• Germany's news in English
 

Hollande praises tough German reforms

The Local · 23 May 2013, 16:48

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
German court: Ban on refugee demos must stay
Anti-refugee demonstrators carry a sign accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel of being a "traitor to the nation" this week in Heidenau. Photo: DPA

German court: Ban on refugee demos must stay

1 day ago

Update: A German court on Friday night reinstated a ban on rallies in an eastern town hit by violent anti-migrant protests, overturning an earlier decision that found the restriction to be "illegal".

Footballers gone wild
Neuer's 'glass palace' angers idyllic village
Tegernsee is a famous beauty sport. Photo: DPA

Neuer's 'glass palace' angers idyllic village

20 hours ago

Villagers in the picturesque Bavarian region of Tegernsee are bristling at World Cup-winning Germany goalkeeper and Bayern Munich star Manuel Neuer's plan to build a huge glass villa on the shores of their beautiful lake.

Interview
'Berlin is kind of like the best American city'
Canadian composer and performer Owen Pallett. Photo: Brian Vu

'Berlin is kind of like the best American city'

20 hours ago

The Local speaks with Oscar-nominated Canadian musician Owen Pallett about performing at legendary Berlin club Berghain - and just why the world's artists are so fascinated with the German capital.

Germany name squad for crunch Scotland match
Liverpool's Emre can has been called up to the Germany squad to face Scotland and Poland. Photo: DPA

Germany name squad for crunch Scotland match

21 hours ago

Liverpool's uncapped defender Emre Can was on Friday called up to the Germany squad for the world champions' forthcoming key Euro 2016 qualifiers against Poland and Scotland.

How Brits in Germany are facing Brexit fears
How will life for Brits in Germany change if the Brexit happens? Photo: DPA

How Brits in Germany are facing Brexit fears

1 day ago

Greece is the talk of the town this year. But in 2016, it will be Britain questioning its EU membership. The referendum outcome could be life altering for many Brits living in Germany.

Honest senior rewarded for handing in €12,000
An 87-year-old pensioner found the cash in the bin. Photo: DPA

Honest senior rewarded for handing in €12,000

22 hours ago

After throwing away €12,000 this week, a landlord in North Rhine-Westfalia thought he'd made one of the most expensive blunders of his life. But the money made it home safely, police said on Friday – and all thanks to an honest pensioner.

Elite cops' hazing ritual: eat ice cream off thighs
A Cologne SEK unit on deployment in 2013. Photo: DPA

Elite cops' hazing ritual: eat ice cream off thighs

1 day ago

Officers from Cologne's elite Spezialeinsatzkommando (SEK) police unit should be punished for hazing practices they inflicted on new members, an official in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) said on Thursday.

Knut autopsy could help human disease sufferers
Knut died in front of visitors at Berlin Zoo in 2011. Photo: DPA

Knut autopsy could help human disease sufferers

1 day ago

Four years after Berlin's celebrity polar bear Knut died, a neuroscientist has discovered the cause of death - an autoimmune disorder which affected his brain.

Army buys in new guns to replace defective G36
A German soldier armed with a G36 rifle during training exercises in Poland. Photo: DPA

Army buys in new guns to replace defective G36

1 day ago

Some German soldiers will be carrying different weapons within a year as the Defence Ministry scrambles to replace standard rifle which loses accuracy under hot temperatures.

Climate change
Sweltering summer has climatologists sweating
Dried out soil in Bavaria. Photo: DPA

Sweltering summer has climatologists sweating

1 day ago

Heat over 40 degrees, weeks without rain, sudden storms and flash floods – in the summer of 2015 Germany experienced all these things. Are these extremes set to become the norm?

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

National
Weekend of anti-refugee violence shocks Germany
National
Half of Germans 'have had sex in their car'
Society
Deadly stew spooks home vegetable gardeners
Politics
The man who brought two Germanies together
Features
Where to get your culture fix in Cologne
Education
Fairytale world of Brothers Grimm brought to life
Rhineland
Thieves leave 1,000 open beers untasted
National
Way to some Germans' hearts is through their wallets
National
Germany's biggest challenge: European refugee crisis
Travel
Where to get your adrenaline pumping in Germany
Technology
Could thieves hack into luxury cars?
What to watch out for when snapping your lunch
National
German lefties through history
National
The fight over prostitution heats up
National
Merkel: migrants, not Greece, are the real challenge
Features
How I explained the Queen to the Germans
Education
Why Germany does 'back-to-school' traditions better
National
Germans are ‘not how foreigners think’
National
A mum and daughter reunite 70 years after WWII
Sport
Bra stops bullet in hunting mishap miracle
National
Cows trample German woman to death in Graubünden Alps
Business & Money
Start-up helps new Berliners short cut bureaucracy
National
The 1,000s of Germans massacred after the Second World War
Sport
Germany star scores own goal with PR gaffe
Features
'Women-only' parking: sensible or sexist?
Politics
Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife
National
13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis
Culture
Berlin restaurant serves up Greek Crisis Menu
Rhineland
Doctor on trial after woman wakes in morgue
Society
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Society
Police bust kinky Bavarian couple over painful love-making
Politics
Merkel brings Palestinian girl to tears
Hamburg
Amateur archaeologist finds Nazi gold hoard
National
Could Merkel learn a lesson in love from this doppelganger?
Travel
Why you should stay in Germany for the summer holidays
Sport
German press tell Schweinsteiger 'good riddance'
National
Hamburg gets a bouncing 100kg baby girl
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

7,058
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd