Schroeder: Germany needs'unpopular' reforms

26th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

27 August 2004 , BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has vowed to stand by controversial welfare reforms through to Germany's 2006 general election because they were vital in steering the world's third biggest economy back into growth. "Unpopular decisions must be made if they are necessary for the nation," said a relaxed looking Schroeder in an interview with German RTL television. The Chancellor was reacting to mass demonstrations of the past four weeks aimed at the goverment's planned cuts to Germany'

27 August 2004

BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has vowed to stand by controversial welfare reforms through to Germany's 2006 general election because they were vital in steering the world's third biggest economy back into growth.

"Unpopular decisions must be made if they are necessary for the nation," said a relaxed looking Schroeder in an interview with German RTL television.

The Chancellor was reacting to mass demonstrations of the past four weeks aimed at the goverment's planned cuts to Germany's relatively generous unemployment benefits.

Last Monday over 70,000 people took part in protests mainly in former communist eastern Germany where the jobless rate is 18.5 percent, compared with 8.4 percent in western Germany.

On Tuesday Schroeder narrowly escaped being pelted with eggs thrown by protesters in the economically depressed eastern German city of Wittenberge.

The Chancellor said he would continue visiting eastern Germany but that his security detail had been upgraded and he would probably no longer plunge into the crowds to shake hands as in the past.

"I think (people) will understand this," said Schroeder.  

The centre-left government's biggest problem with reforms was that decisions had to be made now but the positive effects would only be seen later, said the German leader.

Asked if he was not tempted to water down reforms to improve his Social Democratic Party's (SPD) sagging opinion polls, Schroeder insisted he would stand firm and keep trying to explain policy to voters.

Germany, he said, was just coming out of three years of economic stagnation with his government's earlier tax cuts and healthcare reforms starting to kick in.

"I believe we will win in 2006," said Schroeder who pulled off a surprise reelection in 2002 after trailing in the polls until just months before election day.

He slammed the former communist East German party - the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) - and right-wing extremists for, as he put it, agitating to move the debate beyond normal political discourse.

The PDS has surged in opinion polls over past weeks and now leads in the eastern state Brandenburg which holds elections next month.

Voting for the ex-communists would be "dreadful mistake," said Schroeder, adding it was not merely the way they had done things in East Germany which had been wrong but rather the very principles upon which the party was founded.

Schroeder also poured scorn on attempts to set up a new left-wing party with the aid of Oskar Lafontaine - a former leader of his SPD leader and ex-finance minister in the cabinet.

Declining to even mention his arch-enemy's name, Schroeder said: "You will see - it won't work."

Asked about his new three-year-old daughter, Victoria, who was adopted this summer from a Russian orphanage by Schroeder and his wife Doris, the Chancellor almost bristled.

"My wife and I have decided to keep some things private," said the Chancellor, adding: "There have to be some things which are not talked about in public."

Schroeder has refused to release any photos of Victoria and has blocked publication of pictures which a reporter managed to take.

DPA

Subject: German news
 

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