In the parliamentary debate over Germany's 2013 budget, Chancellor Merkel's future election opponent has called for a delay in passing the measure to wait for the final word on a bailout for Greece.
The ongoing budget debate, which continued in the German parliament on Wednesday, is largely a formality, as the governing coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Free Democrats (FDP) hold a majority.
But Peer Steinbrück, the opposition Social Democrats' (SPD) chancellor candidate for 2013 federal elections, still used the forum to call for a delay in the implementation of the budget for next year, which is scheduled to pass on Friday. He said the financial restructuring of Greece would take more time and would impact Germany.
"This all affects the federal budget," he said on Wednesday, "so it would be appropriate in light of these uncertainties that [Merkel] wait to sign off on the budget until there is clarity in Europe."
In talks that lasted all night Tuesday and well into Wednesday, finance ministers from the 17 eurozone member nations were unable to finalize an agreement toward releasing another installment of bailout money for Greece.
Merkel said in her speech to parliament Wednesday that she believed a deal on Greece could be reached next Monday, when the finance ministers continue their negotiations.
Steinbrück said the budget situation in Germany had "never been better for a quick reduction in new debt," but that Merkel's coalition had not taken advantage of this opportunity. The 2013 budget foresees a slight reduction in new debt.
Merkel countered by saying the government was the most successful since German reunification. She pointed toward unemployment figures that are the lowest since 1990, as well as her prediction that Germany was on course for a balanced budget in 2016.
In federal elections scheduled for next year, Steinbrück is set to challenge Merkel for the chancellery.
mz/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters, dapd)