New German president calls for economic reforms

1st July 2004, Comments 0 comments

1 July 2004 , BERLIN - Germany's newly sworn in federal president, Horst Koehler, warned Thursday the country faced serious economic problems and that reforms were needed to prevent worsening social divisions. "Our country is in highly visible economic difficulties..., " said Koehler in a speech to a joint session of parliament after swearing an oath as the country's new - mainly ceremonial - head of state. Koehler, a 61-year-old former chief of the International Monetary Fund, said people needed to stop w

1 July 2004

BERLIN - Germany's newly sworn in federal president, Horst Koehler, warned Thursday the country faced serious economic problems and that reforms were needed to prevent worsening social divisions.

"Our country is in highly visible economic difficulties..., " said Koehler in a speech to a joint session of parliament after swearing an oath as the country's new - mainly ceremonial - head of state.

Koehler, a 61-year-old former chief of the International Monetary Fund, said people needed to stop waiting for state and take action themselves.

"The social welfare state in today's Germany has overreached itself. This is bitter - but true," said Koehler.

In a sign of likely future jousting between the conservative Koehler and Social Democratic (SPD) Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the new president described government reforms "pointed in the right direction."

But he underlined that far too much time had been lost and much more needed to be done without given any concrete proposals.

"Many people cannot stand to even hear the word reform any more," said Koehler, adding in a veiled jab at Schroeder: "We have apparently failed to explain the goal of reforms."

Koehler also called on his own Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU), who dominate parliament's upper chamber, to play a more constructive role in making compromises and not merely block government policy.

Koehler replaces outgoing Social Democratic (SPD) president Johannes Rau.

The German presidency has little political power but considerable moral authority.

Effective German heads of state have used the post to help set the political agenda as Koehler apparently plans to do with regard to the economy during his five-year term.

This could prove awkward for Chancellor Schroeder who is being pushed by his own left-leaning SPD to trim back government reforms.

DPA

Subject: German news

0 Comments To This Article