Angela Merkel named asCDU chancellor candidate
30 May 2005, BERLIN - Angela Merkel, who was named chancellor candidate by Germany's opposition conservatives on Monday, vowed to make unemployment, the sour economy and Turkish European Union membership top issues in the coming election campaign.
30 May 2005
BERLIN - Angela Merkel, who was named chancellor candidate by Germany's opposition conservatives on Monday, vowed to make unemployment, the sour economy and Turkish European Union membership top issues in the coming election campaign.
"Above everything else is the official figure of five million unemployed," said a confident Merkel in a speech after leaders of the Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) nominated her as their candidate for general elections expected on 18 September.
Last winter, the German unemployment rate hit a post-1930's record of 5.2 million and is currently 12 percent.
Merkel accused Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democratic alliance with the Greens of leading Germany to the lowest economic growth rate of all 25 European Union countries after seven years in power.
"Jobs needs growth and growth needs freedom," said Merkel who grew up in former communist East Germany, adding that if elected she would slash bureaucracy, liberalise labour laws and push for tax reform.
Merkel said that Germany could not compete, and did not want to compete, with low wage states in central and eastern Europe.
"We must be faster, more flexible and better ... because we are more expensive," said Merkel who both friends and critics compare to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher for her pro-market positions.
Turing to the sensitive issue of Turkish EU membership, which Chancellor Schroeder strongly supports, Merkel indicated that the French 'no' vote against the EU constitution on Sunday was partly due to fears over Turkish membership.
"The people of Europe are afraid and concerned, and in my view they are right to be concerned, because Europe's borders have not been clearly marked out," said Merkel.
"My firm view is that we need a very honest discussion about Turkish EU membership," said Merkel to loud applause of party members.
Merkel opposes Turkish EU membership and she instead calls for a sub-membership status for Ankara which she dubs "a privileged partnership".
Both Merkel and most CDU/CSU members back the EU constitution which she termed "all in all" good.
Earlier, Merkel's nomination as the centre-right's chancellor candidate was announced by Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber who was narrowly defeated by Schroeder in Germany's last general election in 2002.
"The vote was unanimous," said Stoiber.
Stoiber, who heads the CDU's Christian Social Union (CSU) Bavarian sister party, said both parties were united behind Merkel.
Merkel, 50, is the first woman to run for the German chancellery.
"The election prospects are good, not to say excellent, when you look at the election opinion polls," said Stoiber.
Led by Merkel, the CDU/CSU and their Free Democratic (FDP) allies have a big lead over Chancellor Schroeder's Social Democrats in all polls with the CDU/CSU-FDP at 51 to 53 percent, compared with 37 to 38 percent for Schroeder's ruling SPD-Greens coalition.
Schroeder called for early elections after his SPD was badly defeated by the CDU in a regional vote in North Rhine-Westphalia state on 22 May.
Subject: German news