Ger­many’s SPD lay out po­si­tion for talks with Merkel

Tehran Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The lead­ers of Ger­many’s So­cial Democrats (SPD) agreed on Mon­day to en­ter talks with Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s con­ser­va­tives on form­ing a govern­ment that could end po­lit­i­cal dead­lock in Europe’s largest econ­omy.

The cen­ter-left SPD set the con­tours of its de­mands in coali­tion talks with the con­ser­va­tives ex­pected to start next year in a doc­u­ment seen by Reuters, with pro­pos­als on is­sues like the econ­omy and im­mi­gra­tion likely to cause fric­tion.

Merkel turned to the SPD af­ter she failed to form a three-way al­liance with the left-lean­ing Greens and the pro-busi­ness Free Democrats, plung­ing Ger­many into a po­lit­i­cal im­passe and rais­ing doubt about her fu­ture af­ter 12 years in power.

On the highly di­vi­sive is­sue of im­mi­gra­tion, one of the main rea­sons for the col­lapse of Merkel’s first ef­fort, the SPD said it op­posed a con­ser­va­tive plan to ex­tend a ban on the right to fam­ily re­unions for some asy­lum seek­ers that ex­pires in March.

“Fam­ily re­unions and the co­hab­i­ta­tion of a fam­ily lead to good in­te­gra­tion,” the SPD doc­u­ment said. “That’s why we are against the ex­ten­sion the sus­pen­sion of fam­ily re­unions.”

Merkel could also face com­pli­ca­tions em­a­nat­ing from her own con­ser­va­tive camp.

Her arch-con­ser­va­tive al­lies in Bavaria on Mon­day named a right-winger to be their can­di­date for the pre­mier­ship in a re­gional elec­tion next year. The move raises the risk of dis­putes in Merkel’s con­ser­va­tive bloc and weaken her hand as she ne­go­ti­ates with the SPD.

Markus Soeder will be the Chris­tian So­cial Union (CSU) can­di­date for pre­mier in a vote in the rich state of Bavaria next au­tumn where the far-right Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) is set to en­ter the re­gional par­lia­ment for the first time.

Macron or Merkel’s Europe?

Merkel’s Chris­tian Democrats (CDU) and their sis­ter party CSU bled sup­port to the AfD in the gen­eral elec­tion on Sept. 24 and the Bavaria-based CSU fears the far-right party will steal con­ser­va­tive vot­ers an­gry with the chan­cel­lor’s de­ci­sion in 2015 to open Ger­many’s door to more than a mil­lion asy­lum seek­ers.

The fu­ture of cur­rent Bavar­ian pre­mier Horst See­hofer had been in ques­tion since the elec­tion. Af­ter the elec­tion losses, Merkel re­luc­tantly ac­cepted a CSU de­mand to put a limit on the num­ber of asy­lum seek­ers Ger­many will ac­cept each year.

The SPD did not stake out a po­si­tion on the con­ser­va­tives’ up­per limit on refugees in their doc­u­ment.

The SPD, which has gov­erned in coali­tion un­der Merkel since 2013, suf­fered its worst elec­tion re­sult in post­war his­tory and is re­luc­tant to join another “grand coali­tion”.

It dropped its pledge to sit in op­po­si­tion af­ter Merkel failed to form a govern­ment, bow­ing to pres­sure from Pres­i­dent Frank-Wal­ter Steimeier to un­wind the im­passe.

The SPD will hold a party congress in Ber­lin on Dec. 7-9, where it is ex­pected to de­bate its po­si­tion in coali­tion talks.

The fu­ture of the Euro­pean Union and euro zone re­forms cham­pi­oned by French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron are another pol­icy is­sue that could com­pli­cate life for Merkel.

The SPD said dur­ing the elec­tion that Ger­many should em­brace Macron’s pro­pos­als.

In its po­si­tion doc­u­ment, the SPD said Ger­many should work with Macron on strength­en­ing the Euro­pean project through eco­nomic poli­cies geared to fight high youths un­em­ploy­ment.

It did not men­tion key el­e­ments of Macron’s de­mands that the euro zone should have its own bud­get and fi­nance min­is­ter but it did men­tion his plan for closer co­op­er­a­tion in de­fense.

On the econ­omy, the SPD’s pro­pos­als for more rights for work­ers and em­ployee-friendly reg­u­la­tion of the large tem­po­rary work sec­tor could draw fire from the CSU.

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