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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 May, 2004, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
President slams 'greedy' Germans
Johannes Rau
President Rau gave a harsh verdict on modern German society
Outgoing German President Johannes Rau has astonished the nation with a bitter attack on politicians and managers, calling them greedy and selfish.

In his farewell speech, Mr Rau said Germany had fallen into a "collective depression" because people in authority kept talking the country down.

He accused businessmen and officials of "shamelessly lining their own pockets" while employees faced job insecurity.

Mr Rau will be replaced by a new president later this month.

After five years in office, the president poured out his anger at the perceived failings of the modern German state.

"I don't know of any country where so many people in positions of responsibility take such pleasure in speaking so negatively about their own country," he said.

"Have we put ourselves down so much that we don't believe in ourselves any more? Are we sometimes getting to a kind of collective depression?" he added.

Uncomfortable message

Mr Rau said the paying of high salaries and bonuses to top managers was undermining respect for them.

"Egotism, greed and self-righteousness in parts of the so-called elite are weakening people's trust in institutions, especially when their representatives have clearly lost all sense of moderation," he said.

"Citizens often don't believe what they hear and see any more. All too often, they have the experience that they can't trust what they're being told."

He said politicians' promises often went off faster than a carton of yogurt, while managers were more concerned with their share options than with the business itself.

Mr Rau accused both the governing Social Democrats - to which he belongs - and the opposition Christian Democrats of playing political power games instead of backing the right policies.

This is not the first time that the veteran politician has risked the wrath of his fellow Germans by proclaiming an uncomfortable message.

In 2001, he sparked a national debate by saying Germans could not be proud of their nationality.

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