Ger­many’s Merkel makes break­through

Manila Times - - WORLD - AFP

BER­LIN: Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel said her conservatives reached a break­through deal Fri­day (Satur­day in Manila) with Ger­many’s sec­ond big­gest party, the So­cial Democrats, to build a new coali­tion gov­ern­ment to give Europe a “fresh start.”

Af­ter more than 24 hours of talks and months of po­lit­i­cal paralysis, red-eyed party chiefs and their ne­go­ti­at­ing teams reached an in-prin­ci­ple agree­ment that could lead to a new gov­ern­ment for the big­gest EU econ­omy in com­ing months.

In the all-night ne­go­ti­a­tions in Ber­lin, the three sides—Merkel’s Chris­tian Democrats, Horst See­hofer of her Bavar­ian al­lies the CSU, and the So­cial Democrats (SPD) of Martin Schulz—ham­mered out a 28-page pa­per as the ba­sis for the for­mal coali­tion talks ahead.

The hope was to form a new gov­ern­ment “be­fore Easter,” which falls on April 1, said the CSU’s See­hofer.

In their joint blue­print, the par­ties agreed on key pol­icy out­lines—to join EU part­ner France in a push to “strengthen and re­form” the eu­ro­zone, to limit the in­flux of asy­lum seek­ers to Ger­many to around 200,000 a year, and to re­frain from tax hikes given the healthy state of public cof­fers.

Merkel voiced re­lief that the trio of par­ties had passed a mile­stone, telling a press con­fer­ence that “the world is not wait­ing for us—we need a fresh start in Europe. A fresh start for Europe is also a fresh start for Ger­many.”

Euro­pean Com­mis­sion president Jean-Claude Juncker said the deal was “sig­nif­i­cant” and “pos­i­tive” for the EU’s fu­ture, while French President Em­manuel Macron said he was “sat­is­fied and happy” that the dead­lock was bro­ken.

De­spite the agree­ment, po­ten­tial pit­falls re­main, in­clud­ing up­com­ing votes by skep­ti­cal SPD del­e­gates and mem­bers that could yet de­rail plans for an­other left-right “grand coali­tion”—the con­stel­la­tion that has ruled Ger­many for the past four years and re­mains in charge as a care­taker gov­ern­ment.

Ger­many has been in po­lit­i­cal limbo since a Septem­ber 24 elec­tion in which Merkel failed to win a clear ma­jor­ity—in part due to the rise of the far-right Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) which took mil­lions of votes from all ma­jor par­ties.

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