Merkel em­pha­sizes pros­per­ity, se­cu­rity at her cam­paign rally

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel opened the fi­nal phase of her elec­tion cam­paign yes­ter­day with a fo­cus on her record, em­pha­siz­ing the eco­nomic growth and pros­per­ity achieved dur­ing her dozen years at the helm as she seeks a fourth term. Merkel told a rally or­ga­nized by her Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union party in the western city of Dort­mund that unem­ploy­ment has dropped to a post-re­uni­fi­ca­tion low since she first was elected chan­cel­lor in 2005.

She told the crowd she hoped to achieve full em­ploy­ment - a rate be­low 3 per­cent by 2025. The rate hit as high as 12.6 per­cent in early 2005 and was most re­cently at 5.6 per­cent in July. “Those are re­ally ex­cel­lent fig­ures,” Merkel said, go­ing on to note that govern­ment and in­dus­try must not be com­pla­cent be­cause tech­nol­ogy is chang­ing the way the econ­omy func­tions. “On one hand, Ger­many stacks up well, but on the other hand we live in a time of change, a time of un­cer­tainty,” she said.

Sin­gling out the dam­age done to the “Made in Ger­many” la­bel with Volk­swa­gen’s diesel cheat­ing scan­dal, Merkel said hon­esty in busi­ness was a pre­req­ui­site go­ing for­ward. “The way things were swept un­der the rug or where loop­holes in emis­sions tests were mas­sively ex­ploited to the point they were un­rec­og­niz­able, that de­stroys trust,” she told the crowd. In ad­di­tion to Volk­swa­gen, Ger­many is home to Mercedes, BMW and other top brands.

Merkel em­pha­sized the need for the auto in­dus­try to de­velop cleaner tech­nolo­gies, but also sought to al­lay wide­spread fears that older diesel cars could be banned from the streets. A “tran­si­tion phase” would be bet­ter than a ban, she said. The govern­ment could help pro­vide the in­fra­struc­ture to sup­port ve­hi­cles run by al­ter­na­tive power sources, but in­no­va­tion was up to the au­tomak­ers, she said. “The ques­tion of whether the Ger­man au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try has rec­og­nized th­ese signs of the times will de­cide their fu­ture, and with it hun­dreds of thou­sands of jobs,” she said.

Merkel, how­ever, re­jected out­right an idea floated by her main chal­lenger, So­cial Demo­crat Martin Schulz, who sug­gested in an in­ter­view Fri­day that there should be a Europe-wide quota in­sti­tuted for elec­tric cars. Merkel said such a quota could harm the devel­op­ment of other al­ter­na­tive tech­nolo­gies and she didn’t think the idea “has been thought through.”

The mi­grant is­sue

A defin­ing mo­ment of Merkel’s ten­ure as chan­cel­lor was the de­ci­sion in 2015 to open Ger­many’s doors to 890,000 mi­grants seek­ing asy­lum and eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. She pledged Fri­day not to avoid im­mi­gra­tion as a topic on the cam­paign trail, but did not men­tion the con­tro­ver­sial is­sue in her Dort­mund speech.

Merkel’s con­ser­va­tive bloc cur­rently en­joys a lead of more than 15 per­cent over its main com­pe­ti­tion, the So­cial Democrats, lead­ing up to the Sept. 24 elec­tion. Most polls put sup­port for Merkel’s bloc at about 40 per­cent com­pared to about 23 per­cent for the SPD.

The two par­ties cur­rently gov­ern to­gether in a so-called “grand coali­tion.” The SPD’s slump­ing pop­u­lar­ity fig­ures and re­cent gains by Merkel’s bloc, which also in­cludes the Bavaria-only Chris­tian So­cial Union, have led many to spec­u­late that she might be able to form a new coali­tion with the pro-busi­ness Free Democrats or an­other smaller party. — AP

DORT­MUND: Ger­man Chan­cel­lor and top can­di­date of the Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union, CDU, for the up­com­ing gen­eral elec­tion An­gela Merkel de­liv­ers a speech dur­ing the start of her elec­tion cam­paign. — AP

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