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Schröder— Leading Germany

Is Germany’s Chancellor Gerhard Schröder up to the job of positioning the country for the global economy?

August 23, 2001

Is Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schröder up to the job of positioning the country for the global economy?

Gerhard Schröder swept into power in 1998, ousting the long-serving Helmut Kohl. His victory was the first time in Germany’s postwar history that the government was changed by an election — and not by a vote of no-confidence or the change of coalition parties during the term. Since, Mr. Schröder has experienced a roller-coaster ride from being highly popular to losing important state elections. He now faces a tough challenge from conservative Edmund Stoiber as he prepares for this fall’s general elections.

How much of you is Blairite or Clintonian?

“I am not the German Tony Blair. Nor am I the German Bill Clinton. I am Gerhard Schröder, chancellor of Germany, responsible for Germany. I don’t want to be a copy of anyone.”

(April 1999)

How did Germany react to your fiscal reform programs?

“We never expected to be everybody’s darlings.”

(On public outcry over his proposal to cut the federal budget by $16 billion, July 1999)

Do you have concerns about your party’s prospects?

“I can’t let important policy decisions hinge on the fact that an election is coming up every 90 days.”

(On his government’s unpopular austerity program and electoral setbacks, September 1999)

What do you consider your key achievements in office so far?

“No one can talk about the German disease anymore.”

(After cutting Germany’s extremely high personal and business taxes, July 2000)

How do you view globalization?

“We must take care that globalization does not become something people become afraid of.”

(On globalization motivating nationalist and protectionist groups, November 1999)

Is it the Americans’ fault?

“There is no question, compared to a year ago the world economy, led by the United States, looks more gloomy.”

(On the economic dominance of the United States, June 2001)

Back in 1990, you weren’t too happy about German unification. Have your views changed?

“I should not have let myself get drawn into this petty-minded dispute about who owns German unification.”

(On the dispute preceding the 10th anniversary of German unification, October 2000)

Why has Germany been so slow in catching up with its neighbors?

“Germany wants to join the upswing that has taken hold of Europe. The reforming countries in Europe have had to wait for us too long already.”

(On Germany lagging behind the economic growth of the other euro countries, June 1999)

How are you planning to get Germany’s economy back on track?

“We are holding firm to the austerity course.”

(Dismissing the need for tax breaks, July 2001)

What are your views on Germany’s main contributions to the EU?

“We cannot and do not want to continue a policy that buys the good will of our neighbors with net payments that will become a burden to our country.”

(On Germany’s $13.2 billion net contribution to the EU budget, December 1998)

What is Germany’s role in view of European integration?

“Germany is aware of its special responsibility for the success of the enlargement process. Our friends and partners in Central and Eastern Europe can rely on us.”

(January 2001)

Where do you see troubles ahead?

“If you get it wrong, you put everything at risk.”

(On the task of making the Maastricht treaty a reality, June 2001)

What do the neighbors think about Germany’s chancellor?

“They have it wrong in asking if Schröder favors Britain over France, or France over Britain. Schröder favors Germany. That is what we all have to understand.”

(French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, on the German chancellor’s vision of Europe, February 1999)

On a private note, how is the family?

“We are going to smooch him to the ground.”

(Heidelinde Munkewitz, one of Gerhard Schröder’s recently discovered cousins, on their impending first meeting with the German Chancellor, in May 2001)

And finally, how does the German chancellor relax?

“Go get me a bottle of beer before I go on strike here.”

(During a hot summer tour of Eastern Germany, June 2000)