Germany's top parties reach coalition deal after long talks

Frederick Owens
February 10, 2018

But reneging on his vow not to serve as a minister in a Merkel-led cabinet prompted a wave of criticism from many party members still smarting over his decision to renew the loveless "grand coalition" despite initially pledging to take the SPD into opposition. That result will be announced on March 4. "For that reason, I declare that I won't enter into the federal government - and at the same time sincerely hope to put an end to the personnel debate within the SPD".

The agreement for a renewed "grand coalition" comes after days of marathon talks in which negotiators from all three parties haggled over everything from foreign policy to labor issues and healthcare.

The steering committee of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), is set to approve the new German coalition deal on Thursday.

Ms Merkel made heavy concessions to the Social Democrats (SPD) after breaking more than four months of political deadlock to agree to form a coalition government - including handing over the powerhouse Finance Ministry.

But inside Germany, FDP leader Christian Lindner said the CDU had been "willing to give the SPD everything - key ministries and top positions - to keep the chancellorship".

"The way in which Schulz left could make it hard to quickly focus on the party's achievements in the coalition talks", Carsten Nickel, a Brussels-based analyst at Teneo Intelligence, said in an e-mail response to questions.

Mr Joffe added the election last year was a "popular vote of no-confidence" after losing supporters to the Alternative for Germany (AfD) following years of political turmoil after Europe's migration crisis in 2015, insisting it is now a "cosmic joke" the two parties are joining forces.

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But the deal will still need to be approved by SPD members.

Former European Parliament chief Schulz said he meant to take over the foreign ministry and was giving up the SPD leadership after just over a year in the role.

CDU members are smarting at having to cede the vital Finance Ministry to the SPD.

Discontent also simmered in parts of the conservative bloc on Friday.

Some commentators have suggested a mid-term review due two years into the government could offer Merkel the opportunity to step down gracefully from a job she has held since 2005.

But upon the failure of coalition talks between Merkel's conservatives, the liberal FDP and Greens, Schulz led Social Democrats in coalition negotiations with the CDU/CSU alliance.

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