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Merkel and SPD struggle over way forward

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Merkel and SPD struggle over way forward
The talks between Merkel's CDU the CSU and SPD are at their halfway point. Photo: DPA
16:41 CET+01:00
Germany's biggest political parties are in the throes of heated coalition debates. With the deadline looming, ministries are fighting over issues from gay marriage to pay and dual citizenship.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) fell just a few seats short of gaining an absolute majority in September's general elections. It means they have to form a coalition government, and almost two months on from results night, talks are still underway.

Discussions between the CDU and their Bavarian allies the CSU with the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) are well underway and the deadline for finalizing the coalition contract is November 27th.

But the different groups tasked with hashing out finer ministry details have to come to an agreement a week before meaning next Wednesday is their deadline.

Agreed points in discussions include bringing in an upper limit on rental properties - in some big cities, new flats may soon not be rented out for more than 10 percent over the area average.

Rising energy prices will be slowed down but work on a quicker internet will be sped up. Transaction fees between European banks are also nearly a thing of the past.  

But in some of the working groups responsible for hashing out the policies of the likely next government, certain issues are proving tougher to solve.

The CDU, CSU and the SPD are sticking to their core beliefs in some areas.

The finance group has seen the two come to blows over taxing top earners. But a minimum wage of €8.50 an hour could become reality, much to the SPD's delight. 

Over in the interior group, gay adoption is proving a sticking point.

The SPD have long been clear about its stance on giving adoption right to gay couples and group chairwoman Manuela Schwesig said on Monday that she would not support the coalition if the CDU maintained a hardline stance against it.

The group looking at women, equality and families has agreed to pursue introducing legal quotas on the number of women on company boards through a so-called “flexi-quote”. It would mean that depending on their industry companies would have to allow a minimum number of women into the boardroom.

Laws have been loosened allowing gay people in Germany to have a civil partnership but the SPD wants this opening up further so they get the same rights as straight married couples.

Both sides have agreed to take a tougher stance towards forced prostitution and people trafficking.

The debate over dual citizenship is also heating up. The SPD made it a theme of their election campaign and the CDU Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said it is possible that young Turks born in Germany but who chose to remain Turkish could have the right to change their mind at any time and apply for a German passport as well as having a Turkish one. Currently it is not allowed.

In the education group both SPD and CDU politicians want to invest more money in schools, but where to put the money is proving a problem. Paying €8 billion to stretch out school across the whole of the working day is, despite SPD desires, a no-go for the CDU.

In the energy group both parties want to see money poured into new wind turbines. However, the CDU want to see Germany running on 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. The SPD want this to be 75 percent in the same time frame.

Talks over transport are centred on how to fill a gaping hole in the ministry’s budget. A proposed “foreigner fee” for the motorways is still bouncing around, with the CDU, the Christian Social Union pushing for it hard. But the SPD are strongly opposed to it and called off talks on Tuesday.

Politicians in the culture group have, it would seem, agreed on keeping a plan to set up a committee of experts to decide what happens with the mountains of Stasi files kept during the country's divide.

In the environment group, both sides have agreed to work on banning fracking on German soil.

In defence, nothing significant looks set to change, and planned army reforms will likely be going ahead under the new government.

READ MORE: Third of Germans want fresh elections

Jessica Ware

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