Highlights from Merkel-Steinmeier television debate

Sun Sep 13, 2009 5:34pm EDT

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BERLIN, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Below are highlights from Sunday's television debate between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Social Democrat (SPD) challenger Frank-Walter Steinmeier:

FOUR YEARS OF "GRAND COALITION"



Steinmeier: "We have achieved a lot. Quite a bit of it since the crisis and we may only have done so because there was a grand coalition.

"But we haven't managed everything, we fell short of what we could do in a number of areas because the CDU didn't go along with it. For example on minimum wages and limiting executive pay. That would have helped people."



Merkel: "I think we could make more progress on jobs which is why I'm appealing for a new government.

"The past has been good and you won't change my mind about the fact that we have got a lot done. But I think for a democracy it's good when grand coalitions don't become normality."

CARMAKER OPEL



Steinmeier: "It was a long struggle. I'd like to remind you that I was involved in this long struggle. And if you want to know the difference between the two of us up here ... then just think back to January or February and imagine the conservatives had been in power with the FDP: Opel would now be dead as a doornail."



NUCLEAR ENERGY



Steinmeier: "It is not responsible, and it is politically wrong to go back down the road of nuclear energy -- because that is what we are really talking about here.

"For eight years now, we have been phasing out of nuclear energy at the same time as investing in renewable energy, we have come a long way, we are leaders in renewable energy technology, and I guarantee you that as soon as we go down the road of extending the lifeline of nuclear energy plants ... investment in this sector will end as will the hopeful road that we were going down."

Merkel: "The difference between us is the question of whether we need to phase out nuclear energy by 2020, or whether we can have nuclear for a while longer.

"It is, in my view, extremely important that we change to renewable energy and efficient energy as soon as possible .. but all renewable energies are subsidised ... and therefore I say (nuclear energy) would be a bridging technology but only until viable renewable energies really allow this changeover."





MANAGER PAY, BANKS



Steinmeier: "I think are weapons are too blunt here. We need to sharpen them and we can.... what worries me is the rising inequality between the top and bottom ... that the those at the top no longer understand what those right at the bottom have to worry about.

"If my memory serves me right, looking at where party donations come from, I think FDP and CDU combined have taken in 3 million euros from the banking and corporate sector, whereas the SPD has only got 200,000 euros."



Merkel: "I am not going to wage an election campaign against executives. So that's why I don't think we should have a (pay) limit of 1 million euros. However, I think it's wrong to lay off staff and get paid 50 percent more at the same time."

TAX CUTS



Steinmeier: "When Mrs Merkel stands next to me and says we need tax cuts, then there is a problem of credibility ...

"The question is, how can we finance growth through tax cuts?.. If you want to finance that through growth, then you will need 9 percent growth each year from 2010 and 2011. We have never had that in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany and it is not going to happen."

Merkel: "We are faced with the following question: do we stay at economic rock bottom, where could be for years, and sit and watch as tax revenues slide, or do we first of all focus on overcoming the crisis ... by stimulating growth, including, even if it sounds paradoxical, by lowering certain taxes to motivate workers."



AFGHANISTAN

Steinmeier: "We are not saying a withdrawal in 2013 but that in the next legislative term, by 2013 we must set the conditions so that we can get to a withdrawal.

"I do not forget why we are in Afghanistan. It has to do with the 9/11 attacks when 3,000 people were killed .... So I cannot now say .. we should leave, just like that. We are duty bound to others, especially to the population there."



Merkel: "Our goal is clear -- Afghanistan must have its own security forces... I have agreed with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Brown that we must work on this during this year."



(Reporting by Dave Graham and Sarah Marsh; editing by Noah Barkin)



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