German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder on Tuesday spoke out against calls for the creation of special economic zones in eastern Germany to make the region more competitive following the European Union's expansion this week. With lower wages in neighboring countries like the Czech Republic and Poland, many believe the already troubled eastern German labor market will face new pressures. Schröder told public broadcaster
MDR that he expected wages in eastern Germany to remain at their current levels. Earlier this month, German Transportation Minister Manfred Stolpe sparked the debate by saying he was in favor of setting up special low-wage sectors in the eastern states, where the government would pay out part of the salaries. His proposal followed the publication of a government-commissioned report about the shortcomings in Germany's bid to modernize the former East Germany.