February 26, 2018 / 11:28 AM / 7 months ago

Germany's Merkel vows to avoid new taxes, work to strengthen EU

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday a new governing coalition she is seeking with the center-left Social Democrats would not allow new taxes or new public debt.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party congress in Berlin, Germany, February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Merkel, seeking to stem growing criticism about her longtime leadership, underscored the core focus of her Christian Democratic party on economic conservatism, individual liberties and Christian humanism, while calling for efforts to recapture voters after heavy losses in the September national elections.

“We need orientation for our country, orientation for our party,” Merkel said, citing public concerns about globalization, digitalization and unease about establishment political parties. “It is our continuing responsibility as a party to give answers to these questions.”

The chancellor, who needs approval from both political blocs to secure a fourth term in office, said her party would stick to its hardline stance against new tax increases and government debt, both at home and within the European Union.

“Reliability means being sensible with how you treat the money of the citizens,” she said. “So we will stick to the clear line of the (conservatives): No new debts, no tax increases and at the same time, record investments in the big future areas.”

CDU members are expected to later on Monday to endorse a renewal of the “grand coalition” that has ruled Germany since 2013. Around 464,000 SPD members will complete a far more uncertain, but binding, mail ballot on Friday, with results due out on Sunday.

Merkel also called for a renewal of Europe, saying the EU was vital to ensure that German interests were addressed globally, but was “too weak and too slow” at present, and urgent work was needed to address the current patchwork of different regulations on border security, defense and capital markets.

“We need more commonality,” the chancellor said.

She said Europe’s largest economy would continue to show solidarity with those EU members who “did their homework” on financial matters, but not with those who relied on others to carry their burdens. “It will not be possible ... that others take a rest at our cost,” she said to loud applause.

Merkel also underscored Germany’s commitment to a strong EU defense union and the NATO alliance. “We need to pick up the pace, we need a new dynamic. If Europe wants to be a global player, then it has to act like a global player.”

Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Michelle Martin; editing by Mark Heinrich

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