Friedrich Merz, the bookmakers’ favourite to become the next leader of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, hit out at plans for the EU to raise money on the financial markets before handing it to member states as grants. The veteran politician, who originally quit politics in 2009 to pursue a corporate career, said the idea was “bumping against the limits of the EU treaties”. As a member of the Bundestag, Mr Merz pushed back against the Eurozone becoming a “transfer union” which would see wealthy nations like Germany regularly bail out their poorer neighbours.
He promised voters that the plan would not become reality, saying: “I feel myself to be bound by this promise.”
Mr Merz, a millionaire lawyer and former chairman of BlackRock Germany, is one of three candidates standing in an election to become the leader of Germany’s most popular political party.
His views of the EU are said to resemble those of the “frugal four” – Austria, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.
If he secures the leadership this could see Germany eventually reposition itself amongst fellow EU states.
Mr Merz is polling ahead of his rivals ahead of Saturday’s ballot on a pledge to make the CDU more conservative.
He faces stiff competition from rivals Norbert Rottgen, chairman of the Budestag’s influential foreign affairs committee, and Armin Laschet, prime minister of the North Rhine-Westphalia region.
The winner will be in pole position to run as the CDU’s candidate for chancellor in September’s election.
Mrs Merkel’s departure after 16 years on the political stage is expected to cause political ripples across the EU.
Herfried Munkler, a political scientist at the Humboldt University in Berlin, believes a shift in Germany’s EU outlook could have “far-reaching consequences” for the bloc.
“This role of honest broker, of mediator – it’s coming to an end.”
Mr Munkler predicted a victory for Mr Merz could see the biggest shift, adding: “It would become a different style, much rougher and bossier.”
Mr Merz, in a book published last year, insisted Germany must “learn the language of power”.
While he considers himself to be a pro-Brussels politician, Mr Merz wants Germany to assert itself on the world stage and cede less powers to Brussels.
“More than ever before, we have to defend out interests within the European Union,” he said.
In a debate between the three candidates earlier this month, Mr Merz questioned further steps towards EU integration.
He said: “I’m sceptical about transferring more powers to the European Union.
“The EU will only have a future if the nation states remain its key pillars. I don’t want to see an EU in which our identity dissolves and we’re all just Europeans.”