Berlin drops plan to scrap public holiday

5th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

5 November 2004 , BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder Friday dropped a controversial plan to abolish the German Unity Day public holiday after a two-day outcry across the political spectrum. The chancellor's key lieutenant, Social Democratic Party (SPD) national chairman Franz Muentefering, said in Berlin Schroeder would not be pursuing the idea any further after opposition from his coalition's allies, the Greens. Rightists said that moving Unity Day to a Sunday so that nobody missed a day of work was un

5 November 2004

BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder Friday dropped a controversial plan to abolish the German Unity Day public holiday after a two-day outcry across the political spectrum.

The chancellor's key lieutenant, Social Democratic Party (SPD) national chairman Franz Muentefering, said in Berlin Schroeder would not be pursuing the idea any further after opposition from his coalition's allies, the Greens.

Rightists said that moving Unity Day to a Sunday so that nobody missed a day of work was unpatriotic, while leftists said it was oppressive to workers. The idea even caused an unprecedented rift between Schroeder and German President Horst Koehler.

Economic advisers to the chancellor had said that making Germans work a day longer per year would not only increase gross domestic product but also help balance the budget since more taxes would be paid.

The 3 October holiday recalls the 1990 reunification of formerly communist East Germany with West Germany. Apart from a ceremony held in a different town each year, there are no military parades or similar public celebrations.

Muentefering said the Greens had warned the SPD off the idea and he admitted there had been opposition "across the spectrum". He said the critics should now suggest a better way of balancing Germany's deficit-ridden budget.

Koehler, who has been in office just four months, had placed himself at the head of the opposition to the idea, writing Schroeder an open letter to warn that national pride would suffer.

Although Koehler, a former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was imposed on Schroeder by centre-right parties, the two men have not tangled in public in the past.

"This national day is valued by the country. It honours the democratic revolution of 1989 and expresses our joy at the restoration of German unity," Koehler wrote. "It ought to remain."

Schroeder wrote an icy letter back calling for a better suggestion, but hours later Friday backed down.

Others speaking up for the public holiday included the German Trade Union Federation, which said: "Poor Germany, to think that we cannot even afford a public holiday recalling one of the most important events of our history."

Markus Soeder, general secretary of the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, said the plan had shown "just what little feeling this government has for Germany and its national symbols".

DPA

Subject: German news 

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