SPD’s Schulz accuses Merkel of lacking clear plan

The Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) Parliamentary Group, Thomas Oppermann, the Minister of Environment, Barbara Hendricks, the Minister President of the state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Manuela Schwesig, the leader of the SPD and candidate for the German Chancellor post, Martin Schulz and the Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn listen to a speaker during an event in the SPD headquarters, in Berlin, Germany, 16 July 2017. [Felipe Trueba/EPA]

German Socialist Party leader Martin Schulz set out plans to boost investment and enhance European unity, accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel of making empty promises.

Schulz, the former European Parliament president, is hoping to beat Merkel in the 24 September parliamentary election but his centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) have lost momentum in the polls after initial gains following his nomination in January.

Presenting a 10-point plan for a modern Germany and a better Europe, Schulz told supporters in Berlin on Sunday (16 July) that he would compel the state to raise spending on infrastructure and education.

“Germany can do more,” Schulz said.

“If we do not invest heavily in research and development, in electric vehicles and energy-saving production processes, we’ll fall behind,” Schulz said, adding that Europe’s largest economy was being challenged by countries where the state owned or subsidised firms.

Such an investment push would cost “a lot of money”, Schulz said but it would be better to spend the country’s budget surplus that way than wasting it by promising voters tax cuts – a clear dig at Merkel’s conservatives.

Schulz said he was in favour of sticking to Germany’s fiscal rules, also known as the debt brake, but he added: “In addition to the debt brake, we need a minimum level of investment that preserves the substance of our country and makes it sustainable.”

Schulz gave no specific figures but has previously said he wanted to boost investment by €30 billion over the next four years to improve schools and other amenities.

Merkel’s conservatives and the SPD currently govern in a grand coalition but Schulz is not a minister.

‘Complete scandal’

Turning to Merkel, the SPD leader accused the chancellor of “boastfully promising” full employment while not telling voters how she wanted to achieve this.

Merkel’s conservatives promised Germans more police, more homes and full employment within eight years when they presented their programme earlier this month.

Schulz also blamed Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble for weakening European unity after having led efforts to impose more austerity measures on Greece as part of the euro zone’s bailout programmes.

“If you want to be a state leader in Europe, you must acquire the trust of the peoples,” Schulz said.

“And that’s why for me it is a complete scandal when the chancellor says: ‘We have big plans for Europe, but we’ll only tell you after the election’.”

Battling to save campaign, Schulz hits out at 'arrogant' Merkel

Social Democrat chief Martin Schulz lashed out yesterday (25 June) at Chancellor Angela Merkel, accusing her of “arrogance” as he sought to reverse his party’s plunging popularity three months before general elections.

Schulz said he backed French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposals for a joint eurozone budget to boost investment, adding Germany should also be prepared to increase its financial contribution to the bloc’s first post-Brexit budget after 2019.

Germany already makes the largest net contribution to the EU budget at around  €15 billion each year.

Schulz pointed out that Poland and Hungary were among the countries that are the biggest net recipients of the EU budget but both rejected taking in refugees as demanded by a jointly agreed EU deal to share the burden of the migration crisis.

“Solidarity is not a one-way street,” Schulz warned, calling for financial sanctions for those countries that violate the spirit of solidarity in the EU.