Merkel close to end­ing coali­tion im­passe

Irish Examiner - - World News - Geir Moul­son

Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel took a sig­nif­i­cant step to­ward end­ing Germany’s lengthy po­lit­i­cal im­passe by se­cur­ing a pre­lim­i­nary agree­ment to en­ter for­mal coali­tion talks with a cen­treleft party.

The deal was wel­comed by Germany’s Euro­pean al­lies.

Ex­hausted ne­go­tia­tors from Merkel’s con­ser­va­tive Union bloc and the cen­treleft So­cial Democrats pre­sented their deal, which in­cludes pledges to strengthen the EU and keep a lid on the num­ber of mi­grants en­ter­ing Germany, fol­low­ing over 24 hours of non-stop talks to cap a week of wran­gling.

“We have achieved out­stand­ing re­sults,” said the So­cial Democrats’ leader, Martin Schulz. But to make a new gov­ern­ment a re­al­ity, he must first per­suade a party congress on Jan­uary 21 to agree to hold for­mal coali­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions. Then, if those talks are suc­cess­ful, he must steer a coali­tion deal through a bal­lot of the full party mem­ber­ship.

If things go well, a new gov­ern­ment could be formed by Easter, said Horst See­hofer, leader of the Chris­tian So­cial Union — the Bavariaonly sis­ter party to Merkel’s Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union.

“If we suc­ceed, these could be four very, very good years,” See­hofer said. “I am al­ready speak­ing of these years be­cause I be­lieve we will suc­ceed.”

The prospec­tive part­ners have gov­erned Germany to­gether for the past four years but Schulz, Merkel’s de­feated chal­lenger in Germany’s Septem­ber 24 elec­tion, ini­tially said af­ter the So­cial Democrats crashed to a disas­trous re­sult that they would go into op­po­si­tion. That de­ci­sion was pop­u­lar with mem­bers.

He re­luc­tantly re­con­sid­ered af­ter Merkel’s coali­tion talks with two smaller par­ties col­lapsed in Novem­ber.

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

“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. “We made that the ba­sis of our work.”

See­hofer’s CSU, which has taken a hard line on mi­gra­tion, has sought to re­in­force its law-and-or­der pro­file in the face of a chal­lenge from the Al­ter­na­tive for Germany party, which en­tered par­lia­ment for the first time in Septem­ber.

Yes­ter­day’s agree­ment states that the num­ber of asy­lum-seek­ers shouldn’t ex­ceed a range of 180,000220,000 an­nu­ally. And there will be a 1,000-per-month limit on the num­ber of rel­a­tives al­lowed to join mi­grants in Germany who have a sta­tus be­low full asy­lum.

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

Doreen Tracey on ‘The Mickey Mouse Club’ in the 1950s.

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