The German government brought their two-day retreat to a close on Saturday after discussing their labor market and social welfare reforms. The Swedish and Dutch leaders added their two cents to the session on Friday.
The government said it won't take a break from reforms
Although the meeting of German cabinet members and top Social Democrat and Green party leaders in Bonn was overshadowed by events in Russia where a two-and-a-half day hostage drama came to a bloody end Friday, the participants still managed to discuss the vast reforms they have been pushing through in Germany.
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said the government would not waver on implementing the package of changes to Germany's labor market and social welfare system, which has provoked tens of thousands of people to take to the streets in protest over the past month.
"The reforms must continue and they will continue," Schröder said Saturday. The chancellor ruled out any changes to the reform course.
Encouragement from abroad
Apparently sent in to bolster the troops, Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson and his Dutch counterpart Wim Kok, both considered successful reformers of their countries' social welfare systems, addressed the meeting on Friday.
Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson
Persson explained that Swedes initially strongly opposed changes to the generous -- and expensive -- system. "But at sometime people realized that what we were doing was right." After several years of reforms, Sweden has more jobs, is more competitive and collects more tax revenue Persson said.
The Swedish Social Democrat encouraged Schröder's government to stick to their reform course, which he predicted would indeed buoy Germany's economy and labor market.
Kok, who heads an EU working group charged with making the bloc into the most economically competitive part of the world by 2010, also spoke to the participants about his country's reforms.