Although Germany has fared well during the crisis, Chancellor Angela Merkel sees big hurdles ahead. Addressing them is a central component of the newly agreed election campaign platform of the CDU and CSU.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has increasingly made the topic of demographic change in Germany a regular feature on parliament's agenda during this legislative period. It's no surprise then that the same theme features prominently in the official campaign platform of her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), along with its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
The chancellor told members of the press Sunday (23.06.2013) that globalization and demographic shifts are the greatest challenges facing Germany - and that both points inform the party's philosophy moving forward.
Within just three legislative terms, Germany will lack six million workers, the chancellor continued, adding that the competition for highly skilled workers is intensifying with emerging economies now in a position to make attractive job offers.
"We cannot be left behind," Merkel warned, stressing her maxim: "Build on successes and go after what has yet to be accomplished."
Germany and Europe
The first point in the party's official platform is titled "Germany's future in Europe."
CSU party head Horst Seehofer said of the title, "We are sending a message by putting Europe at the beginning of this agenda."
Only when things are going well for Europe, Merkel explained, is it possible for Germany to prosper. "That's why we want Europe to make a stronger recovery from the crisis. We are not strong enough on our own."
Concerning European elections slated for May 2014, Merkel announced concrete proposals would me made with respect to her ideas on European institutions and the continent's political union. Some contracts will need to be changed, she said.
"We are going to say what we want and what we do not want," the chancellor declared with reference to Germany's current role as an anchor of stability in the EU as well as its motor of growth.
Some concrete points have already been put down in the platform, including a rejection of debt collectivization schemes known as Eurobonds as well as proposals for shared deposit guarantees.
Debt repayment and employment
Featuring prominently on Merkel's to-do list is the theme of a solid financial base. The chancellor said that, after 40 years, it's time for a paradigm shift. The goal for the next four years will be not to take on any new debts and to use budget surpluses to begin paying debts back.
"Full employment and a minimum wage that has been negotiated by employers and their employees," was a further goal named by Merkel, who admitted that it is "ambitious." She noted that there have been significant improvements in this regard, pointing to the fact that Germany's unemployment is lower than it has been at any point in the last 20 years despite the euro zone crisis.
But, the chancellor stressed, Germany must remain an industrial nation. In her view, that entails providing support to business founders and the middle class as well as investing in education, research and infrastructure while making use of the new possibilities opened up in the digital era.
'Sweet but poisonous' promises
Alongside the strategic goals enumerated in the platform, a few incentives for voters dotted the program. They included improvements in the tax code for families with children and higher pensions for mothers. Such plans are possible thanks to some leeway within the budget, Merkel said.
While there was no talk of a general reduction in tax rates, the party has also committed to not raising taxes - in contrast to the platforms presented by opposition parties, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Green Party. Merkel described the opposition's plans as a dangerous disincentive.
Some points presented in the platform, which was agreed at a joint meeting between the CDU and CSU leadership on Sunday, had already leaked out several days ahead of time. Economists within the CDU looked at the campaign promises with some skepticism. Merkel's coalition partners, the Free Democrats (FDP), warned that her party was making promises that were beyond the scope of what it could pay for. In their platform, said FDP head Philipp Rösler, the CDU/CSU got caught up in the "sweet poison of spending money."
Should the current governing coalition between the CDU/CSU and the FDP be reinstated after the upcoming election on September 22, then disputed budgetary points will certainly become part of the coalition negotiations.
Keeping the FDP?
Unlike in the previous federal election four years ago, the CDU/CSU did not include a provision in their platform favoring the FDP as a coalition partner. Merkel explained to the press that such a move was important in 2009 because her party had previously governed in a grand coalition with the SPD. Naming the FDP in that manner was intended to send a clear message to voters. But she said that she would repeat to anyone who asked that she is interested in renewing the current coalition government.
However, since current opinion pulls put the FDP right around the 5 percent hurdle needed for entry into the federal parliament, the CDU/CSU platform ultimately remains open for other coalition partners, which could include the Social Democrats or the Green Party.
There is a further difference from the 2009 platform with respect to Turkey. Gone is talk of the country as a privileged partner. "Turkey does not want that, so why should it always come up," Merkel said.
On Monday (24.06.2013) the platform was formally presented at a congress held by CDU members. The CDU and CSU opted against holding a single-day convention to arrive at the platform. Instead, inner-party discussions took place online in advance, supplemented by various events for citizens and party members. Many of the suggestions made there found their way into the party platform, Merkel said.
The heads of both the CDU and CSU emphasized to the press on Sunday that the platform was ultimately passed with complete unanimity.