‘Fix bot­tle­necks be­fore in­vest­ment’

Merkel re­jects ‘empty prom­ises’ crit­i­cism

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

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.

Law­mak­ers

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)

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