Schroeder shrugs offprotests; welfare cuts to stay

18th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

18 August 2004 , BERLIN - Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Wednesday shrugged off protests against his labour-market reforms, saying they would take effect next 1 January "on schedule" and without further changes. At a news conference marking his return to Berlin after summer holidays, he said he understood that unemployed people were afraid of the unknown. But he said: "We're in the middle of the process of constantly explaining what effect the reforms will have." Responding to questions about fo

18 August 2004 

BERLIN - Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Wednesday shrugged off protests against his labour-market reforms, saying they would take effect next 1 January "on schedule" and without further changes.

At a news conference marking his return to Berlin after summer holidays, he said he understood that unemployed people were afraid of the unknown. But he said: "We're in the middle of the process of constantly explaining what effect the reforms will have."

Responding to questions about foreign policy, he said he expected a date to be set in the autumn for a visit to Libya, and disclosed that Germany is to train the new Iraqi armed forces on the territory of the United Arab Emirates, not in Iraq itself.

Schroeder also affirmed that German troops are to help train the new Iraqi armed forces, but will do so on a Gulf neighbour's territory, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

He said an arrangement had been made with the UAE to host the training programme: "It will be carried out in the UAE, not in Iraq."

He added that Iraq's President Ghazi a-Yawer would visit Berlin on September 9, and Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi had accepted an invitation to visit Berlin separately but no date had been set.

The chancellor said Berlin was willing to offer a "substantial forgiveness" of Iraqi debts to Germany to ensure that money needed for reconstruction was not absorbed in debt service, but offered no further details.

Berlin had earlier resisted calls to write off the debts, analysts said. Germany opposed last year's US-invasion of Iraq and continues to refuse any military support for coalition troops in Iraq, but has moved to train the new government's police and army.

Speaking at a news conference marking his return to Berlin after summer holidays, Schroeder added that he expected to fix an autumn date to visit Libya.

German analysts say that trip will be a reward to Libya for reaching agreement this month with German claimants on compensation for a 1985 bomb attack in Berlin.

Despite mass protests in Germany by the unemployed and low-paid against changes to the unemployment benefit system, Schroeder affirmed the labour-market reforms would take effect next 1 January "on schedule" and without further changes.

He said he understood that unemployed people were afraid of the unknown, and added government ministers and deputies would be going out to explain why change was needed: "We're in the middle of the process of constantly explaining what effect the reforms will have." 

"I'm firmly convinced that there is no real alternative for Germany," he said in defence of the changes, which will reduce the number of people eligible for benefits and cut welfare payouts to people who have substantial savings.

He said the unemployed would be allowed to keep fortunes that were considerably larger than the savings of many taxpayers.

Schroeder added that Germany would continue efforts to reduce its dependence on oil imports in the light of record oil prices.

"I am delighted to say that they are having no negative consequences at the present time. But this must lead to a strategy of shifting away from oil. This is economically sensible," he said.

DPA

Subject: German news
 

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