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16 October 2013

Germany: Greens decide not to pursue further talks with Merkel's CDU/CSU

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The Greens have decided they don't see sufficient common ground to form a stable new government, although the scope is there for future cooperation. This leaves Merkel's CDU/CSU with the Social Democrats as the only potential coalition partner.

Mainly translated from the German

As the Wall Street Journal reported, the decision came after a more than seven-hour meeting between the Chancellor's conservatives and the environmentalist Greens that was marked by a friendly atmosphere but disagreement over many issues, including the Greens' demand to introduce a mandatory minimum wage and raise taxes for high income earners.

"There was a sincere attempt to build bridges towards one another but we have to say we believe that these bridges that have been tried to put up aren't stable enough to last for four years", Cem Özdemir, chairman of the Greens, told reporters. Party leader Claudia Roth is quoted in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as having said that the negotiations with the conservatives had been "exceptionally realistic, curious, clear and constructive". They had been "pleasant talks which were characterised by mutual understanding".

The Spiegel explains the main differences between the two parties: the Greens had insisted on certain tax increases throughout the exploratory talks which were out of the question for the conservative CDU/CSU. Both parties also disagreed on the introduction of a minimum wage, civil insurance, climate and energy policies and on concrete directions of European policies, in which the CDU remained vague and refused to agree to compromises. 

As reported by Spiegel, Hermann Gröhe, general secretary of Ms Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, said that in intense talks a plethora of topics were discussed with the Green party and that from the CDU's point-of-view, there had been no insurmountable differences. However, the CDU had to acknowledge that the representatives of the Greens found themselves unable to propose that their party should engage in coalition negotiations. Gröhe expressed the CDU's regret at this outcome and even Horst Seehofer (CSU) who had been very sceptical in the beginning of the talks, echoed this sentiment. 

Reuters reported that leading figures of the Greens - Cem Özdemir speaking on Deutschlandfunk and Claudia Roth on TV channel ZDF - had hinted that should a Grand Coalition with the SPD also fail to be a viable option for the CDU/CSU, the Greens would be open for a new round of exploratory talks. 

As pointed out by the Handelsblatt, despite it being the end of talks for the time being, both Greens and Conservatives voiced the opinion that the talks had had "significance beyond the present day", meaning that a future CDU/CSU-Green coalition on national level is far more conceivable than it has ever been. Even though making Angela Merkel's position in the short term a little less comfortable, the talks had met two important targets for the Chancellor, says the Welt: On the one hand, red-red-green is no longer the only conceivable alternative to the Grand Coalition; nor is a red-green coalition the logical outcome of the next election. On the other hand, Germany is demonstrating that the political centre of the Federal Republic is more established than ever. While in other EU countries the right-wing populist parties have gained support, Germany remains very much on a centrist course with large political consensus on the fundamental goals of German policy that now extends from the CSU to the Greens.

The CDU/CSU's disappointment over the failed talks will however also be partly due to the fact that they have lost the strategic position to be able to choose a coalition partner, and instead must now rely on the SPD's cooperation to form a majority government. Merkel has already ruled out the options of a minority government or a potential coalition with the Left party. 

The third round of exploratory talks with the Social Democrats is scheduled for Thursday. After those talks a decision is expected from the CDU leadership as to whether they recommend going into proper coaltition negotiations with the SPD, reported the Handelsblatt. Reuters reports that the SPD's decision on proper negotiations is expected on Sunday at their party convention. 

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