SPD leader pledges to retain market reforms

25th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

25 October 2007, Hamburg (dpa) - Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) are to retain the market reforms they agreed after bitter internal division four years ago, party chairman Kurt Beck said Thursday ahead of a key party congress.

25 October 2007

Hamburg (dpa) - Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) are to retain the market reforms they agreed after bitter internal division four years ago, party chairman Kurt Beck said Thursday ahead of a key party congress.

Heeding grassroots sentiment within Germany's traditional party of the left, Beck has in recent weeks proposed extending unemployment benefits to older claimants, in the face of opposition from SPD cabinet members.

Speaking before the annual party congress begins in Hamburg on Friday, Beck said: "There can be no talk of opening the floodgates. I do not want to go back and will not," he said.

The party chairman and probable candidate for the chancellorship in the 2009 elections is certain to secure a large majority for his unemployment benefit proposals when the party votes on the issue on Friday. The proposal will then be put forward within the governing coalition, in which the SPD is the junior member.

SPD veteran Franz Muentefering, labour minister and vice- chancellor, has opposed the change, urging the party to stick to the market reform package the party adopted under the last SPD chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder.

Schroeder, who narrowly lost the September 2005 elections to Christian Democrat Chancellor Angela Merkel, is to open proceedings with a speech on Friday.

The congress, being held under the motto "Upswing for all" in reference to Germany's booming economy, finds the party ailing in the polls and divided on core issues.

On Sunday the SPD is to decide on a new programme to take the party into the 2009 elections.

The three-day congress in the northern port city is being attended by 525 delegates, 1,900 journalists and thousands of guests.

DPA

Subject: German news

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