Schroeder slams SPD rival,vows to stick to reforms

30th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

30 August 2004 , BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Monday slammed a rebel rival in his own Social Democratic Party and vowed to stick to reforming Germany's welfare state despite protests which have drawn thousands. Schroeder, in an ARD TV interview, gave a blistering reaction to former Social Democratic (SPD) leader Oskar Lafontaine who was due to address a protest in Leipzig later Monday aimed at the government's planned cuts to jobless benefits. "Everybody should have the same chance to discredit

30 August 2004

BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Monday slammed a rebel rival in his own Social Democratic Party and vowed to stick to reforming Germany's welfare state despite protests which have drawn thousands.

Schroeder, in an ARD TV interview, gave a blistering reaction to former Social Democratic (SPD) leader Oskar Lafontaine who was due to address a protest in Leipzig later Monday aimed at the government's planned cuts to jobless benefits.

"Everybody should have the same chance to discredit themselves," said Schroeder when asked about his arch-enemy Lafontaine.

Lafontaine, in an N24 TV interview, replied that Schroeder's policies were simply making the rich richer.

"What's the point of telling the unemployed that more pressure will be put on them to take jobs when there is no work to be had?" said Lafontaine who has threatened to quit the SPD and help start a new left-wing German party.

Schroeder replies that Germany's creaking welfare state must be revamped.

"If we don't restructure social welfare it will go kaput," warned the Chancellor, adding: "I'm firmly convinced Germany needs this reform process and I will not back down."

Schroeder insists his package of reforms, which also include tax cuts, health care reform and limited labour market liberalisation, are the right mix to lift Germany out of three years of economic stagnation.

But cutting unemployment benefits has proven deeply controversial with demonstrations against the cuts taking place each Monday for the past month.

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

Schroeder has narrowly escaped being pelted with eggs in several eastern German cities in past weeks as anger grows.

The German leader said it was important to look at the big picture with regard to both the demonstrations and the overall funds flowing into rebuilding eastern Germany.

He noted that 70,000 demonstrators was only a small number of people when one considered eastern Germany's total population is 14 million.

Schroeder also underlined the federal government is committed to paying EUR 140 billion in rebuilding aid to eastern Germany over the next 15 years.

DPA

Subject: German news 

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