21 January,


German coalition talks 'to move on to next stage' after marathon session

Politics

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Leaders of Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union bloc and the centre-left Social Democrats have reportedly cleared a first hurdle towards the formation of the next German government after marathon overnight talks.
 
The DPA news agency and other German media, citing talks participants, reported on Friday that party leaders were preparing to recommend formal coalition negotiations after agreeing compromises on a wide-range of issues.
 
Newspaper Bild reported that the breakthrough was reached after Merkel’s conservatives ceded to the demands of the SPD leader, Martin Schulz, for a equalisation of health-insurance contributions made by employers and employees.
 
Under Germany’s multi-payer healthcare system, employers and employees used to contribute an equal amount towards each individual’s statutory “sickness fund”, but since a reform to the system in 2005 insurants have increasingly had to shoulder additional payments on their own.
 
In return, reports indicated that the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s CDU had succeeded in its goal to limit the number of family members who can be reunited with refugees that have already been granted asylum in Germany.
 
Christian Democrat and Social Democrat leaders have reportedly also agreed to lower the tax surcharge introduced to fund the reunification of east and west Germany by 10bn euros by 2021.
 
According to a coalition paper leaked to German press on Friday morning, the new government would be “prepared to make higher contributions to the EU budget”, as well as support “funds for economic convergence and social convergence and support of structural reforms that can be starting point for future investment budget for Eurozone”.
 
In the early stages of exploratory talks this week, it was reported that Germany’s would-be coalition partners have agreed to drop plans to lower carbon dioxide emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020.
 
Without additional measures, Germany is set to miss its 2020 emissions target, due to higher-than-expected levels of economic growth.
 
Negotiation talks at the SPD headquarters in Berlin were on Thursday night accompanied by noisy protests by climate change activists and workers in the country’s coal industry.
 
SPD delegates will vote on whether to move talks to the next stage at a party conference on 21 January. Even then, the Social Democrats’ leaders will still have to sell the coalition to their membership, and will face resistance.
 
If talks fail, Merkel’s only remaining options will be to form a minority government or hold new elections.
 
The Social Democrats had initially ruled out another coalition with Merkel after poor results in the 24 September election, but reconsidered after her talks with two other parties failed.

Guardian

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