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Germany

Upcoming Europe elections under focus at CDU congress

Germany's ruling Christian Democratic party is holding a congress ahead of upcoming EU parliamentary elections. The party hopes the attendance of the conservatives' top candidate will be a boost against the Socialists.

Juncker in Berlin ahead of EU elections

High on the agenda for Saturday's meeting in Berlin is the stability of the euro, industrial policy and creating jobs - topics central to the theme of the gathering, titled "Achieving Success Together in Europe." Christian Democrats (CDU) Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the one thousand delegates later in the day, as well as the party's top candidate for the Europe elections in May, David McAllister.

Ahead of the meet, McAllister told a German newspaper that the stability of the euro should play a special role in the election campaign, as should the CDU's stance against pooling of debt in the euro area.

"We clearly say no to euro bonds," McAllister told the Dusseldorf's Rheinische Post newspaper.

Juncker warns against extremism

Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured), the conservative center-right candidate for European Commission president, opened the congress with a different tone, warning against renewed right-wing extremism. Juncker said it would be a disaster for Europe if the radical right were given more of a platform to further advance their cause.

However, he warned that not every critic of Europe, including the EU skeptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD), should be stamped with an extreme-right badge.

Juncker, a Luxembourgish politician and the first president of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, was chosen in March as the lead EU presidential candidate of the European People's Party (EPP). He will face off against the Socialists' candidate, German politician and European Parliament president Martin Schulz, and former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, the choice of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

The EPP hopes to remain the strongest in the European Parliament after May's elections, despite a challenge from the Socialists. The presidential winner will take over from EPP incumbent Jose Manuel Barroso, who is stepping down after 10 years in the job.

Turkey under discussion

In Berlin on Saturday, Juncker said it would "take much longer" than the next five or ten years for Turkey to join the EU, citing "significant setbacks in the democratization process" in the country. A recent corruption scandal has implicated the inner circle of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while the country's high court this week ordered the unblocking of Twitter, saying the recent ban violated individual freedoms.

However Juncker said the EU negotiations with Turkey should continue, and particularly focus on contentious areas such as justice and the rule of law.

He also reiterated that he wanted to become European Commission president. Juncker said the Social Democrats did not have a "monopoly of the heart" when it comes to creating social policy, stressing that doing so was an every day concern of the Christian Democrats.

Peter Tauber new CDU Secretary General

Saturday's convention saw the election of Peter Tauber, a CDU politician from the German state of Hesse, as the party's new Secretary General. The 39-year-old received 97 per cent of the vote, having campaigned for the party to open itself up to migrants.

"We want to become the Union for immigrants," Tauber said to applause from the delegates. He also sharply criticized the recent internet social media blocking in Turkey.

Tauber had acted in the role over the past few months after his predecessor, Hermann Gröhe, became federal health minister.

jr/dr (AFP, dpa)

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