March 20, 2018

Germany coalition talks: Merkel aides see breakthrough

13 January 2018, 04:03 | Kevin Scott

Angela Merkel CSU chief Horst Seehofer and SPD leader Martin Schulz announce their blueprint for coalition REUTERS Fabrizio Bensch

Angela Merkel CSU chief Horst Seehofer and SPD leader Martin Schulz announce their blueprint for coalition                  REUTERS  Fabrizio Bensch

Left party chairwoman Sahra Wagenknecht said the deal would perpetuate "blatant social injustice", including Germany's precarious low-wage sector and poverty in old age, while business raked in "gushing dividends".

Before the next round of talks to revive the "grand coalition" that has governed since 2013 can take place, the SPD must give the go-ahead at a special party conference planned for January 21.

But that will likely depend on whether she can build on the policy document agreed today over the coming months and forge what would be her third "grand coalition" with the SPD. That decision was popular with members.

Merkel initially attempted to form a coalition with two smaller parties.

The conservatives also performed poorly in the election, and the three coalition parties' support dropped by a total of almost 14 percentage points. "That's why I think we have a good chance", said Kuehnert. "We made that the basis of our work".

The mass influx drove the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party which scored nearly 13 percent in September elections.

In their joint blueprint, the three parties agreed on key policy outlines - to join European Union partner France in a push to "strengthen and reform" the 19-member eurozone, to limit the controversial influx of asylum seekers to Germany to around 200,000 a year, and to refrain from tax hikes given the healthy state of state coffers.

Roughly in line with a core CSU demand, they agreed that "the number of new arrivals. should not exceed the range of 180,000 to 220,000 per year".

The conservatives were able to stick with a pledge not to raise taxes, which the SPD had wanted to do for the very rich.

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Merkel highlighted promises to hire 15,000 more police officers and 2,000 people to strengthen the justice system.

On energy and climate, the parties agreed to formally stick with Germany's carbon emission reduction goals, even if experts agree Germany looks set to overshoot its 2020 target. According to the German media, the three parties agreed not to raise taxes if they form a governing alliance, and to increase Germany's input to the European Union budget.

Merkel now leads a caretaker government, limiting her ability to take major policy initiatives as French President Emmanuel Macron pushes an ambitious European reform agenda.

"We have felt since the elections that the world will not wait for us, and in particular regarding Europe we are convinced we need a new call for Europe", Merkel, who has played a central role in tackling crises over the euro and refugees, told journalists after talks that had run through the night. The coalition paper foresees the new government drawing up a timetable for phasing out coal power by the end of this year.

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

France and Bulgaria, which now holds the rotating European Union presidency, welcomed Friday's developments. "It is a significant, positive, forward-looking contribution to European policy debate in Europe", he added.

Since the September 24 federal elections Germany has not yet formed a new government so that Merkel's caretaker government could not make major policy changes on any issues.

Boost Franco-German cooperation with projects such as new centre for artificial intelligence. When the agreement was announced, Kevin Kühnert, who heads the Social Democrats' influential youth wing, responded with a punning Twitter post likening the breakthrough in talks to appendicitis. Another lawmaker, Frank Schwabe, described the deal on migrant's relatives as "shabby". Left-leaning lawmaker Hilde Mattheis said the result was "disappointing" and would produce "no new policies for more fairness and solidarity".

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