• Germany's news in English

Merkel holds crisis talks as squabbles tarnish coalition

AFP/The Local · 17 Jan 2010, 11:03

Published: 17 Jan 2010 11:03 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The conservative Merkel was set to hold talks with Guido Westerwelle, foreign minister and head of the Free Democrats (FDP), her new coalition partners, as well as Horst Seehofer, from her Bavarian sister party, the CSU.

Germany's new-look coalition, formed after Merkel's convincing election win in September, has experienced a torrid few months amid bickering over tax policy, Afghanistan and Turkey's admission to the European Union.

"The new coalition has got off to a very poor start, especially in tax questions," said Gerd Langguth, professor of political science at Bonn university and Merkel biographer.

Ordinary Germans appear to agree, with a strong majority - 61 percent - saying the new coalition has had a "bad start," according to a recent poll by independent opinion research institute Forschungsgruppe Wahlen.

Analysts said the main flashpoint at Sunday's talks would be fiscal policy, with the FDP, seen as a business-friendly party, demanding the government upholds a pledge for deep tax breaks from next year.

According to the Bild am Sonntag paper, Westerwelle has told Merkel this is "absolutely the core priority" for the FDP.

However, leading Christian Democrats as well as several state and local leaders say a tax giveaway now would be disastrous given the tattered state of Germany's public finances.

The recession in Germany, the worst since World War II, has blown a huge hole in the budget with the government estimating it will have to take on a record €85.8 billion of new debt in 2010.

Langguth said the planned tax breaks could be moved to a later date. "I expect compromises. For example, they might postpone the tax cuts," he said.

Ahead of the meeting, FDP economic policy expert Hermann Otto Solms said a postponement of the tax cuts until 2012 - a year before the next legislative election - would be acceptable.

"If the relief comes into force in 2012, that would correspond with the original demands of the FDP," Solms told the Tagesspiegel am Sonntag newspaper.

The new partners are also at loggerheads over the country's mission in Afghanistan, Turkey's EU accession and a new museum about the fate of ethnic Germans expelled from Eastern Europe after 1945.

The squabbling has taken its toll in the opinion polls. A recent Forsa institute survey showed that opposition parties enjoyed more public support than the coalition for the first time since the election.

Story continues below…

Support has softened especially for the FDP, which lost two points.

Backing for the usually popular Merkel, the most powerful woman in the world for four consecutive years according to Forbes magazine, has also dropped sharply amid sniping from within her own ranks.

A Dimap survey on January 10 showed satisfaction with Merkel's performance had slumped to 59 percent, a drop of 11 points from the last time the poll was taken in December.

And the Forschungsgruppe Wahlen survey indicated that 52 percent of voters thought Merkel "was doing little to set the course for the government", compared to 37 percent who approved of her management of the coalition.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
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 town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
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
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
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