‘Fix bottlenecks before investment’
Merkel rejects ‘empty promises’ criticism
BERLIN, July 17, (Agencies): German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected criticism from her SPD challenger on Sunday that she was neglecting the country’s infrastructure, pointing to already increased investment levels and capacity bottlenecks in some parts of the economy.
SPD leader Martin Schulz has accused Merkel of making empty promises about Germany’s economic and political future as the former president of the European Parliament set out his own plans to boost investment and enhance European unity.
The exchange comes 10 weeks before the federal election in which Merkel seeks a fourth term and follows a repeated call on Berlin by the International Monetary Fund to increase investment as a way to boost imports, support the recovery in other countries and reduce its record trade surplus.
Asked in a television interview by ARD public broadcaster about her investment plans and Schulz’s criticism, Merkel said: “We currently cannot spend the money that we have.” She pointed to planning and capacity bottlenecks in the construction industry as well as at the level of regional authorities.
Germany has earmarked billions of euros in investments for schools, nurseries, hospitals and housing, but local authorities have so far spent only a fraction of that windfall due to planning bottlenecks.
Merkel said the federal government had put aside additional money for more investment in its midterm budget plans, adding: “We still have a lot to do in this regard.”
Merkel said Germany had to increase investment in high-speed internet broadband connections. “We say, for example, that we have to use at least one third of the additional tax revenues for investment. It can also be more,” she said. “But we also must be able to get everything built on the ground.”
Merkel underlined her determination to run for a full four-year term in the Sept 24 election.
probe has concluded that the missile was fired from rebel-controlled territory by a mobile launcher trucked in from Russia. Russia has denied any involvement, and denounced the conclusions as politically biased.
Investigators last year said they had pinpointed 100 people they want to speak
She also said again that she was opposed to the introduction of a cap to limit the number of refugees that Germany can integrate each year, as demanded by her Bavarian CSU allies, saying there were other measures to control migration flows.
Asked about the violence at the G20 summit in Hamburg earlier this month, Merkel defended the decision to hold the meeting in Germany’s second-biggest city.
She distanced herself from local politicians within her conservative party who had called for Hamburg’s mayor Olaf Scholz, a senior SPD member, to step down because of the riots.
Merkel said the riots were absolutely unacceptable but it was still right to have invited G20 leaders to Hamburg. “For this, I have the same responsibility as Olaf Scholz does — and I’m not dodging,” she added.
Turning to Turkey, Merkel said that German lawmakers should be allowed to visit the Bundeswehr soldiers at a NATO air base in Konya and that more talks were needed to resolve the dispute.
But Merkel said there could be no negotiations with Ankara about the extradition of Turkish asylum seekers and granting German lawmakers access to the air base because both issues were completely unrelated.
German public spending is a hot topic at home and abroad. Trading partners have called on the government to invest more as a way of reducing its massive trade surplus — the amount its exports outweigh its imports.
Countries like France or the United States argue that while Germany is happy to rake in cash from selling its goods abroad, it fails to help other economies by spending at home to contribute to economic growth.
French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview published Thursday that Germany had to move on investment.
And The Economist magazine labelled
to who are believed to have been involved in transporting the Buk missile launcher or its use.
Nations involved in the probe have agreed to prosecute any suspects in the Netherlands, home to most of the victims.
The European Union foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, called for trade surpluses “the German problem” on its latest cover.
It accused the country of saving too much and spending too little alongside an image of the imposing German eagle — its wings incorporating a graph of trade statistics.
“The state can’t create any illegal deficits — and that’s right,” Schulz said Sunday.
But the SPD argues that increasing investment is a matter of “intergenerational fairness”, slotting it into a 10-point programme alongside improving social justice and a stronger European Union.
The plan would oblige the state to spend on high-speed internet connections, transport links, renewable energy and education, especially in the country’s economically weakest regions.
Meanwhile, Merkel also said Sunday she stood by her decision to hold a G20 summit in Hamburg even after it was marred by street protests that turned violent.
“Things happened that were unacceptable. I don’t shirk my responsibility,” Merkel told ARD public television.
The chancellor sought to defuse a political row over the gathering, when anarchist mobs battled riot police, torched cars and looted shops even as world leaders talked trade and climate and enjoyed a Beethoven concert.
Local lawmakers from her centre-right Christian Democratic Union have blamed Hamburg mayor Olaf Scholz for failing to organise sufficient police protection.
And others have attacked Merkel herself for her choice of Germany’s second city as the venue.
“The federal government was the host,” Merkel said. “It was clear that it had to take place in a big city, and I was pleased that Olaf Scholz agreed ... I’ve made it clear to the Hamburg CDU that I think they’re wrong” to criticise him.
Away from the shocking television pictures of burning barricades, Merkel said she had been “happy” with the results of the talks among heads of government.
international cooperation in the hunt for the perpetrators.
“To ensure that those responsible for the downing of MH17 are held accountable and brought to justice, the criminal investigation needs the continuing support of the international community,” Mogherini said in a statement. “We expect all the States that are in a position to assist the investigation and prosecution of those responsible to do so, as demanded by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2166.”
Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima were among dignitaries scheduled to attend Monday’s ceremony along with some 2,000 people commemorating loved ones lost when the plane was shot down while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
The new monument is a curved steel wall and an eye-shaped sculpture engraved with the names of all 298 victims, who came from 17 countries. It stands in an amphitheater surrounded by 298 trees planted in the form of a commemorative ribbon.
Earlier Monday, more than 90 family members attended a memorial in Malaysia for victims and a briefing on the ongoing probe.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters after the event, which was closed to the media, that the investigation was “very detailed and we are quite convinced that we will be able to find the culprits.”
In Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko said his country is mourning the victims and said he believes the perpetrators of the attack would be brought to justice. (AP)