Sunday

17th Feb 2019

EU relieved after Merkel clinches grand coalition deal

  • Another four years of Merkel as chancellor now depends on the SPD membership voting to approve the coalition deal (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU/CSU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD) concluded a coalition agreement on Wednesday (7 February), taking a step closer to ending a five-month long period of political limbo in Berlin.

The deal, under which the two partners will share what they considered as the most crucial ministries for themselves, will however to be approved by SPD members in the coming weeks.

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Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats will occupy the ministries of interior, defence, agriculture, economy and health.

The sensitive interior portfolio - with the management of migration policies - was expected to go to Horst Seehofer, the leader of the CSU, the CDU's Bavarian branch. Seehofer, a hardliner, has been one of the main opponents of Merkel's migration policy since 2015.

Peter Altmeier, one of Merkel's closest allies, and finance minister since September, was expected to become economy and energy minister.



The finance ministry has been attributed to the SPD, with Hamburg's mayor Olaf Schorf being the favourite for the post, also as vice-chancellor.



Social Democrats will also get the ministries of labour and social affairs, justice, as well as foreign affairs for Martin Schulz, Merkel's opponent in the elections last September.


Schulz meanwhile will quit the SPD leadership and be replaced by Andrea Nahles, the leader of the party's group in the Bundestag.

The 177-page coalition agreement was concluded on Wednesday morning after a night of discussions on the final sticking point, job contracts and doctors pay.

"It was intensive negotiations in the truest sense of the word," Merkel said Wednesday afternoon.

She said the agreement would give Germany "at last a government, but a stable one."

Schulz insisted that the coalition programme would offer "an improvement of the life conditions of the people."

'Good news for Europe'

The deal was welcome with relief in the EU.

"I'm completely happy with the coalition agreement," EU finance commissioner Pierre Moscovici told journalists in Brussels.

"It's not only good news for Germany, but also for Europe," he said, adding that a "stable, solid, ambitious, pro-European government" would allow the EU take decisions on the future of the eurozone.

"There is clearly a very strong pro-European will there," he noted.

Martin Selmayr, the powerful chief of cabinet for European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, noted that the agreement contained "a strong Europe chapter, numerous committed references to the EU framework in all sectorial chapters."

The agreement, which supports investment capacities for the EU, as well as the appointment of an SPD finance minister, are considered as a boost for French president Emmanuel Macron's plans.

'No copy-paste' from Macron

The EU is more likely to succeed "when Paris, Brussels and Berlin are pulling together," said Moscovici, adding that there were "common concepts" between the three capitals.

"This will open this famous window of opportunity which will require from all of us a very intense period of work," he added.

But debates at EU level are likely to still depend on priorities and personalities within the grand coalition's parties.

"Germany is now ready to sit at the table and to negotiate," said Manfred Weber, the leader of the centre-right EPP group in the European Parliament.

But Weber, who hails from the CSU, insisted that "it doesn't mean copy and paste of the Sorbonne speech" - the speech in which Macron laid out his ideas last September.

He noted that "there is a French perspective to reform Europe," and that all "have to seat together and find a common understanding."

German coalition talks drag on

Christian Democrats and Social Democrats were still negotiating in the early hours of Wednesday. But the already agreed chapter on Europe is the "most Europeanised approach for years", says one expert.

Merkel defends her coalition government

The German chancellor admitted that the agreement with the social-democrats was "painful" but "acceptable", and insisted she wanted to stay in power for four years.

German 'GroKo' now in SPD's hands

The result of the Social Democrats members' vote on a new grand coalition with Merkel's Christian Democrats will be known on Sunday. A 'Yes' is expected across Europe.

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