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01/24/2019

04:20 PM

Germany, Inc.

Merkel successor eyes more business-friendly policies

By: Handelsblatt staff

CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer promised to better balance economic interests and environmental concerns. In a Handelsblatt interview, she also laid out her ideas for the EU and Brexit.

REUTERS

In charge.


Angela Merkel’s successor as head of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union promised to do better at enabling a strong economy while also protecting the environment.

“More than ever, the CDU must lead the debate and propose how to implement climate change targets without deindustrializing Germany,” said Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was elected new party leader in December. She told Handelsblatt, “We have to proactively emphasize that environmental protection can also make money, through more energy-efficient, climate-friendly manufacturing and through modern green technologies,” and noted Germany is the leader in this field.

Chancellor-in-waiting: The sudden rise of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as heir to Angela Merkel

Chancellor-in-waiting

The sudden rise of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as heir to Angela Merkel

Barely known outside of Germany, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, also known as “AKK” or “mini-Merkel,” could be the next German chancellor.

Business owners were disappointed by Merkel’s policies in the past, particularly the chancellor’s sudden decision in 2011 to shut down nuclear power plants by 2022 and boost renewable energy production such as wind and solar power. The shift doubled electricity bills for consumers and many companies, who jointly pay a levy of €27 billion each year to subsidize green energy sources.

There’s also frustration among business owners, an important group of voters for the CDU, about bans on older diesel cars in various cities across the country. These came about after courts ruled air pollution in cities such as Hamburg, Stuttgart and Berlin was too high. Managers also worry about plans to shut down all coal power plants and mining operations to help Germany reach its CO2 reduction targets by 2030.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, also known as AKK for short, is currently the politician most likely to become Germany’s next chancellor. She said the CDU will make economic policies a priority this year, and will address competitiveness, industrial policy, mobility and IT. She lamented how “absurd” the heated ecological debate was getting at times. A case in point, she said, was people calling for bans on meat consumption because of pollution caused by cattle. “People don't want to be told what they should do,” said the 56-year-old politician, a former premier of Saarland, the country’s second-smallest state by population.

EU election priorities

Faced with corporate tax rate cuts in the US and some countries in Europe, Kramp-Karrenbauer said Germany should also consider the taxes businesses pay here. A reunification tax should also be abolished, as it's a burden for SMEs, she said.

European business policies are also important and AKK said she values the border-free Schengen area and its internal market without barriers to the movement of goods and people. Other important issues she cited include strengthening the euro zone's security and defense policy and generating growth across the bloc. “Europe must be able to set IT standards,” she also noted.

Get real: German industry urges Berlin to come together on climate change

Get real

German industry urges Berlin to come together on climate change

Businesses are sick of the silos that prevent progress on climate change. They want real solutions, not just chit-chat about carbon emissions.

The CDU should prioritize these issues in campaigning for the European parliamentary elections in May, AKK said. She fully supported Manfred Weber, a member of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, as the leader of the EU’s conservative alliance, known as the European People’s Party. Should the EPP remain the largest party, Kramp-Karrenbauer said Weber should automatically become the new European Commission President, succeeding Jean-Claude Juncker. “It would be a democratic step backwards if we were to move away from this principle again. That would be difficult to explain to voters.”

AKK was among the 31 German public figures who last week penned an open letter in The Times asking Britain to stay in the EU. But she has little hope London will change its mind about leaving the bloc, she told Handelsblatt. The British Lower House last week rejected the Brexit deal Prime Minister Theresa May had negotiated with Brussels. Now, Europe has few options for additional concessions, she said. “What should we offer if the British apparently don’t know themselves what they want? It’s quite clear that the ball is still in Britain's court. It's their turn to make a move.”

Handelsblatt reporters Daniel Delhaes, Jan Hildebrand and Thomas Sigmund, who all cover politics in the Berlin bureau, conducted the interview with Kramp-Karrenbauer. Gilbert Kreijger, an editor with Handelsblatt Today, adapted the article into English. To contact the authors: [email protected]

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