Pressure on newly re-elected German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to make sweeping economic reforms may open opportunities for Georgia companies, according to Brian Murphy, director of the University System of Georgia’s European Union Center who observed the country’s elections in Berlin last week.

Dr. Murphy was recommended by German Consul General in Atlanta Heinrich Rothmann and subsequently invited by the Goethe Institute in Bonn, Germany, to observe the German Parliament’s elections process.

Foreign journalists and academics are invited each election year to meet with political campaign managers, polling agencies and German government officials for briefings on the elections.

Dr. Murphy told GlobalFax upon his return to Atlanta that foreign investment is needed in Germany, especially in the computer software industry. He said that Indian and Pakistani computer operators and software developers sought by Germany have not filled Germany’s need, so Georgia companies may find opportunity in those fields.

Investment there is currently challenging, however, he noted. Thick bureaucracy and time-consuming paperwork for starting companies, plus stringent hiring and firing guidelines, have discouraged investors from entering Germany, he said.

But since the recent political campaigns heightened Germans’ awareness of economic difficulties, Mr. Schroeder will have more incentive to make economic changes, Dr. Murphy added.

“One reason you don’t see an overabundance of new U.S. companies in Germany now is because starting a business there is especially difficult due to strict regulations,” Dr. Murphy said.

“But doors may open in Germany for Georgia firms because the German economy is primarily export-driven,” he said, adding that foreign investment is a good means of stepping up production and employing more workers, he said.

Dr. Murphy noted that Mr. Schroeder won the closest election in post-World War II Germany after the central campaign issues turned away from economic concerns. Mr. Schroeder’s strong stance on not supporting U.S. military action against Iraq, plus his quick reaction to alleviating the damages of recent floods in Germany, swung voters his way, Dr. Murphy noted.

He added that the opposition party led by Bavarian right-winger Edmund Stoiber was almost a “shoe-in” to win the election up until the emergence of the flooding and Iraqi issues because it was focusing on revamping the sagging economy. Although facing opposition from the country’s labor unions, Mr. Stoiber ran on a popular high-tech and pro-business platform.

Contact Dr. Murphy at (706) 864-1909 or