German SPD leader aims to 'readjust' market reforms

26th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

26 October 2007, Hamburg (dpa) - Germany needs to move away from the harsher aspects of the market reforms implemented in recent years, Social Democratic Party (SPD) chairman Kurt Beck told the annual party congress Friday.

26 October 2007

Hamburg (dpa) - Germany needs to move away from the harsher aspects of the market reforms implemented in recent years, Social Democratic Party (SPD) chairman Kurt Beck told the annual party congress Friday.

Beck rejected allegations that he was moving the country's traditional party of the left sharply leftwards, insisting he was aiming only at a "careful readjustment" of the market reforms introduced by Gerhard Schroeder as SPD chancellor four years ago.

Addressing a key congress - the SPD is to review its basic principles for only the third time since World War II - Beck said the aim was to correct the reforms "at a number of points, but without going backwards."

Allegations from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian CDU/CSU alliance that the SPD, her junior coalition partner, was swinging sharply to the left were "nonsense," Beck said.

Referring to weeks of pre-conference infighting that he himself initiated with a proposal to extend unemployment benefits to older claimants, Beck said the party had put the issue behind it.

"There has been a decision at the end of it, and we will implement the decision together," he said.

Beck accused Merkel of adopting core SPD positions. "Welcome Mrs Merkel," he said ironically.

He accused the CDU/CSU of neo-liberal and radical market policies. "The core of their policies is: put the people under pressure, take more away from them," he said.

Speaking at the start of the congress in the northern port city, Schroeder backed the need to ease some aspects of the market-oriented "Agenda 2010" reform policies he had pushed through.

Beck is expected to gain a large majority for his readjustment of Agenda 2010, when the more than 500 delegates vote later Friday and he is also expected to be re-elected chairman by an overwhelming majority.

The key proposals include paying benefit at the full rate to jobless claimants over 50 for two years, rather than just 18 months as agreed under Agenda 2010, and implementing the rise in the pensionable age from 65 to 67 more gradually.

Two other issues are set to provide controversy at the congress, which ends on Sunday.

The rank-and-file are likely to oppose plans to part-privatize the national rail company Deutsche Bahn (DB) being promoted by SPD Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee.

There is also opposition to the coalition government's plans, backed by SPD Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to extend the mandate for 100 elite troops committed to the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

The congress was being attended by some 1,900 German and foreign journalists and invited guests.

DPA

Subject: German news

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