HEIDELBERG: Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, called for a new hardline approach in Europe’s relations with Turkey on Tuesday, describing developments in the country as “worrying”.
“The EU must not be divided on this issue. That would greatly weaken Europe,” she told German MPs. Mrs Merkel used her final speech to parliament before elections in three weeks to demand the release of several German nationals being held in Turkey.
“We shall not forget them and will do everything, at all levels, to secure their release,” she said.
It was a combative appearance from the German chancellor.
“We have achieved a lot in the past four years,” she said. “Germany is doing well. But we cannot afford to rest.”
She traded barbs with MPs from her junior coalition partner and main rival in the election, the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
When the SPD’s Hubertus Heil dared to claim credit for his party for many of the coalition’s achievements, Mrs Merkel shot him down.
“I’m well aware how many MPs you have, Mr Heil,” she said to applause from her own Christian Democratic Union party (CDU).
“Without me and without my party you couldn’t have achieved anything in this parliament.”
She was equally blunt over the diesel emissions scandal that has hit the German car industry, accusing car company bosses of “unforgivable mistakes”.
But she ruled out imposing a cut-off date for all new cars to be electric, as the UK and France have done. “We do not deal in bans,” she said.
A gradual transition would be better, she argued. “We will still need the internal combustion engine for many years.”
She also warned that Germany could not afford to lag behind in the digital economy.
“The world does not sleep, the world is changing at a rapid pace,” she said. “We do not want to end up as a technological museum, but rather as a frontrunner.”
Mrs Merkel’s final appearance before MPs ahead of elections came as a new opinion poll showed the far-Right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) in third place.
The anti-immigrant party was on 10.5 per cent in the poll for the INSA institute.
While almost certainly not enough to propel the AfD into power, it could see the anti-immigrant party become the main opposition.
Most polls indicate another “Grand Coalition” between the two biggeest parties, the CDU and SPD, is the most likely outcome. That would mean whoever comes third would be the largest opposition party.
The new poll’s findings represent a small comeback by the AfD, which saw its support drop into single figures amid infighting earlier this year. But the party is still nowhere near the high of 16 per cent it recorded last year. (The Telegraph & The Pashtun Times)