Merkel, facing Iraq hostage crisis, charts course for Germany
Updated: 2005-12-01 09:26
Angela Merkel, in her first speech to parliament as German chancellor,
pledged to return the country to its status as an economic powerhouse and said
her government would not be blackmailed over the fate of a hostage in Iraq.
Merkel began the address with a tough message for the captors of German aid
worker Susanne Osthoff and her driver, missing in Iraq since Friday.
"We will not be blackmailed," Merkel said, responding to her first test as
chancellor a week after taking the helm of a fragile power-sharing coalition.
"The federal government and this chamber, I am sure, strongly condemn this
Merkel said her left-right alliance of conservative Christian Democrats and
rival Social Democrats, the product of an inconclusive election in September,
would now set to work to revive the country's moribund economy.
"We want to create the conditions for Germany to be among the top three in
Europe in 10 years" in terms of economic growth, she told deputies in a keenly
awaited, 90-minute address.
Merkel said her administration had taken
office with a mandate to slash the 11-percent unemployment rate and tame the
spiralling public deficit.
Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic
Union gives her first speech to parliament as German Chancellor at the
Bundestag (lower house of parliament) in Berlin November 30, 2005.
"We want to get the labor market in shape, we want to make our schools and
universities world-class, we want to bring the deficit under control and repair
our health, pension and nursing systems," she said to applause.
"No one can stop us in this effort -- apart from ourselves."
She paid tribute to her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, a Social Democrat,
for launching a "courageous" economic reform drive.
"He did a great service for our country. I would like to thank him in the
name of all Germans for that," she said in a gesture of bi-partisanship.
Merkel, 51, who is Germany's first female leader and the first from
the east, struck a personal note when she discussed her hopes for the
"The biggest surprise of my lifetime is freedom," she said, saying she had
never expected to see the other side of the Berlin Wall before she retired.
"Let us dare to have more freedom," she said. That included loosening some of
the notoriously rigid bureaucratic rules that she said snuffed out economic
Merkel also took a moment to savor her own historic rise