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Thatcherist policy 'key to revival in Germany' By Kate Connolly in Berlin (Filed: 14/10/2003)
The notion of a Teutonic Margaret Thatcher to reverse Germany's increasingly sclerotic economic performance is gaining ground among some influential thinkers.
The Thatcher debate continued yesterday as the Berlin government embarked on a crucial week for its controversial package of economic reforms, including cuts in unemployment benefit and tax.
Economists, journalists and writers have trumpeted the former British Prime Minister's legacy as the only hope for a nation mired in recession. It is beset by a growing list of financial problems, although living standards remain among the highest in Europe.
The seriousness of Germany's debate is indicated by the fact that many of those joining Lady Thatcher's fan base in recent months describe themselves as liberals.
They say she has a lot to teach Germany as it struggles against low growth and high unemployment.
"It has now become a fashionable part of political debate in middle-class circles to call for a German Margaret Thatcher," one financial commentator wrote in one of about 40 articles on the former leader in the German press in the past three weeks alone.
The Thatcher adulation culminated at the weekend in the award to her of the international prize of the Friedrich August von Hayek Foundation in Berlin for her reforms.
The award was a timely one. At the end of this week Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der will seek to put an array of social welfare reforms to the Bundestag, including cuts in unemployment benefit and in taxes, in an effort to inject some dynamism into Europe's largest economy.
Critics have accused Mr Schr?der's Social Democrat and Green coalition of not going nearly far enough.
"Just how long will it take and how serious must it get until people choose the reform revolution?" said an editorial in yesterday's issue of the influential economic daily, Handelsblatt.
Most publicity has been given to a 33-year-old London-based German historian, Dominik Geppert, whose book Maggie Thatcher's Radical Cure - a Recipe for Germany? has become a bestseller.
Comparing the state of Britain in the 1970s with that of Germany today, Mr Geppert wrote: "The first lesson has to be: face up to reality, even if it's painful . . . In the future in Germany (as in Britain), the state of someone's teeth or glasses will give a strong indication as to how much they earn, whether we like it or not."
Mr Geppert has suggested that Germany's answer might lie in the shape of the leader of the Christian Democratic Union, Angela Merkel, who last week presented the most extreme reform proposals of any German politician, advocating a radical overhaul of the welfare system.
It led critics to accuse her of wanting to abandon Germany's enviable social structure, but Mr Geppert said: "If she succeeds, she could become our Maggie Thatcher."
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