Breakthrough after marathon talks on German coalition deal
LEADERS of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Union bloc and the centre-left Social Democrats agreed early yesterday on the basis to move ahead with coalition negotiations, after marathon overnight talks.
Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the Bavarian-only Christian Social Union and the Social Democrats produced a 28-page document outlining their compromise positions on a wide range of issues, including taxes, migration and health care.
“Many, many hours of work, serious wrangling and shaping are contained in these 28 pages,” tweeted CDU lawmaker Julia Kloeckner, part of Mrs Merkel’s negotiating team.
Social Democratic leader Martin Schulz said: “I think we have achieved outstanding results. For us, what we have written in this preliminary agreement is not rhetoric, we mean it very seriously.”
He still faces the major hurdles of getting his party to approve entering formal coalition negotiations with Mrs Merkel’s conservatives, as well as any coalition agreement, but said it was a good indicator of support that his 13-member negotiating team had decided unanimously to recommend going ahead with talks.
After the week of negotiations and the overnight session, an obviously tired Mrs Merkel told reporters she too was “optimistic that things will move forward”.
“We are working seriously ... on creating the conditions to be able to live well in Germany in 10 or 15 years,” she said.
“We dealt with questions of investment for the future,” she added, pointing to education, digitalisation, energy and construction as major issues.
Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union, added that if the Social Democrats give the green light, an agreement may be reached before Easter with the current momentum.
“If we succeed, these could be four very, very good years – I am already speaking of these years because I believe we will succeed,” he said.
Had the talks failed, Mrs Merkel’s only options would have been to form a minority government or hold new elections.
Social Democrat spokesman Serkan Agci told reporters outside his party’s headquarters, where the talks took place, that there had been a “breakthrough” agreed upon by the party leaders but said final revisions were still being made on the document by negotiating teams, which would also need approval.
Details were to be announced later yesterday, but according to a draft copy the sides agreed to keep the top tax rate at 42 per cent rather than raise it to 45 as the Social Democrats had wanted, and to limit the number of migrant family members who will be allowed to join asylum seekers in Germany, as well as the overall number of migrants allowed in the country each year, the dpa news agency reported.
They also agreed to several issues pushed by the Social Democrats, including stabiliszing pension payments, increasing money for families with children, better financing of daycare and free kindergartens, dpa reported.
The paper calls for increased German financing for the European Union so that it can strengthen its institutions.
The final negotiating session between the sides began on Thursday and participants, who had already worked all week, worked through the night to come to the agreement.
Despite the agreement, the possibility of a new coalition of Mrs Merkel’s bloc with the Social Democrats, as governed Germany in the outgoing government, is still far from a done deal.
Among other things, the Social Democrats’ leaders will still have to sell entering coalition talks to a party conference, and face much resistance.
The sides then need to hash out the actual coalition agreement, which would have to be approved in a ballot of the Social Democrats’ entire membership.
Following a dismal result in Germany’s September 24 election, the Social Democrats initially vowed not to enter into another government with Merkel’s conservatives, but reconsidered their position after the long-time chancellor’s attempts to form a coalition with two smaller parties collapsed.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier appealed to the negotiators on Thursday to consider their responsibility toward Europe, not just their own parties and political futures.
Part of the agreement involved calls for increased German financing for the European Union so it can strengthen its institutions.
“We have, in what feels like a long time since the election, seen that the world will not wait for us,” Mrs Merkel explained.
“We are convinced that we need a new awakening for Europe. So I have no worries about us finding common solutions with France.”
This article first appeared in our sister title USA Today.
What we have written in this preliminary agreement is not rhetoric, we mean it
Angela Merkel announces the success of the all-night preliminary coalition talks in Berlin, Germany, ahead of further negotiations.