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Chancellor Kohl Advocates Efforts to Increase German Competitiveness (March 25, 1993)

In a programmatic speech in the Bundestag, Chancellor Helmut Kohl reflects on the intensification of global economic competition and calls on the country to prune back its extensive welfare system in order to become more competitive in the international arena.

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Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, we all experience it daily: We are living in a time of dramatic upheaval. The end of the conflict between East and West opened up new opportunities, but it also brought new risks. Many countries throughout the world are presently redefining their position, their role, and their profile as a location for business and industry. We Germans must do this, too.

We are faced with a double task: We must finish bringing about the inner unity of our fatherland and at the same time – this has always been Germany’s policy since the war – we must contribute to the integration of Europe. These two things are inextricably linked.

[ . . . ]

It is also true that the current recession is leaving its mark here on the territory of the old Federal Republic. Some things are moving more slowly than they did during the last nine years of economic expansion. But there is no doubt that we will successfully meet this challenge. We must act with courage and resolve. The future cannot be won by complaining, not even by complaining to high places.

In an honest and fair discussion of Germany as a location for business and industry, we should admit – not least out of respect for of our compatriots in the new federal states – that many of the Federal Republic’s current problems date back to the old Federal Republic, and that we would have had these problems even without German unification.

We are presently in a situation in which we must make long overdue corrections in many areas of the economy and society. I think this is an opportunity that can create a sense of a new beginning. Only when we resolve the problems we have here at home can we reap the benefits of the changes occurring in Europe and the world.

(interjection from the SPD)

– I’d like to address your interjection. I’m not assigning any blame in any of the matters I’m about to discuss; rather, I just want to say objectively, these are things –

(laughter from the SPD; interjection from the SPD: In that case, you’d have to blame yourself, too!)

– Ladies and gentlemen, on the basis of individual examples, you will soon see that neither you nor we can exculpate ourselves. Rather, what we need now – that is what I’m calling for – is a calm discussion about this: What is the next step? When I mention individual examples, I could immediately indicate the part the Social Democrats had in them in those years. But that won’t help at all today.

(interjection by Bundestag member Anke Fuchs of Cologne [SPD])

– I spoke of a discussion. That’s what I’m calling for.

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