News / Europe

Merkel, Leftist Rivals Test Ground for Coalition

Members of Germany's conservative parties arrive for preliminary coalition with the Social Democratic Party at the Parliamentary Society in Berlin, Oct. 14, 2013.
Members of Germany's conservative parties arrive for preliminary coalition with the Social Democratic Party at the Parliamentary Society in Berlin, Oct. 14, 2013.
Reuters
— Germany's center-left Social Democrats [SPD] dug in their heels on Monday over the introduction of a minimum wage ahead of a second round of exploratory talks with Angela Merkel's conservatives on forming a 'grand coalition' government.

The chancellor, who is seeking a partner for her third term after falling just short of a parliamentary majority in an election last month, is still trying to decide whether to enter full-blown negotiations with the SPD or the environmentalist Greens.

The SPD reiterated one red line before talks with the conservatives that were due to start at 4 p.m. [1400 GMT] on Monday: a minimum wage across all sectors of 8.50 euros per month. The demand could be difficult for Merkel to sell to her supporters in the business world.

“Clearly labor policy and the minimum wage are very central issues for the SPD,” the SPD's second-in-command Andrea Nahles told reporters on Monday. “We're talking about a blanket legal minimum wage of 8.50 for east and west.”

Conservative leaders say they are willing to compromise on the minimum wage - also demanded by the Greens - but insist that minimum wages should vary from sector to sector, and be set by unions and employers rather than by politicians.

The SPD came a distant second to the conservatives on Sept. 22 but are determined to exact a high price in return for entering the second 'grand coalition' under Merkel in less than a decade.

A compromise seems possible on SPD demands for tax hikes on the rich, but party leaders will need to wring other concessions in order to convince skeptical members to partner with Merkel again. A meeting of 200 SPD officials will decide on Oct. 20 whether to keep talking to Merkel.

'Challenge'

Merkel's Christian Democratic Union [CDU] and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union [CSU], emerged as the dominant force from the election but, with 311 of the 631 seats in the Bundestag [lower house], they lack a majority.

Merkel held preliminary talks last week with the SPD, who have 193 seats, and the Greens, on 63. Neither seems desperate to join Merkel, whose last partners, the Free Democrats, failed to get into parliament for the first time since 1949.

The prospect of talks lasting months worries Germany's European partners, who fear a delay to decisions on measures to fight the euro zone crisis, such as a plan for banking union.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said this weekend Merkel should have a government in place by mid-November, but Nahles said this timetable would be “a challenge.”

Merkel is keeping alive the option of the Greens despite resistance from CSU, which mocks the party born from the 1970s peacenik movement for its proposal that Germans observe a meat-free “Veggie Day” once a week.

“It is important for me that the CDU and CSU's campaign promises come into effect,” CSU leader Horst Seehofer said in  Munich on Monday. “After all, we won the election.”

An alliance between conservatives and Greens remains less likely though Merkel made it theoretically possible with her decision in 2011 to accelerate Germany's exit from nuclear power. Such a partnership, tried with mixed results at state level, could have trouble pushing legislation through the Bundesrat upper house.

But Merkel may need the Greens, with whom talks are planned for Tuesday, if the SPD balks.

In addition to the green light from 200 senior party officials next week, SPD leaders have promised all of their 472,000 members a vote on a final coalition deal, introducing a further element of uncertainty into the political outlook for Europe's largest economy.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in public More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid