'I won't be in new German government': Schroeder

12th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

12 October 2005, HANOVER, GERMANY - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, in an impromptu farewell speech Wednesday, said he would not have any role in Germany's future grand coalition government and fired barbs at Washington after years of prickly ties with U.S. President George W. Bush.

12 October 2005

HANOVER, GERMANY - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, in an impromptu farewell speech Wednesday, said he would not have any role in Germany's future grand coalition government and fired barbs at Washington after years of prickly ties with U.S. President George W. Bush.

"I will not be part of the next German government. Definitely not," said Schroeder in an emotion-packed address to trade unionists in the western German city of Hanover.

Schroeder on Monday gave up demands to remain chancellor in a move paving the way for Angela Merkel to begin negotiations for a grand coalition comprised of her Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) with Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) as junior partner.

The CDU/CSU narrowly won Germany's September 18 general elections and has 226 seats in parliament's lower house, the Bundestag. Schroeder's SPD has 222 seats.

Merkel's new coalition is not expected to be formally voted into power by the Bundestag before the second half of November.

Schroeder called on his SPD to make the government with Merkel a success but he warned that the SPD would not allow the coalition to alter crucial social and foreign policy issues.

Germany's nation-wide setting of wages for industrial sectors - which is backed by unions and opposed by business - must be maintained, he said.

"Otherwise nothing will happen (with a grand coalition)," said Schroeder.

He also defended German laws which mandate that workers and unions get seats on company supervisory boards.

"To all those who try to fight this in the Anglo-Saxon media I say look at the others - they are far better off than you are," said Schroeder.

The outgoing German leader said his opposition to the Iraq war needed to be written into a coalition accord with Merkel who backed the U.S.-led war.

"No! We don't want German soldiers in Iraq!" said Schroeder to applause.

In a passionate defence of the state, Schroeder said the disastrous results of Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. showed what happened when the state was wound down.

"I could name a country but the office which I still hold prevents me from doing so - but everybody knows I mean America," said Schroeder to more applause and cheers.

Schroeder has had a tense relationship with President Bush and the two leaders did not speak for almost an entire year after he led European opposition to the 2003 Iraq war.

The Chancellor underlined his strong support for Turkish membership in the European Union (E.U.) which is opposed by Merkel.

*sidebar1*Schroeder, who left the Hanover meeting to fly to Istanbul for one of his final foreign trips, said the Turkish government was seeking to create a modern Islamic government which was not fundamentalist.

"If this succeeds it will mean a huge security gain for Germany," he said.

Schroeder drew a standing ovation from union members by saying: "I know where I come from and thus I know where I belong." The normally steely chancellor appeared close to tears both before and after his speech.

Gerhard Schroeder grew up in poverty after World War II with his mother working as a cleaning lady. He never knew his father, who was killed while serving with the German armed forces in 1944.

DPA

Subject: German news

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