Gerhard Schroeder in Prague: radical social policy reform is needed across Europe
"I am convinced that if we want to save this aspect of European culture, we must change it. If we want to preserve our social security systems, which we have built up over the years, we must adapt to the new economic conditions." Those were the words of the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Prague on Monday. Europe-wide social policy reform was the focus of his visit to the Czech capital.
But there is a certain irony, isn't there, in the fact that Mr Spidla, when he was prime minister, failed to push through reforms and failed to convince either his own party or parliament in the Czech Republic that he had an idea of how to solve these problems? Mr Schroeder in Germany is facing a similar crisis at home, in that he is not really managing to push through viable reforms to pull the country out of recession. So isn't there a certain irony in the fact that these two men were talking about how to solve problems that they themselves seem to be having great difficulty in dealing with?
Both these politicians are advocates of some form of social market economy. What arguments did they have to counteract the argument of the right that you need to dismantle the welfare state in order to create a new model?
"Actually what they said is exactly what you said, that it's difficult to find arguments for that. For instance, Schroeder pointed out two aspects to this question. He said that in rich societies it is very difficult to explain to people the necessity of reforms like that, just because of the fact that these societies are rich and nobody wants to lose parts of his or her wealth. The other thing was that he was talking about reforms where you could see the results in maybe a few years or maybe even a few generations."