• Germany's news in English

Press mauls new government plans

AFP · 25 Oct 2009, 11:54

Published: 25 Oct 2009 11:54 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The conservative Merkel won re-election last month and dumped her partners, the Social Democrats, for the smaller, business-friendly Free Democrats, with whom she presented the coalition's plans Saturday.

Their roadmap for the next four years in power, including €24 billion ($36 billion) in tax breaks, won some praise from business leaders for aiming to lift Europe's biggest economy out of its deepest postwar slump.

But the media, which had broadly backed the 55-year-old Merkel for a second term, and leftist leaders poured scorn on the programme.

"After three weeks of coalition talks, there is no nicer way to put it: this start is a failure in terms of the issues, the personnel and the vision," political reporter Christoph Schwennicke wrote in an online editorial for magazine Der Spiegel. He said Merkel's new cabinet resembled a political "Jurassic Park" with policies to match.

"There is absolutely no sense of a new beginning...It is as if the figures from the bedrock of the Kohl age had risen again," he said, referring to veteran chancellor Helmut Kohl, who last led a centre-right coalition up to 1998. His cabinet included a number of the same ministers in Merkel's new team.

Critics also noted that apart from Merkel, the government has no minister from the former communist east, in a year marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Although Merkel's Christian Union bloc has long touted fiscal discipline, designated finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, a longtime Kohl lieutenant, acknowledged there was no hope for a balanced budget in the next four years.

"It is ambitious enough to maintain the debt limit in the constitution," he told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, referring to a federal debt ceiling of 0.35 percent of gross domestic product.

Asked whether it was utopian to expect a balanced federal budget, the 67-year-old Schäuble replied: "In this term, of course."

Outgoing Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier, now the Social Democrats' parliamentary group leader, slammed what he called Merkel's "stunning false start".

"For the people of Germany, nothing will get better but a whole lot will be less secure and more expensive," Steinmeier, who challenged Merkel in the general election, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

The new government foresees major tax cuts from January 1 despite a mounting €1.5-trillion debt and no clear plans to finance the move apart from counting on improved economic performance.

The coalition also wants to reform Germany's creaking health care system, with the details to be hammered out in committee. But it has said employer contributions will freeze, meaning employee premiums are almost sure to rise.

The head of the BDA employers' association, Dieter Hundt, called the coalition manifesto "a good compass for the coming years", praising tax relief for companies and the move to hold down labour costs.

Story continues below…

But the president of the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Hans Heinrich Driftmann, said he had hoped for more "courage to reform" to create jobs and grapple with the problems posed by an ageing population.

On international relations, incoming Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, the FDP leader and an avowed transatlanticist, is calling for Germany to take up US President Barack Obama's call for a world without nuclear weapons.

But he has said Berlin should start by demanding the removal of the estimated 10 to 20 US nuclear missiles on German soil - a stance that could raise a few questions when Merkel travels to Washington next month to deliver an address before both houses of Congress.

Environmentalists are also livid about more funding for genetic engineering and plans to scrap the 2000 decision to abandon nuclear power by around 2020. Greenpeace said the decision to extend the life of some reactors sent "a disastrous message".

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd