws, cutting taxes and overhauling social welfare.

And the German Ha n delsblatt said that in the past, power shifts have resulted in clear changes of direction. "Willy Brandt stood for a new Ostpolitik, Helmut Kohl promoted spiritual and moral regeneration, and Gerhard Schröder implemented the SPD-Green project at national level." The paper said that although it is not clear exactly what Angela Merkel stands for, she has often been underestimated in the past, a fact which in itself "gives grounds for hope."

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