Wednesday 11 December 2019

Back me or sack me - Merkel's protégé urges party support

Kramp-Karrenbauer confronts CDU members

Rallying the troops: Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer at the CDU convention in Berlin. Photo: Reuters
Rallying the troops: Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer at the CDU convention in Berlin. Photo: Reuters

Paul Carrel

Chancellor Angela Merkel's would-be successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer urged delegates from her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to back her vision for Germany at their party congress yesterday or else "let's end it here and now".

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer (57) has made several gaffes since taking over as CDU leader last December that have dented her popularity and raised questions about her suitability to be the party's candidate for chancellor when Ms Merkel leaves office.

"If you are of the view that the Germany I want is not the Germany you imagine, if you are of the view that the way I want to go with you is not the way you think is the right one, then let's speak today and let's end it today, here, now," Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer said to gasps.

"But, dear friends, if you want this Germany, if you want to take this path together... then let's roll up our sleeves here and now and make a start," she added before delegates showed their support with a seven-minute standing ovation.

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On Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer's watch, the CDU suffered losses in an election to the European Parliament in May and endured setbacks in regional elections, which she described as "painful" in a speech lasting close to one-and-a-half hours.

Taking the stage exactly 14 years after becoming German chancellor, Ms Merkel had told the party faithful in Leipzig she had never imagined being in power for so long, but that the work isn't done.

Weathered

Ms Merkel reminded the convention yesterday that since 2005 they'd brought unemployment to record lows and weathered the world financial crisis.

But she said with new challenges like digital transformation and the fight against climate change, the party needs to look to the future, while overcoming new pressures like Russian aggression and trade disputes with the US.

"We need to find solutions for the world of tomorrow" and ensure that the CDU is the party of "Germany's strong centre", Ms Merkel said.

"I want to continue to work for that as chancellor."

It also emerged yesterday that Ms Merkel is planning to visit the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz for the first time in her 14 years in office.

The Munich daily 'Sueddeutsche Zeitung' reported she has accepted an invitation to attend the 10th anniversary of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation on December 6.

Her office confirmed that a visit is planned but declined to specify the date as her appointments are generally announced only a week in advance.

Last month, the World Jewish Congress gave Ms Merkel its Theodor Herzl Award for her efforts to foster Jewish life in Germany and her support for the state of Israel.

Nazi Germany killed more than one million people at Auschwitz-Birkenau in occupied Poland during World War II, most of them Jews transported there from across Europe.

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Separately, environmental activists brazenly marched off with a giant letter 'C' from the entrance of Ms Merkel's CDU party headquarters to protest its climate change policies.

Members of Greenpeace snatched the two-metre tall letter from inside the glass of the CDU's Berlin offices.

To the remaining 'DU' - German for 'you' - they added a banner reading "should protect the climate".

Later, after the giant 'DU' letters were removed, the activists pasted a new part on their banner to spell it again.

Irish Independent

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