Tuesday, 16 January, 2018

German Lawmakers Reach Breakthrough in Talks to Form a New Government

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Kenny Thornton | 13 January, 2018, 03:15

A deal that paves the way towards a new coalition government in Germany between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the Social Democrats is "good for Europe", the French government said on Friday.

However, an SPD party conference set down for January 21 still has to approve holding the talks for a rerun of the Merkel-led coalition that has ruled the nation for eight of the chancellor's 12 years in power.

Across the table were negotiators from the SPD, led by Martin Schulz, and the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian conservative party. The vote saw all three parties lose considerable ground compared to 2013, with the far-right Alternative for Germany picking up most of the migrating voters.

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".

September's inconclusive elections have meant that Germany has essentially been working as a minority government for four months.

However, the SPD is still facing strong opposition of a renewed grand coalition, especially from its grassroots and youth members, who are anxious about the further marginalization of the party in its cooperation with the Union.

Merkel sounded optimistic ahead of the talks, commenting last Sunday that she believed an agreement "can be done", but the SPD's Schulz vowed to extract concessions from the CDU/CSU on many of its key policies.

At least that's the plan of Chancellor Angela Merkel and her political allies, who Friday crafted a deal aimed at ending Germany's 3 1/2-month political crisis.

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"She is tasked with putting together a government, and she hasn't done it", said Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund and a former presidential adviser.

One primary reason for investors' cheer - which saw the euro jump to a three-year high of $1.2156 against the dollar - was simply relief that the country's political situation was being sorted out, nearly four months after the September 24 election. That vote will likely depend on whether rank and file members are satisfied that the party will have greater influence in a new government than in the previous grand coalition.

Merkel, weakened by an election setback in September, turned to the left-leaning Social Democrats (SPD) to seek a re-run of their so-called "grand coalition" after the collapse in November of talks on a three-way coalition untested at national level.

Talks focused mainly on differences over tax and migration. "Rather, it is always also a responsibility for Europe, and for reliability, partnership and engagement in global politics", he said. If talks go well, another grand coalition could be in place by Easter.

The most controversial part of the various coalition negotiations has been refugees: not so much the premise of accepting them, but the awkward and inconsistent manner they were handled once they arrived.

"The mood of the party rank-and-file with regards to a grand coalition is still grim".

The three parties didn't officially give up Germany's target of a 40 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 compared with 1990, which a draft earlier this week had suggested they would. "So the question, for instance, will be whether she will stay for the whole term or whether she will actually build a successor and hand over to that person".

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