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Michael Sohn/AP/Press Association Images
Elections 2014

Angela Merkel: The rise of populist parties is remarkable and regrettable

But she is happy today with her own party wins.

GERMANY’S ANGELA MERKEL said the rise of populist parties in European Parliament elections was “remarkable and regrettable” and the answer was to push European competitiveness, jobs and growth.

After her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won the German vote, the chancellor praised the “solid result” of the conservatives in her country and Europe-wide.

However, she shied away from saying that the conservatives’ top candidate Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg should automatically be the next European Commission president to succeed Jose Manuel Barroso.

With neither the conservative European People’s Party nor the Socialists having won a clear majority of 376 seats, she said “there must be talks” on who fills the post of European Commission president.

She said European Council President Herman Van Rompuy would now lead talks with faction leaders of the European Parliament – a body which has demanded a greater say on who fills the top post.

The talks would deal both with who should take the EU’s top executive post and with issues such as how to fight “unemployment, the question of how we can become competitive and how we can create growth,” Merkel said.

On the rise of populist and eurosceptic parties, including of the far-right National Front in France, she said “it’s quite remarkable and regrettable, but now the point is to win those voters back”.

That’s also true for France, and I think that a policy that aims at competitiveness, growth and jobs is the best answer to the disappointment of those who voted in a way that we don’t like.

She urged a course in European politics that “reaches the people. They are not interested in questions such as ‘treaty change, yes or no?’ but in the question of how Europe affects them and their lives.”

And with unemployment as high as the current level, with such a situation in some countries, this means that there is insufficient trust, and that has to get better in the next five years.

She said “France is indeed on a remarkable reform path, and I think this has put it on track in order for France to have more success and growth.”

On the German result, she said, “We are pleased that the (Christian Democratic) Union was the strongest force, with a significant margin over the Social Democrats, and that we could make a contribution to the European People’s Party being the strongest faction.”

- © AFP, 2014

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