• 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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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.

Story continues below…

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."


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
German police carry out nationwide anti-terror raids
Police outside a building in Jena during raids on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Police forces in five German states carried out raids on Tuesday morning with the aim of tackling the financing of terror groups, police in Thuringia have reported.

The Local List
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Photo: DPA

So you've mastered German, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

Iconic German church being eroded away by human urine
Ulm Minster towering over the rest Ulm surrounding the Danube. Photo: Pixabay

It will now cost you €100 to spend a penny. That’s if you get caught choosing to pee against the world-famous Ulm Minster.

German small arms ammo exports grow ten-fold
Photo: DPA

The government has come in for criticism after new figures revealed that Germany exported ten times the quantity of small arms ammunition in the first half of 2016 as in the same period last year.

14-year-old stabs 'creepy clown' in prank gone wrong
File photo: DPA.

A 16-year-old in Berlin decided he wanted to scare some friends, but his plot backfired in a violent way.

Four Ku Klux Klan groups active in Germany, says govt
An American member of the KKK at a gathering in Georgia. Photo: EPA.

The German government estimates that there are four Ku Klux Klan (KKK) groups currently active in the country, according to a report by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Tuesday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder to mediate in supermarket row
Gerhard Schröder. Photo: DPA

Can Gerhard Schröder bring an end to the Kaiser's Tengelmann saga?

Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

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
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