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Merkel Asks CDU to Start Soul-Searching

DW staff (jen)February 21, 2006

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for her party to review its basic beliefs and renew its emphasis, appealing for more "solidarity."

Christian values must be at the heart of a CDU manifesto, Merkel saidImage: AP

Some 800 participants attended a small party conference in Berlin Monday, where the topic on hand was a reassessment of the ruling Christian Democratic Union's values. CDU leader Angela Merkel took the opportunity to call for fundamental change, but stressed the need to keep Christian values at the core of the party's ideology.

In a debate that is expected to go on for two years, the CDU wants to refine its image within the "grand coalition" government (it currently shares power with the the Social Democrats.) To do this, it plans to modernize its manifesto.

Symbolbild Koalition SPD CDU
A weak election result forced the CDU to govern with the SPDImage: dpa - Report

By claiming a phrase historically associated with workers' parties and the opposing Social Democrats -- solidarity -- the CDU is seen to be angling for more support after a razor-thin win at the polls last year.

'Solidarity is patriotism'

Solidarity needs to be seen on a par with basic values like freedom and justice, in order to keep Germany on the right path, Merkel said. Sounding more like the leader of a workers' union than a conservative government, Merkel said: "We have to remain in a country where solidarity is practiced without asking about the material gains."

"Freedom and solidarity -- for us, this combination is not unattainable," Merkel told the party faithful. "The ability to exercise solidarity is perhaps one of the most important patriotic abilities."

Questioning the social-market economy

The most important thing is for the CDU to take a new look at Germany's social-market economy, Merkel said. In her first big party speech since being elected to office nearly 100 days ago, Merkel noted that the party's current manifesto, created in 1994, "fails to answer a whole array" of modern-day questions.

That is especially true when it comes to social and economic policies, she said.

"We want to secure the future of the social-market economy. But we realize that with globalization, certain basic conditions have changed," she said. As a result, people are rejecting Germany's current economic model. "Only a minority considers the social-market economy to be fair," Merkel said.

Christianity at the base

Party members and committees will meet repeatedly to discuss the new manifesto between now and late 2007, when it will be put up for a vote.

Merkel said the basis of the CDU manifesto needs to be Christian values, and warned that the party has to "figure out what it can absolutely not afford to lose." She urged the CDU to discuss basic values with people from other countries.

Heiner Geißler
Heiner Geißler of the CDUImage: AP

The party also unveiled a new motto, "New Justice through More Freedom."

Ex-CDU General Secretary Heiner Geißler told the Express newspaper he thought the motto was "backwards," adding that freedom alone cannot bring about justice.

And Michael Sommer, head of the Association of German Unions, told the Kölner Stadt Anzeiger that the CDU seemed to be on a course of "basic social renovation." The discussion "reflects the fact that in Germany, you can't get a majority of votes with neo-liberal rhetoric," he said.

A number of active members concentrated on the idea that the CDU should stress its roots in Christian belief and values. The head of the CDU's workers' wing, Karl Laumann, told the Passauer Neuen Presse that the CDU "needs to unconditionally stand up for Christian social teachings and social justice."