Merkel says Germany has ‘reason to be confident’

12th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

12 September 2007, Berlin (dpa) - Germany has "every reason to be confident" in facing the challenges of the 21st century, Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament in Berlin Wednesday, as she surveyed the achievements of her broad coalition halfway through its term in office.

12 September 2007

Berlin (dpa) - Germany has "every reason to be confident" in facing the challenges of the 21st century, Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament in Berlin Wednesday, as she surveyed the achievements of her broad coalition halfway through its term in office.

Through its economic reform policies, the coalition had overcome "a long economic drought," the chancellor said in her budget address, traditionally an occasion for summing up achievements and charting the road ahead.

The economy was growing faster than at any time in the past six years and unemployment was at its lowest level in 12 years, with a million new jobs created since the government took power, Merkel said.

The budget was in balance for the first time since reunification in 1989, Merkel said.

"Germany once again has every reason to be confident," the chancellor said.

The total state budget, including the federal government, the states, local authorities and the social services, is set to achieve balance next year, while the federal government is expected to balance its books by 2011 after being in the red for decades.

"Those are the facts that we are building on and this is a wonderful development," Merkel said.

Germany had not only to deal with the pressures of globalization like other industrial countries, but also with the problems thrown up by reunification with the formerly communist east, Merkel said.

Having achieved this, Germany had no reason to fear the challenges of the 21st century.

This was not a new "economic miracle," but rather "the reward for hard work and effort ... for the reforms of this government ... for the efforts of entrepreneurs and workers," Merkel said.

But she warned that not all Germans were benefiting. "We want everyone to participate in the upswing," she told the Bundestag to applause.

Merkel's government has introduced a budget for 2008 with expenditure of 283.2 billion euros (390 billion dollars), 12.7 million euros more than in this year.

Turning briefly to foreign policy, Merkel assured the United States of continued German support in Afghanistan, where Germany provides one of the larger troop contingents.

"We are in full solidarity with the whole operation," Merkel said in clear reference to opposition within the Social Democrats (SPD), the junior partner in her coalition, to the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom.

Merkel said she backed renewing all aspects of Germany's commitments in Afghanistan. Three separate mandates are up for renewal by parliament in October and November, with heated debate expected over the OEF deployment.

A survey published Wednesday showed 52 per cent of Germans in favour of withdrawing all the country's troops from Afghanistan.

Some 3,000 are deployed on reconstruction and training in the relatively stable north, while around 500 are involved in the deployment of six reconnaissance jets. Up to 100 elite troops can be committed to OEF but are not currently deployed.

A separate poll showed that 59 per cent of the electorate back the chancellor, the highest level since the September 2005 elections.

Her likely challenger in future elections, Kurt Beck, chairman of the Social Democrats (SPD), is lagging behind on 18 per cent.

Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), together with their Bavarian sister-party, the Christian Socialists (CSU), are up two percentage points on the week at 40 per cent support.

The SPD, following inner-party wrangling over Beck's performance, are down 1 point at 25 per cent.

Manfred Guellner, head of the Forsa institute that conducted the poll for magazine Stern and private broadcaster RTL, said Merkel and her party had benefited from the successful uncovering last week of a terrorist plot to bomb US facilities in Germany.

The position between the major political forces, the CDU/CSU and the SPD, was clouded by the fact that many voters could see little difference in their policies, Guellner added.

Merkel's coalition, combining the CDU/CSU parliamentary caucus with their traditional opponents, the SPD, was formed following inconclusive elections in September 2005. The next elections must take place by September 2009.

DPA

Subject: German news

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