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POLITICS

How the unlikely team of CDU and Greens have reunited in Hesse

It’s an unexpected political partnership due to the two parties’ differing views. But the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and the centre-left Greens are back together in the German state of Hesse.

How the unlikely team of CDU and Greens have reunited in Hesse
CDU's Volker Bouffier and the Green's Tarek Al-Wazir on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

Almost eight weeks after the state elections that prompted Angela Merkel to give up the top party post, the CDU and Greens have agreed on a new coalition deal. It involved an 11-hour negotiation marathon on Tuesday, which happened to be CDU state premier Volker Bouffier’s 67th birthday.

The agreement marks a continuation of the black-green government alliance, which has been in power in Hesse since the beginning of 2014.

SEE ALSO: End of an era: What you need to know about Merkel's planned departure

Bouffier and his deputy Tarek Al-Wazir, of the Greens, said they were very satisfied with the negotiations.

“We are through. We have reached an agreement,” said a visibly relieved Bouffier in Hesse's capital Wiesbaden on Wednesday. “We have a coalition agreement,” he added. “We are building on the trusting cooperation that we have maintained over the past few years.”

“We are very different parties, but we also complement each other,” stressed Al-Wazir,  pointing to the fact the parties each stand at different ends of the political spectrum. Nevertheless, the election results, which saw Merkel’s CDU dip to 27 percent – its worst result in 50 years – presented the government partners with new challenges.

In a success story that's been repeated in other parts of Germany including Bavaria, the Greens have seen their stock rise. In Hesse the party gained 8.7 percentage points, reaching 19.8 percent. This propelled it to the second strongest party in the state, ahead of the SPD.

SEE ALSO: Why is the Green party suddenly flying high in Germany?

'Digital development to be a focus'

So what does it all mean for Hesse? At this point we know there will be 11 ministers under the leadership of Bouffier and his deputy Al Wazir. A new department for digital development, which will be given to the CDU, is expected to be a focal point for the coalition as it seeks to strengthen the central German state in this area.

Due to the Greens becoming stronger in the state elections, the CDU will hand over two of its previous ministries: social affairs and integration, as well as science and art. This means that the Greens will have four posts and the CDU seven. Housing and construction will be bundled together into the ministry led by Al-Wazir.

After the state elections on October 28th, the CDU and the Greens are only able to continue their team work with a wafer-thin majority. There had been delays in negotiations after it emerged that there were computer glitches on election night. A recount took place and resolved the issue after it found no real change to the original result.

SEE ALSO: Merkel's CDU and Greens can breathe sigh of relief after vote recount in Hesse

The new negotiated contract is to be put to the vote at party meetings this Saturday. The CDU is to meet in Nidda and the Greens in Hofheim.

At their meeting, the Greens also want to nominate their candidates for ministerial posts. Bouffier announced that the CDU would clarify staff changes after the winter break. If all goes according to plan, the new state government will be constituted on January 18th.

Despite their drop in votes, the CDU remains the strongest force in Hesse. But compared to the previous state election, the party slipped by 11.3 percentage points. This result, along with the dismal results by the CDU's sister part the Christian Socialists, in the Bavaria state elections, prompted turmoil in the party.

The day after the Hesse election, Merkel announced she was to step down as leader of the CDU after 18 years at the top of the party. She gave up the chair at the party conference earlier this month, handing it over to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer who won the party vote.

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TRANSPORT

How the Greens want to replace Germany’s €9 ticket deal

New proposals drafted by the Green Party have set out plans for two new cheap travel tickets in Germany as well as a shake-up of the country's travel zones. Here's what you need to know.

How the Greens want to replace Germany's €9 ticket deal

What’s going on?

Germany’s €9 travel deal has been hugely popular this summer, with an estimated 30 million or so passengers taking advantage of the offer in June alone. Now the last month of the three-month offer is underway, there are hopes that the ticket could be replaced by another deal that offers simple, affordable travel on a regional or national basis.

There have been a few ideas for this floating around, including a €365 annual ticket and a €69 monthly ticket pitched by German transport operators. Now the Green Party has weighed in with a concept paper setting out plans for two separate travel tickets to replace the €9 ticket. The paper was obtained by ARD Hauptstadtstudio on Friday. 

Why do they want two different tickets?

The first ticket would be a regional one costing just €29 a month and the second would be a €49 that, much like the €9 ticket, would be valid for the whole of Germany.

This would allow people who mainly stay in their local region to opt for the most cost-effective option while long-distance commuters or those who want to travel further afield could opt for the nationwide offer.

Presumably the ticket would once again be valid for local and regional transport only rather than long-distance trains like the ICE. 

To simplify the system even more, the Greens also want to introduce new travel zones for the regional monthly tickets.

READ ALSO: Has Germany’s €9 rail ticket been a success?

How would the travel zones change?

According to the paper, Germany would be divided into eight regional zones that would include the Berlin-Brandenburg area, the eastern German states of Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt and the northern states of Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania. 

The zones take passengers “statewide at a minimum”, the paper says, for example in the larger states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and North-Rhine Westphalia.

However, as the map below shows, states will also be clustered together to make larger regions.

One of the major draws of the €9 ticket has been the flat-rate system that allows passengers to travel anywhere in the country using the same ticket. This appears to be what the Greens are trying to replicate with their proposals. 

READ ALSO: What happens to Germany’s €9 ticket at the end of August?

How would this be financed? 

As you might expect, the Green Party is placing less eco-friendly forms of transport in the crosshairs as it looks for cash to fund the cheap tickets.

The first way to free up cash would be to end tax breaks for people with company cars. In addition, taxes on CO2 emissions would be increased. 

This would result in “additional revenues for the federal government and the states, which could flow seamlessly into the financing of cheap tickets”, the paper states. 

However, the Greens don’t set out how much money they think this would bring in or how much the discounted tickets would cost the state in total. 

Is this definitely going to happen?

At the moment, it seems that the Greens are the main voices in the coalition government pushing for a longer term travel deal – and they continue to face opposition from the pro-business FDP.

Unfortunately for the Green Party, the FDP happen to be heading up two crucial ministries that could both play a role in blocking a future offer: the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry. 

However, with four out of five people saying they want to see a successor to the €9 ticket in autumn, Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) is currently under pressure to come up with a replacement as soon as possible. 

A passenger sits on the platform a Berlin Hauptbahnhof

A passenger sits on the platform a Berlin Hauptbahnhof waiting for a train. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Joerg Carstensen

At a press conference a few weeks ago, he promised to discuss this with the state transport ministers after analysing how successful the ticket had been.

In particular, researchers will want to look at how many people ended up leaving the car at home and taking the bus or train instead.

Though the data on this is inconclusive at the moment, some studies have shown reduced congestion on the roads while the ticket was running.

In a survey of The Local’s readers conducted last month, 80 percent of respondents said they had used public transport more with the €9 ticket and 85 percent said they wanted to see a similar deal continue in the autumn.

Of the options on the table so far, a monthly €29 ticket was by far the most popular choice.

READ ALSO: ‘Affordable and simple’: What foreigners in Germany want to see after the €9 ticket

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