Merkel takes broad­side from SPD can­di­date

Ger­many’s refugee poli­cies ques­tioned

The Star Early Edition - - INTERNATIONAL - Tim Braune and An­dre Stahl

GO­ING it alone on refugee poli­cies and be­ing too tough on bud­getary rules have weak­ened Ger­many’s stand­ing, said So­cial Demo­cratic Party (SPD) chan­cel­lor can­di­date Martin Schulz yes­ter­day as he launched broad­sides against his com­peti­tor.

He sin­gled Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel out for mov­ing to open Ger­many’s bor­ders in 2015 as a flood of refugees moved west­ward across the con­ti­nent with­out first con­sult­ing Ger­many’s al­lies in the EU.

Pro­pos­als

He made his com­ments dur­ing a party con­fer­ence in Ber­lin, where he also un­veiled a se­ries of pro­pos­als he says he would im­ple­ment if he be­came chan­cel­lor.

Merkel’s 2015 de­ci­sion to open Ger­many’s bor­ders is seen by many as a re­ac­tion to events be­yond Ger­many’s con­trol. How­ever, many seg­ments of Ger­man cul­ture have re­coiled against a pol­icy that saw hun­dreds of thou­sands of refugees en­ter the coun­try. Other Euro­pean coun­tries have re­sisted pres­sure to al­low some of the refugees to re­set­tle in their ter­ri­tory.

Schulz, who was pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment un­til ear­lier this year, said he would, if elected chan­cel­lor, try to ham­mer out a unified EU refugee pol­icy and said coun­tries that re­fused to take refugees would see pay­ments from the EU de­cline.

He noted that Ger­many pays a net €15 bil­lion (R223.83bn) into the EU bud­get. Fi­nan­cial plan­ning for the years start­ing 2021 are due to be­gin in 2018. Should the SPD win in au­tumn, Schulz has said he plans to use fi­nanc­ing as a cud­gel in the EU to force move­ment on this and other is­sues.

“Sol­i­dar­ity is not a one-way street. Those who cat­e­gor­i­cally refuse the re­cep­tion of refugees or en­gage in tax dump­ing or ru­inous tax com­pe­ti­tion are lack­ing in sol­i­dar­ity,” ac­cord­ing to the SPD’s “Plan for the Fu­ture of Ger­many,” which the party for­mally laid out yes­ter­day.

He also noted that what­ever pro­pos­als Merkel makes now can­not be trusted be­cause the Chris­tian So­cial Union – the Bavar­ian-based sis­ter party to Merkel’s Chris­tian Democrats – have not yet re­leased their party plat­form. Un­til that time, all of her poli­cies are sub­ject to change, said Schulz.

He called it a “full-blown scan­dal” that Merkel is, es­sen­tially, cam­paign­ing with a prom­ise of “We have great plans for Europe, but I’ll only tell you what I’m plan­ning af­ter the elec­tion.”

Schulz also slammed Fi­nance Min­is­ter Wolf­gang Schaeu­ble, say­ing his fo­cus on aus­ter­ity has been detri­men­tal to coun­tries like Greece, which just had to cut pen­sions for the 13th time since the Euro­pean fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

Spend­ing floor

Against that back­drop, the SPD’s plan would ex­pand on Ger­many’s debt brake – de­signed to keep Ger­man fed­eral spend­ing un­der con­trol – with a call for a spend­ing floor that would dic­tate how much gov­ern­ment spend­ing should be di­rected to­wards in­vest­ment in medium-term fi­nan­cial plan­ning.

“The state – this is im­por­tant – can’t al­low ir­re­spon­si­ble deficits,” said Schulz. “But it also has to – if we re­quire it – use its money for a bind­ing com­mit­ment to im­prove­ments in pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture.”

The plan notes there can be no skimp­ing on in­vest­ments that seek to en­sure more fair­ness between spend­ing for older and younger Ger­mans.

The plan also in­cludes an Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-Op­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment-sup­ported ini­tia­tive to set aside up to €20 000 for fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion for ev­ery em­ployed worker older than 18.

The ini­tia­tive is an at­tempt to an­swer the prob­lem of dig­i­tal change in the labour mar­ket. A sim­i­lar project was started in France ear­lier this year.

Schulz also ad­vo­cated to make it eas­ier for Ger­mans to reach their au­thor­i­ties on­line and around the clock, ad­dress­ing a com­plaint of many Ger­man res­i­dents who have to wait weeks some­times to get an ap­point­ment for such things as reg­is­tra­tions or visas. Merkel pro­posed a sim­i­lar plan on Satur­day, but with­out a time­line.

Schulz said it would be a cen­tral pri­or­ity in the first five years of any gov­ern­ment he ran.

Martin Schulz yes­ter­day un­veiled a se­ries of pro­pos­als he says he would im­ple­ment if he be­came chan­cel­lor.

An­gela Merkel, Ger­many’s chan­cel­lor, ges­tures while speak­ing dur­ing a news con­fer­ence. Merkel’s 2015 de­ci­sion to open Ger­many’s bor­ders is seen by many as a re­ac­tion to events be­yond Ger­many’s con­trol. How­ever, many seg­ments of Ger­man cul­ture have re­coiled against a pol­icy that saw hun­dreds of thou­sands of refugees en­ter the coun­try. Photo: Bloomberg

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