German Press Review: Bad Public Relations | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 01.09.2004
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German Press Review: Bad Public Relations

German papers on Wednesday looked at the government’s labor market reforms are again cause for debate. Editorialists are becoming less aggressive towards the original overhaul measures now being taken.

Some papers even said it's time to listen up and take heed of the changes that Germany simply needs to make, in order to recover from its downturn.

The east German newspaper Neues Deutschland claimed it’s almost gone unnoticed by the public that the federal government has managed to launch a program aimed at kick-starting the poor economic situation in Germany. “It’s called Hartz IV – the labor market reforms which have been commonly criticized as nothing more than a meaningless dismantling of the social welfare system,” wrote the paper. However, it added that the government seriously fails regarding one important point in its program to turn around the economy – public relations. “Monday after Monday, tens of thousands take to the streets protesting against Hartz IV, because the official information campaign of the government is forever revealing new barbaric changes to the social system,” the paper wrote.

“If Germany wants to progress, then it has to be made sustainable,” wrote the Esslinger Zeitung from southwestern Germany. It went on to say that responsibility lies with the people and that they have to make the first move in accepting the reforms that the government is introducing. The paper added that people cannot expect the government to magically pull jobs out of a hat.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung also took a sarcastic swipe at the opponents of Hartz IV: “The so-called Monday demonstrators must be happy with the success of their protests,” the paper wrote. “Blow after blow, (Chancellor) Gerhard Schröder’s startled government team is having to make corrections to the actual statutes and schemes that are supposed to be designed to make social security affordable.” The newspaper added that it’s these very adjustments that are causing the contrary – they serve to dilute the overall effect of the original decisions made and damage growth and employment.

According to the Ostsee-Zeitung, instead of being armed for Hartz IV, the Minister for Economic Affairs, Wolfgang Clement, has now been shot with having to remargin €400 million ($486 million) for thousands of new jobs, schoolings and rental costs. “How ridiculous,” the paper exclaimed. The additional load on the budget from Hartz IV alone amounts to €2 billion – according to the opposition, perhaps even €5 billion. “And this is taxpayers’ money, remember,” the paper concluded.

The Ostthüringer Zeitung was sceptical of Schröder’s efforts, saying the chancellor’s arguments for change will only have any depth if the fruits of his labor market reforms are ready for the picking by all. “The question is how far do he and his Social Democratic Party want to get in the next year," the paper asked. “When will we see that it was worthwhile for the victims of the reforms?”