Merkel 'breakthrough' in German coalition talks

James Marshall
January 13, 2018

German Chancellor Angel Merkel's Christian Democrats, her Bavarian CSU allies and Martin Schulz's Social Democrats on Friday announced a policy blueprint for a future coalition government.

After overnight talks, the three parties, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the SPD will present the 28-page blueprint to GroKo - Grand Coalition abbreviation in German.

SPD delegates will vote on whether to move talks to the next stage at a party conference on 21 January.

The agreement set out compromise positions on a wide range of issues, including taxes, education and health care.

Manage and limit migration to Germany and Europe to prevent a re-run of the 2015 refugee influx.

"Even though these pre-coalition talks are meant more as a getting to know your partner, they really have become coalition talks", said Thomas Meyer, a political scientist at the University of Vienna, noting that final negotiations are increasingly based on the points hammered out during preliminary talks.

Another skeptical SPD parliamentarian, Marco Bülow, warned the deal would not ameliorate "great inequality" in Germany but boost left and far-right sentiment while further eroding decades of support for the SPD and Merkel's conservatives.

"This election result was a signal to politicians that business as usual wouldn't work and that we must show the people in this country we understand", Seehofer said.

The German parties' glacial place in setting up a new administration is testing the patience of voters who gave Merkel's Christian Democratic-led bloc the most votes in the September 24 contest. "I am already speaking of these years because I believe we will succeed".

Weakened by an election setback in September, Mrs Merkel turned to the left-leaning SPD to renew their grand coalition after the collapse in November of talks on a three-way coalition with the Greens and Free Democrats (FDP). Despite the challenges ahead, the news buoyed markets and sent the euro to a three-year high of $1.2138.

The conservatives also performed poorly in the election, and the three coalition parties' support dropped by a total of almost 14 percentage points.

But he has been forced to wait for months for a concrete response from Mrs Merkel, who has come under mounting criticism at home and overseas for her plodding reaction, aggravated by her failure to form a new government.

Germany, the EU's biggest economy, supports the ambitious reform drive of French President Emmanuel Macron and the European Commission but stays vague on some of the details. The parties pledged that Germany will play an active role in the debate on the EU's future and strengthening European integration.

The SPD's youth wing chief Kevin Kuehnert said he would embark on a national tour to press his case against a new grand coalition, known as "GroKo" in German political shorthand.

"So I have no worries about us finding common solutions with France".

It vows efforts to, "in close partnership with France, sustainably strengthen and reform the eurozone so that the euro can better withstand global crises".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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