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Germany

Stoiber Attacks Schröder on Tax Reform

Two months before Bavarian state elections, the Christian Social Union gave Edmund Stoiber a resounding show of support at a party congress and applauded his criticism of government tax policy.

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CSU chairman Edmund Stoiber is "stark" (strong) after being re-elected with 96.98 percent on Saturday.

At a two-day party congress in Nuremberg this weekend, the Bavarian-based opposition Christian Social Union came out strong behind current State Premier Edmund Stoiber. With a record vote of 96.97 percent, the party members reinstated the CSU chairman in office and gave him a resounding applause for his criticism of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s plans for a tax reform.

In a half-hour speech outlining the party’s future goals for more involvement on the national level, Stoiber attacked what he called the Social Democrat’s "unacceptable" proposals for bringing forward to 2004 a tax cut which was originally planned for 2005. Stoiber said Schröder’s plans to finance the tax cut by borrowing five billion euros on credit "only demonstrates the utter incompetence of the government when it comes to finance and tax policies."

He added, that although the CSU and its larger sister party, the Christian Democratic Union, generally supported a tax cut as a means for jump-starting the lagging economy – in fact they had called for such a reform in their last election campaign – it needed to have a solid financial backing otherwise it would end up hurting not helping the country.

Stoiber criticized the Chancellor for not being up front and honest with the German people and said the federal government should look towards Bavaria as a model of good governance.

No blockade politics

Stoiber’s criticism of the current tax reform proposal, however, was coupled with a clear warning to members in the conservative bloc, namely Hessen’s State Premier Roland Koch (CDU), not to stand in the way of tax cuts for the simple sake of blocking government reform plans.

"CDU and CSU have been and will continue to be a party in favor of lowering taxes," the CSU chairman and last year’s opposition chancellor candidate announced in a tacit gibe to Koch (photo), who has repeatedly stated his objections to cutting taxes as a means of boosting the economy.

Roland Koch zurück aus USA

Hessen's State Premier Roland Koch of the CDU.

Earlier in the week the premier of Hessen was quoted in the Bild newspaper as saying he would block Chancellor Schröder and Finance Minister Hans Eichel’s plans for pushing forward a tax break at the expense of mounting debt. "Before we stoop to such financial trickery, as Schröder and Eichel are devising, let’s be honest to the country’s citizens and say rather no tax break than one bought on tick," Koch said.

Koch’s comments were brushed aside by Angela Merkel (photo), chairwoman of the CDU, who attended the CSU congress as guest speaker.

Stoiber und Merkel

Chairwoman of CDU Angela Merkel stands next to Edmund Stoiber of CSU.

"We are two different parties," she said, "and it would be surprising if we didn’t occasionally have different nuances, different views and different experiences. But my dear friends, what counts is the fact that for all difficult political questions the CDU and the CSU have always found a joint solution."

Stoiber echoed his conservative colleague and emphasized the importance of towing one political line on the issue of tax reform. "We can only achieve our goals when we speak with one voice." That voice, Stoiber hopes, will be his own after the CSU secures another victory in Bavaria next September, thus bolstering his own position on the federal level.

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