News / Europe

Merkel, Social Democrats Work Out Coalition Deal

FILE - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and leader of the Christian Democratic Union party CDU stands in front of her election campaign tour bus before a CDU board meeting in Berlin.
FILE - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and leader of the Christian Democratic Union party CDU stands in front of her election campaign tour bus before a CDU board meeting in Berlin.
VOA News
German lawmakers have arrived at a deal to form a coalition government, more than two months after the country's elections.

After marathon negotiations on Tuesday, officials from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) finalized an agreement to form a "grand coalition" that will establish a mandatory minimum wage and streamline some banking policies.

“The result is good for our country and has a conservative imprint,” said Hermann Groehe, secretary general of Merkel’s CDU. “No new taxes and no new debts.”
Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament and a senior SPD negotiator, called it an “excellent result” for his party.

However, before the deal is finalized, it must be approved by a vote of the Social Democrats' 470,000 members. Results are expected by mid-December.
The SPD vote adds uncertainty to a process that has dragged on for months, preventing Germany's European partners from pushing ahead with major reforms, like a banking union. However, the likely outcome does remain continuity under the popular chancellor.
Party leaders should present details of the deal at a news conference on Wednesday but may wait to announce the allocation of cabinet posts. Merkel left the SPD headquarters, where the final round of talks took place, without a word to the media.
However, details of policy compromises that have emerged in recent days show she has leveraged her landslide victory in September's vote to ensure her pragmatic brand of conservativism continues to dominate Europe's largest economy.
Merkel has made concessions to the SPD on the economy, agreeing to a minimum wage of EUR 8.50 per hour, tighter rules for employers and pension hikes, despite howls of protest from business. Just before dawn, the bargaining stalled on how to fund this without Merkel breaking a campaign promise ti not increase taxes or debt.
Polls suggest most people trust 59-year-old Merkel not to endanger an employment rate which is the envy of Europe. She is also trusted on the euro crisis, where she has demanded fiscal reforms from the likes of Greece in return for bailouts.
Wolfgang Schaeuble, Merkel's trusted 71-year-old finance minister, should get to keep his job. Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the SPD may be foreign minister again, as he was in the last Merkel-led CDU-SPD “grand coalition”, from 2005-2009. SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel, who was in that cabinet too, could get a beefed-up economy ministry or lead the SPD in the Bundestag lower house.
The last CDU-SPD coalition suited Merkel, but prompted SPD left-wingers, already bitter about labor reforms launched by the last SPD chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, to leave in droves.
The SPD insisted Merkel wait until after the vote to name her cabinet, to avoid giving supporters the impression that the likes of Gabriel put their own ambitions above party values.
With the talks ending on the Nov. 27 deadline set by Merkel, SPD leaders must now persuade members at over 30 rallies that a minimum wage is a victory for the working class.
“We will convince members,” Steinmeier told reporters.
The ballot results are due on Dec. 14. At an SPD congress in Leipzig, delegates said they would only decide after reading the coalition document. Over 170 pages long, it shows a very German attention to detail, ranging from banking rules to plans for the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth in 2020.
If the majority are willing to overlook details like the SPD conceding on such a major campaign platform as tax hikes for the rich, and okay Germany's third “grand coalition” of the post-war era, Merkel can be sworn in the week before Christmas.
If the SPD votes does go against the proposed coalition, Merkel could go to the smaller Green party for a possible coalition, or call fresh elections.

Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs