• Germany's news in English
 

Hollande praises tough German reforms

Published: 23 May 2013 16:48 GMT+02:00

Under pressure to reform his recession-hit economy, the French Socialist leader was a guest speaker at the event in the eastern German city, where conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel was among the guests.

"Progress also means making courageous choices in difficult times to save jobs and anticipate industry changes, and that's what Gerhard Schröder did here in Germany and which allowed your country to move ahead of others," Hollande said.

"These decisions aren't easy to take, they can spark controversy, but nothing is built, nothing solid is built by ignoring reality," Hollande told the SPD birthday bash with 1,600 guests, including Schröder.

Hollande is under pressure from the left wing of his Socialist party, which is strongly critical of the influence Germany has on economic policy in the European Union, and indirectly on France.

Social Democrat Schröder's former centre-left coalition government implemented tough labour and welfare reforms, dubbed Agenda 2010, starting a decade ago. They included tax cuts and reduced jobless, pension and medical benefits.

The reforms are credited with boosting Europe's largest economy, which booked 0.1-percent growth in the first quarter, but have also been blamed for widening the wealth gap and creating a new group of "working poor".

This split perception is a problem for the SPD, which hopes to unseat Merkel in September 22nd's elections but has suffered low approval ratings, as Hollande has in France since taking office a year ago.

Latest German polls give Merkel's conservatives – who concede that they have benefited from growth spurred by their predecessors' reforms – a lead of 41 percent against 24 percent for the SPD.

Merkel – often voted Germany's most popular politician and regarded as Europe's most powerful leader amid the financial crisis – did not speak at the anniversary, considered a historical event which she attended as national leader.

Tensions have simmered in recent months amid a European austerity-versus-stimulus debate between the Hollande and Merkel governments, despite Merkel's protestations that their friendly relationship is Europe's "best-kept secret".

While some members of Merkel's coalition have painted recession-hit France as slow to reform, French Socialists, in a draft document which was later revised, accused Merkel of selfishly driving fiscal belt-tightening that heaps pain on the people.

'Path of unity'

On Wednesday, however, Hollande said that France and Germany were working on a joint economic initiative to put to their EU partners at a June summit set to focus on boosting growth and jobs.

In his speech on Thursday, Hollande also urged a "path of unity" between Berlin and Paris to advance the European cause, especially against youth unemployment, and to fight populism and nationalism in Europe.

He was the guest of honour at what the SPD dubbed Germany's biggest international political event of the year, its birthday bash in Leipzig, where its precursor, the General German Workers Association, was founded in 1863.

Germany's oldest political party invited nearly 50 current and former heads of state and government to celebrate its turbulent history, which saw it advance workers rights, resist the Nazis and win the vote for women.

Even Merkel paid tribute and in a newspaper editorial praised the SPD as a historically "valiant and unyielding voice of democracy in Germany."

Merkel, the head of the Christian Democratic Union, wrote in the local daily the Leipziger Volkszeitung: "For these services, which cannot be valued highly enough, the SPD deserves my respect and appreciation."

On the eve of the event, a worldwide group of about 70 left-of-centre parties – including Britain's Labour Party, the African National Congress and the US Democrats – had founded a "Progressive Alliance" in Leipzig.

Intended as an alternative to the Socialist International, a coalition founded in Paris in 1889, its stated goal is a 21st century "of democratic, social and environmental progress."

AFP/jcw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Merkel joins Holocaust survivors to mark Dachau liberation
Merkel laying a wreath at Dachau. Photo: DPA

Merkel joins Holocaust survivors to mark Dachau liberation

German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined survivors of the former Nazi concentration camp at Dachau on Sunday for a solemn ceremony to mark 70 years since it was liberated by US forces. READ  

Snowden among statues unveiled in Berlin
Italian artist Davide Dormino with the statues. Photo: YouTube (screenshot)

Snowden among statues unveiled in Berlin

Statues of whistleblowers Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and Bradley Manning were unveiled in central Berlin on Friday by activists and members of Germany’s Green party. READ  

Andy Murray smashes through to Munich semis
Andy Murray in action. Photo: AFP

Andy Murray smashes through to Munich semis

Top-seeded Andy Murray hit back from a set down to defeat Lukas Rosol 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in a bad-tempered quarter-final at the rain-hit Munich Open on Saturday. READ  

Munich quarters postponed by rain
Photo: DPA

Munich quarters postponed by rain

Andy Murray's match against Lukas Rosol and the rest of the Munich Open quarter-finals will take place on Saturday after wet weather washed out Friday's schedule. READ  

Berlin deleted '12,000 NSA spy requests'
File photo: DPA

Berlin deleted '12,000 NSA spy requests'

The German intelligence service BND, which is accused of helping the United States spy on EU leaders and companies, had actually "deleted 12,000 requests" targeting European officials, according to a media report on Saturday. READ  

Commerzbank owners reject bigger bonuses
Photo: DPA

Commerzbank owners reject bigger bonuses

Shareholders of Commerzbank, Germany's second largest bank, rejected a proposal Thursday to pay bankers bigger bonuses. READ  

Neo-Nazis plan 'to storm Reichstag' 70 years on
A National-Democratic Party demonstrator in Berlin, August 2014. Photo: DPA

Neo-Nazis plan 'to storm Reichstag' 70 years on

Authorities said on Thursday that far-right activists have organized a demonstration outside Berlin's Reichstag (parliament) building on May 9th, the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. READ  

This week in history
The bitter end in the Führer's bunker
Adolf Hitler speaking to child soldiers in the spring of 1945. Photo: DPA

The bitter end in the Führer's bunker

Thursday marks the 70th anniversary of the death of Adolf Hitler. On April 30th 1945 he and Eva Braun committed suicide in the Führerbunker as Berlin crumbled around them. READ  

Munich man hurls white mice at passersby

Munich man hurls white mice at passersby

Police in Munich had to intervene to stop a drunk man attacking passersby with mice on Thursday morning, reports the Augsburger Allgemeine. READ  

Police 'capture escaped murderer in Cologne'
Detlef Witte, on the run from police in Bonn. Photo:DPA

Police 'capture escaped murderer in Cologne'

Local journalists are reporting police in Cologne have caught a murderer who escaped from jail on Tuesday. The man had been described as “highly dangerous.” READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
Giant tortoise found riding Munich rail
National
FCK CPS? A-OK with court
National
Germany's 'other genocide' in Africa
Politics
Opinion: Brexit's dangers for Germany
National
Minister shows off top Denglisch
Features
Off to Norway at 18 km/hour
National
Arms firms get a 'must do better' mark on ethics
Features
Smart kids all want to work for BMW
Sport
Bayern's anticlimactic 25th Bundesliga win
Gallery
German beer day: take the tour
Gallery
The smileys Germans love to text
National
Expats face Monday deadline to register to vote for UK election
Politics
A Greek learning politics in Germany
National
Germany's favourite baby names of 2014
National
Germany's 'very poor' lobbying record
Features
The battle of the "Gates of Berlin"
Politics
Merkel's 15 years at the top of German politics
National
VIDEO: Mario Draghi suffers anti-ECB confetti attack
Travel
Lowest of the low: how woman exploited Germanwings crash
Sport
Football and the €30,000 firework
Technology
Why scientists oppose killer robots
Features
Spice up asparagus season with The Local's serving suggestions
Technology
Electrifying 'Ostalgia'
National
Which city is Germany's worst for drivers?
National
Germanwings co-pilot 'searched suicide info'
National
'Cannibal cop' gets 8 years
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Can the 'nightmare' of a pilot downing a plane be prevented?
Pupils mourn lost classmates
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
National
LIVE: Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
National
Last-minute drama of Germany's Eurovision 2015 entry
National
German photographer takes world's top prize
Features
Meet the woman getting Germans to drink more – and better – beer
Gallery
In pictures: Germany's seven most livable cities
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

7,156
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd
?>