• Germany's news in English

Merkel starts contentious coalition talks with FDP

AFP/The Local · 5 Oct 2009, 11:28

Published: 05 Oct 2009 11:28 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The talks between Merkel's conservatives Christian Democrats (CDU), their Bavarian CSU allies, and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) could last weeks as they thrash out the policies needed to get Europe's top economy back on track after its worst post-war slump.

Merkel has said she wants negotiations wrapped up and a new government in place by November 9, when Germany welcomes world leaders to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

A report in Monday's edition of mass-circulation daily Bild said she wanted a working government by October 27, in time for the first session of the new parliament.

But FDP chief Guido Westerwelle, a virtual shoo-in to become vice-chancellor and foreign minister, tried to rein Merkel in, telling the Bild am Sonntag he would prefer "thoroughness ahead of speed."

"All three partners should know that thoroughness is much more important for our country than the question of whether we take a few more days to sit down and negotiate," he said.

Among several areas that could prove tricky during the talks, the sharpest point of discord between the new allies is likely to be fiscal policy.

Although all sides agree on the need for tax cuts to jump-start Germany's ailing economy, there are wide differences on how far taxes can be slashed given a gaping hole in the public purse.

During the campaign, the business-friendly FDP called for tax cuts amounting to €35 billion ($51 billion) while the CDU/CSU pledged only €15 billion in tax relief and stressed the need to rein in the budget deficit. A working paper reportedly drawn up by Merkel's office and leaked over the weekend said the incoming government would need to slash the deficit by €40 billion.

Other areas of potential disagreement include labour market policies, energy policy and health care.

Volker Kauder, a senior CDU official, insisted that health care reforms passed under the previous "grand coalition" government would not be touched, whereas the FDP wants them rolled back. FDP general secretary Dirk Niebel on Monday dismissed the CDU's position on health reform as "banter."

Tension is also brewing over how key ministerial posts are divided, with the Finance Ministry appointment seen as the most likely to stoke friction. Weekend media reports said that Merkel wanted the finance post for the CDU and had lined up senior party man Roland Koch for the task, although Koch himself played down his chances.

Story continues below…

Other names in the frame are CSU rising star Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, currently economy minister, and Hermann Otto Solms, the FDP's foremost thinker and spokesman on economic policy.

Monday's talks are scheduled to begin at 3 pm but are unlikely to result in concrete decisions immediately.

Twenty-seven senior politicians (nine from each party) will take part in the talks and will split off into 10 working groups to hammer out individual policy areas. A second round of negotiations is expected Thursday.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd