Conservative Concerns

CDU-CSU Politicians Talk Priorities Amid Potential Slowdown

merkel, schaueble dpa
CDU top politicians Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble at a recent Bundestag session. The CDU and its sister party the CSU are looking for ways to increase German growth.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    With Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats leading Germany’s governming coalition, talks between the CDU and Bavarian sister-party Christian Social Union could dictate Germany’s priorities for the coming year. A weak economy is threatening some of their political agenda.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The German government is holding firm to projections of annual growth of 1.8 percent for 2014.
    • Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble says there isn’t enough money available to fund all the proposals that cross his desk, but any additional funds should go to infrastructure.
    • The economy and jobs will be major themes at the party conventions in December.
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    Audio

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Soccer is like life: if the players are in good shape and focused, Germany wins and becomes world champion. If they are not fit and lack concentration, there is no chance of victory.

Chancellor Angela Merkel watched the 4-2 defeat of the World Cup champions by the runner-up Argentina on Wednesday evening with her ministers from the Christian Democratic Union and her floor leader Volker Kauder at a political gathering in Berlin. At first they were standing. Then, as the German team flailed and failed, they sat down.

The first day of the closed session of the executive committee of Ms. Merkel’s CDU and the Christian Social Union, the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, had just ended. Education Minister Johanna Wanka gave a speech about the government’s high-tech strategy. Reimund Neugebauer, the president of the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Europe’s largest organization for applied research, reported on the problems in turning patents into products and about the potential for digitalizing the economy.

Fear about an end to economic growth was in the air throughout the meeting.

The party leadership gathered to discuss how Germany can remain fit. The government is still predicting a 1.8 percent rate of growth this year and, if Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has his way, that figure won’t be altered. The goal remains within reach, he said, adding he remains optimistic the government will meet its budgetary targets in 2014 and 2015.

german soccer defeat afp
German national team members after a 2-4 defeat against Argentina in a friendly game last Wednesday. German soccer is like the economy: If players are in shape, Germany wins and becomes world champion. If not, there is no chance of victory. Source: AFP

 

But, Mr. Schäuble said, risks to the economy preclude his office from acting on the many spending proposals presented at the conference. Should there be additional funds available, he said, he prefers they be directed to transportation infrastructure.

The deputy leader of the parliamentary group, Michael Fuchs, expressed his enthusiasm for the government considering support for private investment in energy, roadway and telecommunications networks. “It is high time that we turn our attention to how we can maintain growth in the future,” he said, though he acknowledged a lack of concrete proposals.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being negotiated between the European Union and the United States is a major focus of the German government, with conservative politician Mr. Fuchs leading a committee to investigate both the risks and rewards of a treaty.

There was a lively debate on the matter and a general feeling that the German parliament should exercise its influence on the negotiations in cases of doubt. One participant said, “The (subject) has now gained the attention of the parliamentary group.”

During the closed session, the leader of the parliamentary group, Mr. Kauder, emphasized the government must now concentrate more intently on preserving and promoting economic growth, but he opposed reductions of taxes or of social insurance contributions. “We need innovations,” he told Handelsblatt before the meeting of the legislative leaders began.

For this reason, he said, the governing body of the parliamentary group is turning its attention – in addition to the international flash points Ms. Merkel discussed in the meeting – to issues involving education, innovation and the transfer of knowledge.

Few concrete measures emerged from the session, yet politicians with economic expertise now see a chance they will find a more sympathetic hearing for their concerns.

“The debate is moving in the right direction,” said the CDU’s association for medium-sized businesses, Carsten Linnemann. He attaches special importance to improving the investment climate and the framework conditions for risk capital, as well as reducing burdens on citizens by eliminating, for example, bracket creep in taxes.

“The federal party convention in December will also focus on the themes of the economy and jobs,” said a member of the executive committee of the CDU. With many feeling the Social Democratic Party have so far held the high ground since a government coalition between the three parties was formed in December, this admonition came from a CSU member: “It’s not enough to moan about the successes of the SPD. We have to work to clarify our own identity and impact.”

This article was translated by George Frederick Takis. Jeff Borden also contributed to this story.

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