• Germany edition
 
How is Germany faring in political limbo?
Chancellor Angela Merkel with SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel. Photo: DPA

How is Germany faring in political limbo?

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

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 stories about Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Kate Ferguson (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Russia 'severed' from Europe, says Gauck
President Gauck stands shoulder to shoulder with President Komorowski of Poland in Gdansk on Monday. Photo: DPA

Russia 'severed' from Europe, says Gauck

Russia has "effectively severed its partnership" with Europe and wants to establish a new order, German President Joachim Gauck said on Monday. READ  

Man shot in tax office dispute
DPA

Man shot in tax office dispute

A tax office worker in the Schleswig-Holstein town of Rendsburg died in hospital after being shot on Monday morning. READ  

Merkel details Iraq arms shipment to MPs
Angela Merkel addressing the Bundestag on Monday as her ministers look on. Photo: DPA

Merkel details Iraq arms shipment to MPs

UPDATE: Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the Bundestag on Monday to explain her government's decision to send weapons to Iraqi Kurds fighting terrorist group Isis. READ  

Olympic visions compete in Berlin and Hamburg
Berlin and Hamburg mayors Klaus Wowereit and Olaf Scholz on Monday. Photos: DPA

Olympic visions compete in Berlin and Hamburg

Germany's capital and its gateway to the North Sea each released details of their Olympic bids on Monday as the race for the 2024 or 2028 summer games nominations picks up momentum. READ  

Vacationer killed by Baltic Sea bacteria
Photo: DPA

Vacationer killed by Baltic Sea bacteria

Six people were infected with a bacteria from the Caribbean which has made itself at home in the popular German vacation destination. One of them is now in a coma. READ  

UN applauds Germany's help to refugees
DPA

UN applauds Germany's help to refugees

UNHCR Commissioner Antonio Guterres is lauding Germany's role in accommodating the influx of refugees in Europe, while pointing at the imbalance of effort within the EU. The federal government has pledged to do more. READ  

Energy-sucking vacuums no longer welcome
Photo: DPA

Energy-sucking vacuums no longer welcome

Starting on Monday, vacuum cleaners drawing more than 1600 watts can no longer be brought into Germany. The ban is part of a an EU-wide environmental protection measure. READ  

Coalition horsetrading starts after Saxony vote
CDU leader Stanislav Tillich with SPD Martig Dulig. Photo: DPA

Coalition horsetrading starts after Saxony vote

Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic (CDU) party is in search of a new partner after the expulsion of its former allies the Free Democrats (FDP) from the Saxon state parliament. READ  

Presented by Phorms Education
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation
Photo: Phorms Education

Bilingual education from nursery to graduation

A network of German based schools is changing how students learn languages by introducing English and Deutsch from day one, with the method yielding impressive academic results. The Local finds out more about Phorms Education. READ  

JobTalk Germany
'German bosses need to praise more'
More of this? Photo: Shutterstock

'German bosses need to praise more'

What do German bosses need to do to get more out of their staff? Frankfurt-based business consultant Justin Bariso has this advice. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten of the oddest things found by German border control
Photo: Gerkan, Marg and Partners/Tegel Projekt GmbH/J. Mayer
Berlin
How will Berlin look in five years' time?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The best of Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit in 14 pictures
Photo: DPA
Politics
Germany sends burgers and sausages to Kurds
Photo: Matthias Kock
National
Tribes, ties and a movie: A German's Afghan life
Photo: DPA
Gallery
10 things to do before summer in Germany is really over
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,416
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd