Saturday 21 April 2018

Merkel promises full employment, less tax and more houses

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Andreas Rinke

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives promised Germany more police, more homes and full employment within eight years, as they presented their programme yesterday for an election in which she hopes to win a fourth term in office.

With Europe's biggest economy growing robustly, Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), also committed to invest more but to not raise taxes. As the countdown to the September 24 ballot continues, they hold a clear opinion poll lead over the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) but would still need to team up with another party to govern.

Yesterday they added the goal of full employment - which they define as a jobless rate of less than 3pc - by 2025 to their list of pledges.

"We think we can do this," Merkel told a news conference with CSU leader Horst Seehofer convened to present the election programme. Germany's jobless rate is currently at a post-reunification low of 5.5pc, and a level of 3pc has not been seen since the "Economic Miracle" boom of the mid-1970s.

The conservative parties also want to add 1.5m homes during the next parliamentary term, and expand Germany's broadband network.

They also said they are prepared to work with the new French government to develop the Eurozone, but oppose a mutualisation of debts. Germany and France should seek to harmonise corporate tax rates, the CDU said.

The CDU/CSU are polling around 40pc, a 16 percentage point lead over the SPD, their current coalition partner.

Yesterday's manifesto includes a commitment not to increase Germany's national debt and a reduction in income tax by €15bn per year. The threshold for the top income tax rate will be raised to €60,000 from €54,000.

On foreign policy, Mrs Merkel said her party wants a 'Marshall Plan' with Africa but reject full EU membership for Turkey.

At the same time, the CDU backed an EU defence union, and with terror now a major concern plans to increase the number of police nationally by 15,000 and beef up video surveillance.

Elsewhere on the home front, the CDU plans to increase child benefits by €25 per child per month and provide generous tax allowances and child care to families with children.

With the German chancellor in election mode, she last week raised the prospect of an open clash with Donald Trump at this week's G20 summit in Hamburg. Some Trump administration officials have played down the discord. But the gathering will take place just over a month after a G7 summit in Sicily exposed deep divisions between Mr Trump and other western leaders - including Mrs Merkel - on a range of issues, including climate change, trade and migration.

Yesterday, Chancellor Merkel said she expected the G20 to broadly agree on tackling international terrorism at the summit later this week but said they would likely have differences on other issues.

Mrs Merkel suggested the United States under President Donald Trump was at odds with others on some issues, saying: "We know certain positions that the American government holds and I don't expect that these positions will be abandoned as a result of a two-day trip to Hamburg."

The US president will meet the chancellor ahead of the G20 event, probably on Thursday evening, a spokesman for the German government said. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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