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Merkel Challenger Steinbrueck Says Crisis Fund Can’t Be Too Big

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Oct. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2013 election challenger said she is involved in a “double game” during the debt crisis, playing off bailout skeptics in her coalition against European partners that demand Germany does more to defend the euro.

Peer Steinbrueck, Merkel’s first-term finance minister who is the main opposition Social Democratic Party’s lead candidate in elections due next fall, told lower-house lawmakers in Berlin today that Merkel will eventually have to agree to do more to fight the crisis three years after it emerged in Greece.

“No rescue fund can be too big for this Europe of 500 million people,” Steinbrueck said in a speech to lawmakers including Merkel before she travels to Brussels for a European summit. “Germany’s future is Europe and we will have to invest in this future in exactly the same way we invested in the reunification of Germany.” It is Merkel’s “duty” to explain this to Germans, he said.

Steinbrueck used his first direct response to Merkel since his nomination this month to attack her crisis handling. Both he and Merkel have said the crisis will be a key campaign theme for the national elections.

‘Mobbing’ Greece

The SPD challenger accused Merkel’s coalition of “mobbing” Greece over the summer months, when members of her CSU Bavarian coalition partner said that Greece should be “cut free” from the euro. Neither Helmut Kohl, Merkel’s one-time mentor, nor any of her predecessors “would have allowed their European partners to be abused like that for domestic political reasons,” Steinbrueck said.

Steinbrueck predicted that for all her current objections, Merkel will probably have to agree to a third Greek bailout, just as he said she overturned her prior opposition to the European Central Bank buying sovereign bonds, the permanent rescue fund and ECB President Mario Draghi’s bond-buying concept.

Merkel “has become driven, someone who says no for so long until the pressure of reality threatens to blow the lid on pan, forcing you to say yes,” Steinbrueck said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Parkin in Berlin at bparkin@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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