Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected nostalgia for the deutsche mark, telling a crowd of supporters today that “under no circumstance” would Germany be better off if it had held on to its post-World War II currency.
Speaking at an election rally in Ulm in southern Germany next to the city’s signature cathedral, Merkel said the single euro-zone currency eliminated currency-fluctuation risk and symbolized the achievement of European unity and peace.
“The euro is more than a currency, it’s a political testament,” Merkel told a crowd of several thousand, including a small group of protesters from the anti-euro Alternative for Germany party, or AfD. “The world believes that we’ve achieved something wonderful -- 60 years of peace.”
As Merkel shores up her lead in the polls, her Christian Democratic-led bloc has been concerned that the AfD’s message of unwinding the single currency could draw voters from her flank. Her Social Democratic Party opponent, Peer Steinbrueck, went on the attack this week, accusing Merkel of not being upfront over the cost to German taxpayers in resolving the European debt crisis.
Speaking to rally participants, some waving orange placards emblazoned with “Angie,” Merkel said indebted nations in the 17-member euro must overhaul their economies just as Germany has in the last decade to pull out of the slump.
“Today we’re the growth engine and the anchor of stability in Europe and we know that painful reforms have their success,” Merkel said.
With 25 days to go before the Sept. 22 election, Merkel has maintained her lead in the polls over the SPD. Support for her CDU-led bloc was unchanged at 41 percent in a weekly Forsa poll for today’s Stern magazine. While her Free Democratic coalition partner dropped a percentage point to 5 percent, their combined tally of 46 percent would still be enough for a repeat of the current coalition, Stern said.
The AfD, whose protesters in Ulm carried signs reading “Don’t Let Europe Fall on the Euro,” gained a percentage point to 3 percent in the poll, missing the 5 percent threshold to enter parliament. Still, pollsters have said the AfD’s support might be under-reported because of possible reluctance among its backers to reveal how they’ll vote next month.
The SPD held at 22 percent and its Green party ally dropped two percentage points to 11 percent, the lowest level this year. Forsa polled 2,501 voters from Aug. 20 to Aug. 26. The margin of error was as much as 2.5 percentage points.
Merkel yesterday sought to pin the blame for the euro-region’s debt turmoil on her SPD predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, telling a rally in Rendsburg that he should never have let Greece into the single-currency area.
“Chancellor Schroeder accepted Greece in and weakened the stability pact and both decisions were fundamentally wrong, and one of the starting points for our current troubles,” she said.
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