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GERMAN ELECTION 2013

POLITICS

Merkel and SPD agree on coalition talks

Chancellor Angela Merkel and her defeated election rivals the Social Democrats agreed on Thursday afternoon to launch formal talks aimed at building a left-right "grand coalition" government, according to media reports.

Merkel and SPD agree on coalition talks
Photo: DPA

Almost a month after the elections, the leaders of Merkel’s CDU, her Bavarian allies the CSU and the centre-left party the SPD, struck the agreement in their third round of exploratory talks, the Bild newspaper and national news agency DPA said, citing delegation sources.

Merkel’s conservative bloc comfortably won the elections on September 22nd but fell just short of a majority meaning they need to find an ally to govern with.

Their previous coalition partner, the Free Democrats (FDP), failed to get five percent of the vote needed to return to parliament.

That left Merkel with the choice of either forming a “grand coalition” with Germany’s second biggest party, the SPD or teaming up with the Green Party.

Exploratory talks between the conservatives and Greens broke down on Tuesday night, leaving the path open for a “grand coalition”.

But the SPD will be seeking every advantage it can from Merkel before officially forming a new government. Its last taste of coalition with the chancellor from 2005 to 2009 left it trailing in the polls.

A minimum wage?

The Social Democrats have made introducing a nationwide minimum wage of €8.50 an hour one of the cornerstones of any coalition agreement.

Merkel says this would cost jobs and favours traditional negotiations between employers and unions that work out different wage deals by industrial sector and geographic region.

CSU chief Horst Seehofer has declared he may accept a minimum wage in return for no tax rises.

A compromise could be an in-principle agreement on a minimum wage, but with the level determined by a committee of unions and employers.

The SPD also wants to open more child-care centres to help working families and rejects as outdated and sexist a state benefit critics call the “stove bonus”, for parents who care for toddlers at home. But the programme is a flagship policy of Bavaria’s CSU, which wants to keep it.

The Social Democrats have also called for equal tax and adoption rights for same-sex couples and a women’s quota in corporate boardrooms.

Seehofer signalled he may soften his opposition to another SPD demand – allowing dual citizenship. This would especially help the children of millions of Turkish and other immigrants who must now decide when they reach adulthood whether to take German or their ancestral citizenship.

Where to compromise?

The ideological and policy differences between the parties which stand in the way of any coalition agreement, will force both sides to haggle and hammer out compromises.

To fund badly needed investment in infrastructure, education and welfare, the SPD says €80 billion must be spent per year, which it wants to finance with higher taxes for the rich.

Conservatives have pledged to resist this at a time of record-high tax revenues and say there is enough money in the public purse to finance state

outlays.

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel has said that a tax rise is “not an end in itself” if other solutions can be found.

The CSU, against CDU opposition, also wants to introduce highway tolls for foreign motorists.

But on foreign and eurozone policy, the big parties are much closer, and the SPD in opposition supported all of Merkel’s major policy moves to combat the eurozone debt and economic crisis.

The SPD’s chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrück has called for greater solidarity with crisis-hit countries where youth unemployment has soared, and recalled that after World War Two Germany received aid and debt forgiveness from its former foes.

However, on concrete measures, the parties basically agree to keep supporting recession-hit countries in return for economic reforms and to

consent to a third bailout plan for Greece.

On Germany’s ambitious energy transition away from nuclear power and toward renewables such as wind and solar, both sides agree that clean energy subsidies must be reduced to lower consumer electricity bills and have stayed sufficiently vague on details to leave the door open to compromise.

READ MORE: CDU softens stance on tax hikes in ally search

AFP/The Local/tsb

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CULTURE

Pay women footballers the same as men, says German chancellor

Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday made a push for equal pay for men and women international footballers after Germany's successful run at the recent European Championships.

Pay women footballers the same as men, says German chancellor

“My position on this is clear,” Scholz said after a meeting with the German Football Association (DFB) to discuss the issue.

“We talked about how we can continue to help more girls and women get excited about football. Of course, the wages at such tournaments play a major role in this,” he said.

“That’s why it makes sense to discuss equal pay. I made the suggestion and I’m very grateful that there is a willingness to discuss this issue.”

Germany scored their biggest major tournament success since 2015 at this year’s European Championships, losing to England in the final at Wembley.

Scholz attended the final and also supported the women’s team by tweeting: “It’s 2022, and women and men should be paid equally. This also applies to sport, especially for national teams.”

READ ALSO: Scholz to cheer on Germany at Euro 2022 final

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) visits the DFP headquarters on Tuesday.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) visits the DFP (German Football Association) headquarters on Tuesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Germany’s women would have received €60,000 each if they had triumphed at the tournament, while the men would have received €400,000 each had they prevailed at the Euros last year.

Bernd Neuendorf, president of the DFB, said he understood the argument “that equal work and success should also have the same value”.

“I’m willing to discuss in our committees whether our payment system is up to date or whether it should be adjusted,” he said.

Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg suggested that international footballers’ wages could be evened out by paying women more and men less.

Officials must now “follow up with action” after the meeting, she said in an interview with the ZDF broadcaster.

Scholz said he was “very, very proud” of the women’s performance at the Euros, even if “it didn’t quite work out”.

“I hope it will have a long-lasting effect, not only on the players themselves… but also on football in Germany,” he said.

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