Chancellor Angela Merkel took her election campaign to a former whaling station in the North Sea, offering holidaymakers a pared-down version of her platform as she set out on a six-stop campaign tour of German beach resorts.
Addressing a crowd of about 5,000 on the island of Borkum’s beachfront promenade yesterday, Merkel breezed through her government’s achievements of the past term and made the case for another four years. Defending the euro, securing the lowest youth jobless rate in Europe and turning Germany’s budget deficit into a modest surplus all make the Christian Democrats the party of choice in Sept. 22 elections, she said, barely mentioning the opposition.
“I’d really like to keep running this country,” Merkel said, yet the elections are only partly about choosing who will be the chancellor. “It’s mainly about you, about your life, about the question of who you trust to lead the country through the tides, international and national, in Europe and elsewhere, so that we can be successful.”
Merkel arrived on Borkum, the largest and most-westerly of the East Frisian islands, after she was inundated with questions about U.S. spying on Germany at a press conference in Berlin. The chancellor assured the audience in Borkum that she was on top of the matter, before moving on to the challenges of a third term: globalization, demographic change and tackling a Europe where “every young person without a job is one too many.”
Borkum prospered from whaling until the end of the 18th century and is now entirely dependent on tourism. One of the island attractions is a fence made of whale jaw bones which once encircled the house of Captain Roloef Gerritsz Meyer, who killed 270 whales during his 44 years of hunting in Arctic waters, according to a plaque nearby.
The island, which lies about 30 kilometers (18 miles) offshore, or two and a half hours by ferry, was the first of three North Sea destinations for the chancellor. She is due to visit a further three resorts on the Baltic Sea July 22.
While the hour-long stop offered a flavor of the campaign to come, Merkel didn’t once mention her main election opponent, Social Democrat Peer Steinbrueck. She won applause for a pledge to spend more on insurance for elderly care so that people “at the end of their lives can enjoy truly humane treatment.”
Little more than nine weeks before the election, Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc leads Steinbrueck’s SPD by as many as 18 percentage points in the polls and she remains Germany’s most popular politician, increasing her approval rating in an FG Wahlen poll published July 12. As she prepares to go on vacation, Merkel is preferred by 62 percent of respondents, while 29 percent favor Steinbrueck.
“Read a book or simply do nothing,” she told the crowd on Borkum, perhaps mindful of her impending break. “It’s a lovely day.” She was then presented with a compass and box of East Frisian tea.
“I liked that she spoke to all generations and didn’t pick on the other parties,” said Cornelia Zeuner, 55, of Salzbergen in Lower Saxony, who had decided to skip her beach walk and swim so that she could listen to Merkel. “I have a different feeling about voting now.”