• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

How is Germany faring in political limbo?

Kate Ferguson · 19 Nov 2013, 15:29

Published: 19 Nov 2013 15:29 GMT+01:00

If a week is a long time in politics, eight weeks without agreeing on a new government is surely an eternity.

Since Germany's election on September 22nd, Merkel's Conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) have been inching slowly towards a deal.

But time does not stand still waiting for Germany to get its act together, and the stalemate is beginning to be felt.

Since September, Germany has effectively been run by the pre-election government, albeit with a dramatically reduced mandate.

Finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, for instance, found himself more or less powerless when forced to travel to Brussels last week for a meeting of EU finance ministers without a mandate to agree a common plan to deal with ailing European banks. 

Schäuble opposes using funds from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to shore up failing banks, while his future coalition partners in the SPD support the plan - also backed by the European Central Bank and several member states.

The new coalition's tentative draft agreement states: “The CDU/CSU and SPD will consult together on the planned measures, decisions and legal initiatives of individual ministries. This also applies to voting at European level." 

If Schäuble must consult the coalition on every point of European fiscal policy, the minister could find himself severely limited in his ability to push forward his own agenda abroad. Many see this uncertainty on a European level as a threat to Germany's traditional leadership role in negotiations.

'Civil servants know what to do'

Despite the impasse, government ministries told The Local their ministers were carrying on as normal.

The education ministry said their minister, Johanna Wanka, had been busy in the coalition negotiations and had appointments most days this week in Berlin, Potsdam and Munich.

And outgoing health minister Daniel Bahr, whose party the FDP was voted out of parliament in September, recently attended a conference in Washington. Meanwhile outgoing economics minister Philipp Rösler, also of the FDP, travelled to Paris on Tuesday for a ministerial conference of the International Energy Agency.

German civil servants can be relied upon to run the show smoothly, said Professor Michael Wohlgemuth, director at think-tank Open Europe Berlin, while the work done by ministries would have eased off over the last two months.

“In some ministries, especially those that used to be run by FDP ministers, the workload has gone down dramatically – whereas anxiety is high on who will keep what kind of job. It is similar with ministries likely to go to the SPD, such as the foreign office and economics," he said.

But Professor Wohlgemuth added: “The people at the finance ministry, who have worked extra hours for years now, are still under stress with EU banking union and keeping track of all the extra billions of expenditure that the new coalition put on its wish-list.”

While Merkel's Conservatives received a ringing endorsement in the election, they fell just short of an absolute majority.

Story continues below…

After negotiations with the Green Party failed, the Social Democrats emerged as the most obvious coalition partner.

But the SDP are not overly enthusiastic about the idea of going into government with the Conservatives, a move that cost them considerable support during the last so-called "grand coalition" between 2005 and 2009.

As a result, the party has entered negotiations determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past, and is taking a firm line in its demands for a nationwide minimum wage of €8.50, an extension of gay rights and measures to fight old age poverty. "We will not pursue politics for a second time in which the SPD again breaches its self-concept," their leader Sigmar Gabriel vowed.

Additional reporting by Louise Osborne and Tom Bristow

READ MORE: Merkel and SPD agree on women's quota

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Kate Ferguson (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Berlin to teach Germans how to dance with wolves
Photo: DPA

Berlin to teach Germans how to dance with wolves
0 minutes ago

Wolves are once again roaming the forests of Germany after being wiped out over a century ago. The government is now providing nearly half a million Euros to teach people how to live with them in peace.

The Local List
7 songs to make your German lover swoon on Valentine's
Helene Fischer. Photo: DPA

7 songs to make your German lover swoon on Valentine's
2 hours ago

Germans aren’t known as an overly emotional bunch. But they’ve still created some of the most powerful ballads of all time - these seven are guaranteed to melt even the hardest Teuton heart.

Grow a thicker skin, Germany tells Poland
The carnival float was placed on display in Düsseldorf despite the parade being cancelled due to high winds. Photo: DPA

Grow a thicker skin, Germany tells Poland
2 hours ago

The German government reminded Poland on Wednesday that it doesn't control political speech within its borders, after Warsaw complained about a Düsseldorf carnival float which mocked the leader of its governing party.

Deutsche Bank stock price crash
Five reasons why Germany is worried about Deutsche Bank
File photo: DPA

Five reasons why Germany is worried about Deutsche Bank
6 hours ago

Since the beginning of 2016, Deutsche Bank – Germany's biggest lender – has lost 40 percent of its value on the stock market. What's got investors so spooked?

Cologne locals take refugees under their wing for Karneval
A charity-hosted "Karneval for Beginners" class for refugees in Cologne. Photo: DPA.

Cologne locals take refugees under their wing for Karneval
7 hours ago

Reactions to the New Year sexual assaults in Cologne have been strong, occasionally involving violence against refugees. But some Cologne locals decided to take immigrants under their wing for the city's biggest party.

Germany puts two SS men on trial over Auschwitz killings
Auschwitz. Photo: DPA

Germany puts two SS men on trial over Auschwitz killings
8 hours ago

Two former SS men will go on trial this month for their alleged complicity in the murder of thousands of people at Auschwitz, as Germany accelerates its bid to prosecute ageing Third Reich criminals.

Four arrested after grenade thrown at refugee home
A senior detective displays models of the M26 grenades, made in former Yugoslavia, used in the attack. Photo: DPA

Four arrested after grenade thrown at refugee home
8 hours ago

Police arrested four men in southwest Germany late on Tuesday for throwing a hand grenade at a refugee home.

Bavaria train crash
All missing accounted for in Bavaria crash
Rescue workers stand in front of one of the wrecked train wagons on Tuesday evening. Photo: DPA

All missing accounted for in Bavaria crash
9 hours ago

Police said on Wednesday morning that they were not expecting to find any further victims of Tuesday's train crash southeast of Munich, denying reports of an eleventh body found.

Bavaria train crash: what we know so far
The scene at the site of the crash was one of total devastation. Photo: DPA

Bavaria train crash: what we know so far
9 hours ago

Check here for a quick overview of all the latest information on the train accident in Bad Aibling, Bavaria on Tuesday morning.

As it happened: Bavaria train crash
An aerial shot shows the extent of the devastation at the crash site, where two trains ran into one another head-on on a single-track rail line just outside Bad Aibling. Photo: DPA

As it happened: Bavaria train crash
1 day ago

Two trains collided early on Tuesday morning in southern Germany, derailing carriages and killing nine passengers and injuring around 80 others.

Sponsored Article
US taxes and FATCA: 'The time for hiding is over'
National
What we know so far about the Bavaria train crash
Culture
10 essential words you'll need when visiting Cologne carnival
Technology
Army presents new camo pattern that can fool night vision goggles
Health
Disabled people explain what life is like for them in Germany
International
How to vote in the US election when you live abroad
Business & Money
The small town planning to get rid of small change
National
Top five inventions of Germany's 'patent king'
National
Pensioner crushed in hospital machine
Politics
Could Bernie Sanders get elected in Germany?
Society
Most German conservatives back gay marriage: poll
Politics
'Russia aims to weaken the EU. The refugee crisis is an opportunity.'
Gallery
Eight wonders of the world's biggest toy fair in Nuremberg
National
Islamists and Neo-Nazis both ready for violence, say spies
Frankfurt
Drunk-driving cop tries to escape through toilet window
Berlin
How Berlin Bowie fans paid tribute with art on ice
Police fight rumours they've been hiding truth on refugees
Berlin
Brave passengers grab man accused of shoving woman under train
National
Software bug means German jets can't fly at night
Rhineland
First suspects arrested after Cologne sexual assaults
Politics
Berlin to North Africa: take deportees or give up aid cash
Lifestyle
10 ways German inventors have made the world a better place
7,010
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd