Merkel to Schroeder - "You're lying, Chancellor!"

7th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

7 September 2005 , BERLIN - German opposition candidate Angela Merkel gave Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder a tongue-lashing in a final stormy session of parliament Wednesday, calling him "a liar", "a failure" and "a man of the past."

7 September 2005 

BERLIN - German opposition candidate Angela Merkel gave Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder a tongue-lashing in a final stormy session of parliament Wednesday, calling him "a liar", "a failure" and "a man of the past."

For Merkel, who is turning up the heat after a wobbly campaign start, it was a tour de force and probably one of her best speeches with just 11 days until elections.

Chancellor Schroeder - who trails Merkel in all opinion polls - initially took the assault in an animated fashion, with laughs and looks seeming to say "who me?"

But by the end of Merkel's one-hour speech the German leader sat hunched and grim in his seat on the government bench.

Earlier, Schroeder opened the last session of Germany's parliament before September 18 elections with an attack on oil companies over soaring petrol prices and criticism of Merkel's energy policies.

The Chancellor - clearly worried that high fuel prices will be blamed on his government which raised petrol tax - insisted loss of oil refinery capacity in Gulf of Mexico due to Hurricane Katrina and rising demand played only a limited role in price hikes.

"Some 20 to 30 dollars (in the price per barrel) is pure speculation," said Schroeder to cheers from his Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens coalition ally.

Taking aim at multinational oil companies, Schroeder warned that Germany's Federal Cartel Office might have to investigate their activities.

"Oil concerns (are) using this situation drive up prices in a totally irresponsible manner," said the German leader.

Schroeder attacked Merkel and her Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) on energy policy and especially their plans to allow nuclear power stations to stay open.

All nuclear power stations, which provide about 30 per cent of Germany's electricity, are due to be closed down within 17 years under regulations passed by Schroeder's government.

Merkel responded by highlighting the government's petrol tax increase, which Schroeder initially pledged would not exceed EUR 0.03, but in the end was five times this amount - EUR 0.15.

"You promised and then you broke the promise," said Merkel, adding: "This is what has got the people fed up in our nation and that's why they say things can't go on like this."

Turning to Schroeder's criticism of her plans to raise value added tax by two points to 18 per cent, Merkel bristled with anger and said the Chancellor had raised a series of other taxes and government fees which were far worse for the economy.

"You are lying ... Herr Chancellor!" said Merkel, adding: "You are the past, you have failed."

Turning to nuclear power, Merkel said German nuclear stations were the safest in the world which was why they needed to stay on stream.

Other countries, especially China, are continuing to expand nuclear power, said Merkel, adding that her biggest concern was that if Germany gave up nuclear power it would have no say in safety standards of the world's nuclear plants.

Merkel rounded off her speech by underlining her main policies aimed at cutting Germany's 11.4 per cent jobless rate and stimulating the weak economy.

These include cutting bureaucracy by 50 per cent, trimming income tax rates from the current band between 15 per cent and 42 per cent to between 12 per cent and 39 per cent.

Merkel also called more flexible labour laws and especially for loosening Germany's tough laws limiting the sacking of workers.

Turning to foreign policy, she repeated her opposition to allowing Turkey join the European Union (E.U.).

"I regard full membership for Turkey as wrong," said Merkel.

Chancellor Schroeder is a staunch backer of allowing Ankara to join the 25-nation E.U.

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer replied that "slamming the door on Turkey ... is a sin against Germany's security policies."

"You want to be chancellor but you don't have a cool head," said an angry Fischer, adding that he regarded a "no" to Turkey as worse than Merkel's support for the Iraq war.

Opinion polls show a tightening race but give Schroeder's centre- left almost no chance of winning reelection.

Germany's six top polls give Merkel's CDU/CSU with their Free Democratic (FDP) allies between 49 per cent and 50 per cent.

Schroeder's SPD-Greens government is between 37 per cent and 40 per cent.

Some analysts predict Merkel may fail to win a majority which could force her to seek a grand coalition with Schroeder's SPD as junior partner.



Subject: German news

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