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Schroeder says reforms on track

12 February 2004

BERLIN – German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder insisted Thursday his reform plans remained on track while rejecting calls for a cabinet reshuffle after his surprise resignation as leader of the Social Democratic Party last week.

Schroeder said his designated successor as Social Democratic (SPD) chief – Franz Muentefering who heads the SPD parliamentary group – would change nothing.

“Muentefering isn’t doing different things – he’s just doing it differently,” said Schroeder in an interview with the weekly Die Zeit.

Said Muentefering: “There is no difference in the political line between the Chancellor and myself.”

Nevertheless, there is growing speculation Schroeder will be forced to abandon the reform path begun last year with tax cuts, healthcare shifts and cuts to jobless benefits.

Reforms being considered for 2004 are a revamping of state pensions and further tax cuts.

Schroeder resigned as SPD leader amid plunging opinion polls and anger of party traditionalists over what they see as socially unjust reforms cutting away too much of Germany’s social welfare net.

The Chancellor dismissed demands that he sack cabinet ministers and said he alone would make such decisions.


Subject: German news