Economy first for CDU
The economy took center stage on the opening day of the 27th party conference for Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Cologne, the first such meeting since a broad coaliton of left-leaning parties took over power in the eastern state of Thuringia in a sizable blow to the chancellor's conservative party.
Speaking before the opening of the conference, Chancellor Merkel distanced herself from comments made by members of Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU) that immigrants should also be encouraged to speak German at home as well as in public. She also eschewed a discussion on a proposed controversial ban on the wearing of burkas while speaking to a local newspaper, instead focusing on the more pragmatic problem of bracket creep.
Bracket creep refers to the process by which inflation pushes wages into higher tax brackets - thus reducing an individual's purchasing power. How to address this problem has been the source of struggle not only between the conservative CDU and its liberal coalition partners the Social Democratic Party (SPD), but also within the CDU itself. Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel of the SPD even remarked that he hoped the CDU would use this opportunity to make its position clear.
Before the conference began, the leaders of the party agreed that a compromise on how to handle bracket creep should be a priority. Previous attempts at proposed legislation have been criticized as weak by workers' associations, and the opposition Left party has even accused the CDU of making bracket creep worse each year they are in power.
German news agency dpa reported that a compromise was indeed made, with the prerequisite that it does not adversely affect a balanced budget – though the exact details of the agreement have not yet been made public.
Merkel is also fighting for her position as party leader at this two-day conference. Jens Spahn, her opponent, spoke to the Berliner Zeitung newspaper ahead of the meeting of the need for a concrete solution to bracket creep so that the CDU does not fall behind their Bavarian counterparts, who have a plan in place to reduce tax burdens as of 2017.
es/bw (AFP, dpa)