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Ignoring opposition outcry, Chancellor Angela Merkel praises Germany’s policies

In a parliamentary speech, the German chancellor has stressed the country’s landmark financial stability and role as an anchor of the eurozone. However, a prominent opposition member says Germany must do better.

Making little to no splash in a general address on Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel listed off the accomplishments of her government with few surprises.

The 59-year-old center-right politician has led three coalition governments since 2005, the most of recent of which she forged from her center-right Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) late last year.

"Germany remains the anchor of stability and the engine of growth for the eurozone and for the entire European Union," Merkel told parliament, looking back at the policies since her tenure began in 2005.

The German government maintains that it won't have to take on any new debt in 2015, a landmark last seen in 1969. For this year, it is expected to borrow only 6.6 billion euros ($9.14 billion), down from 22.1 billion euros in loans in 2013.

The economy was expected to grow by 1.8 percent this year and could even grow by an additional 2 percent in 2015, Merkel added.

Investing in the country's future remained her government's highest priority, the German chancellor said, pointing to a 60 percent increase in funds for education since 2005. She also noted as a significant accomplishment Berlin's decision to remove the financial burden of a student finance program from the states, in order to free up their cash flow by several billion euros.

German Left cries foul

The parliamentary group leader of German's Left party, Gregor Gysi, criticized the current government, saying he and his party did not agree with the proposed budget. In a speech that lasted nearly the same amount of time, but with more animation and provoking jeers from his opponents, the Left politician accused Merkel's government of social injustice and favoring companies over those in need.

"[The chancellor] refuses to take any step toward fairer taxes," Gysi said, noting that Germany ranked third in the countries with the most millionaires, behind the US and China. He also pointed to continued discrepancies between the standard of living in former East Germany compared to the western states.

"It is absurd what's going on here," he said, calling on everyone, including politicians, to take some of the financial burden off of the shoulders of low-wage and middle-class earners.

Gysi also questioned Merkel's coalition partner, the SPD, for introducing a minimum wage that he said did not go far enough and did not match today's standard of living. It was billed as "universal," Gysi said, but actually had two serious exceptions: youth under 18 and the long-term unemployed.

Foreign policy

With the crises in Ukraine and Iraq making headlines, Merkel repeated her government's well-known stances on both situations: Berlin would pursue all diplomatic steps regarding Ukraine and supported the formation of an inclusive government in Iraq.

The Left leader, Gysi, however, instead focused most of his argument on what has made German headlines in recent months: the NSA scandal and Germany's leading role in arms exports.

Gysi said Merkel must take a clearer stance on NSA spying - considering she was a target herself - perhaps even halting transatlantic trade negotations. Berlin must also ensure that the German foreign intelligence service, which cooperated with the NSA, faces consequences, he said.

The Left leader also questioned the government's path of peaceful diplomacy, citing its proposal to take part in more military interventions and its support for arms exports. The ISIS militants in Iraq were known to receive support from Saudia Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, all customers of the German arms industry.

"All of the wars in recent years have not solved the problems of man, but have made them worse," he said.

kms/jr (AFP, dpa)

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