With less than a month to go before Germany’s Sept. 22 federal elections, Chancellor Angela Merkel has sought to shift the blame for the euro zone’s debt crisis on to her Social Democrat predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder.
Addressing a crowd of about 1,000 supporters in the northern German town of Rendsburg on Tuesday, Merkel said: “Greece shouldn’t have been allowed into the euro” in 2001. “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.”
Though Merkel is tipped to win a third successive term in the upcoming election, in part because she has polled well among the German electorate for her handling of the euro zone crisis, she has faced increased criticism from her current Social Democrat opponent, Peer Steinbrueck. The Social Democrat challenger, whose party scores 14-19% behind Merkel’s bloc in current polls, has suggested that Merkel has not been upfront about the costs of saving the euro.
Steinbrueck’s comments come after the Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, said on Aug. 20 at an election rally that Greece will need a third bailout to plug a forthcoming funding gap. Greek officials have said that this new bailout will involve much smaller sums than previous rescue packages from the IMF, European Central Bank and the European Union.
In spite of her vocalised misgivings about Greece’s entry to the euro zone, Merkel reaffirmed her commitment to a strong single currency. “The euro is more than a currency,” she said. “For this reason we’ve shown solidarity, but solidarity always linked to responsibility for reforms in those countries that experience our solidarity.”