CDU/CSU promise to continue Merkel-era evolution over revolution

Armin Laschet pledges ‘modernisation drive for Germany’ and rules out tax increases

Christian Democratic Union  leader Armin Laschet with Christian Social Union  leader Markus Soeder: Critics say  Mr Laschet’s programme lacks detail. Photograph:  Michele Tantussi

Christian Democratic Union leader Armin Laschet with Christian Social Union leader Markus Soeder: Critics say Mr Laschet’s programme lacks detail. Photograph: Michele Tantussi

 

Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union has promised there will be no tax hikes if it receives a fifth consecutive mandate in September, the first without chancellor Angela Merkel.

CDU leader Armin Laschet hopes to inherit the chancellery keys from Dr Merkel with a manifesto, unveiled on Monday, that promises “stability and renewal”.

Together with the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), the centre-right parliamentary grouping has promised a “modernisation drive for Germany” that combines “consistent climate protection with economic strength and social security”.

“This is not a programme of major tax cuts,” said Mr Laschet, adding that such a policy would be “unrealistic” given Germany’s pandemic debt mountain. “But it is a programme that has been seriously calculated and can be realistically implemented.”

Critics begged to differ, saying the programme lacked detail and numbers. Most attention has focused on its promise to reduce the tax burden for lower and medium earners – in particular families. 

‘Soldarity surcharge’

Another key election promise is the staggered abolition of the so-called “soldarity surcharge”, introduced to finance the cost of unification in 1990, and still paid by top-earners. A final tax idea is to look at reducing the fiscal burden on firms and avoid Germany having the world’s highest corporate tax of 25 per cent.

Climate questions are likely to loom large in the September election, with the Green Party breathing down CDU/CSU necks. Monday’s manifesto promises to push ahead with German greenhouse gas neutrality by 2045, as agreed by the Merkel administration, through carbon emissions trading.

In addition, the CDU/CSU will push to achieve “as soon as possible . . . a newly established European missions trading system”. Finally, the two party leaders promised to drive ahead with digital transformation of German bureaucracy, after its analogue weaknesses were exposed in the pandemic

Much of the foreign policy section is an evolution rather than revolution of the Merkel era: it rejects EU membership for Turkey and calls for a united front from Europe and the United States against China, “the greatest foreign and security policy challenge of our time”.

Stance on China

Still, Mr Laschet is more cautious than the Biden administration’s framing of China as an “adversary”. Instead he said the country was both “systemic rival” but also “partner, particularly in things like fighting climate change”.

Mr Laschet also promised to continue the firm EU sanctions stance on Russia though. In an interview with the Financial Times, he called for the West to “establish a sensible relationship” with Moscow.

Monday’s presentation was a chance for the CDU leader to present a united front with Bavaria’s CSU leader Markus Söder, after a bruising battle to secure the nomination as lead election candidate.

Mr Söder admitted “disappointment” not to be running for the top post, but said: “We have cleared everything up and talked it out with each other.”

After months of in-fighting, and a slide into second place in polls, the centre-right grouping enjoyed a strong performance in a recent regional poll and is now steady on 28 per cent in polls, seven points ahead of the Greens.