Some impatient, others hesitant


Some impatient, others hesitant

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It is the first day of coalition negotiations and the schedule is set: the Union and the SPD are accelerating the formation of a government. Martin Schulz apparently wants to become a minister.

That is a surprise: by Friday in a week the CDU, CSU and SPD want to be largely through with their negotiations on a continuation of the grand coalition in their working groups. Immediately afterwards, the negotiators around the party leaders Angela Merkel, Horst Seehofer and Martin Schulz want to join the retreat and have the coalition agreement written by February 4th – or a few days later if necessary.

If that works, it could be one of the shortest coalition negotiations in the history of the Federal Republic. But it is also slowly pressing. More than 17 weeks have passed since the federal election, a good four months, more than 120 days. And Germany is still without a government.

18 working groups with 91 negotiators

The chancellor, the CSU boss and the SPD chairman already indicated a similar thrust in their separate statements at the start of negotiations in the CDU headquarters. All three announce speedy negotiations, as if the bosses fighting for political survival wanted to signal to the increasingly impatient citizens: We understand and are now hurrying.

The Union and the SPD have set up 18 working groups. 17 content-related rounds from Europe to finance, work, education, health and culture. And an AG on the working methods of the future government. So that you don’t get bogged down, the big round of negotiations should only really come into play at the end. Until then, the 15 round of bosses in particular will control the work.

The parties send a total of 91 negotiators to the main round of negotiations. According to documents available to the German Press Agency, there are 33 members in this large group for the CDU, 23 for the CSU, and 35 for the SPD. According to this information, the CSU recently reported the designated Bavarian Prime Minister and current Minister of Finance Markus Söder, among others, for the expansion of the large group.

Sigmar Gabriel makes a comeback

The Social Democrats are sending female heavyweights to the working groups in which the SPD has to make improvements after the vote at the party congress a week ago: parliamentary group leader Andrea Nahles heads the working group “Labor, Social Affairs, Pension” – probably also to make changes to the unfounded To achieve fixed-term jobs. The strong and popular Prime Ministers Malu Dreyer (Rhineland-Palatinate) and Manuela Schwesig (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania) take care of health and care as well as education and research. All three are unlikely to have a position in a fourth Merkel cabinet in mind.

The CDU relies on Health Minister Hermann Gröhe and Saar Prime Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is currently internally one of the most promising candidates for Merkel’s successor. At the CSU, the outstanding importance of the regional group leader Alexander Dobrindt becomes clear: his party sends him as negotiator in three working groups that deal with CSU core issues: economy / reduction of bureaucracy, transport / infrastructure and Europe.

Thomas de Maiziere and Ralf Stegner after the start of the coalition negotiations: Union and SPD want to end the negotiations as early as next week. (Source: dpa)

Merkel, Schulz and Seehofer lead the working group Europe, otherwise they should concentrate completely on negotiating.simple argumentative essay topics Noticeable: the former SPD chief and executive foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel reappears differently than in the explorations: Together with still defense minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) and development minister Gerd Müller (CSU) he leads the group on the issues of foreign Defense and Human Rights.

What role does Martin Schulz play?

Meanwhile, there is uncertainty about the future role of Martin Schulz. According to a report in “Spiegel” he is not prepared to give up a ministerial post in a future government. Against the background of internal party appeals in this direction, Schulz had given several members of the party leadership to understand that a waiver was out of the question for him. It is expected that he will claim the Foreign Office or the Ministry of Finance for himself.

The SPD did not want to comment on the report at the request of the German Press Agency. The official announcement is: first the content, then personnel issues. For days, however, some Social Democrats have been pushing behind the scenes that Schulz should publicly declare that he is renouncing a ministerial post in another grand coalition – to strengthen the party profile and as evidence of his credibility.

After the general election, Schulz had declared that he would not join Merkel’s cabinet. After the exploratory talks were concluded, however, he no longer explicitly ruled this out when asked. If he joined the government under Merkel’s leadership, Schulz would be involved in cabinet discipline. That is why he had not accepted a cabinet post as a candidate for chancellor.

SPD members have the last word

In contrast, unrest is spreading among the possible coalition partner. The Union has been pushing for days that the work must be done before the start of the carnival season on February 8th. Behind this is the fear of the mockery of the carnivalists and of images of happily shaking negotiators – while the citizens are anxiously waiting for a new government.

But there is also another reason for the desire for speedy negotiations: At the end of the day, the SPD has a three-week membership decision on the coalition agreement that can still stop a Groko.

According to the will of the SPD leadership, the whole thing shouldn’t look too hasty – precisely because of the great resistance at the SPD base against a renewed Groko. The built-in time buffer of a few days after February 4th is used for this. Schulz has to somehow make his base credible that he negotiated quickly but intensely enough. In no case should the impression arise that he was ripped off by the Union.

Hamburg’s Mayor Olaf Scholz after the start of the coalition negotiations: The SPD vice-president is negotiating with the Union on finance. (Source: dpa)

Only in the coming days will it also become clear whether those top executives like Dobrindt or the conservative CDU hope Jens Spahn are holding back, who always liked to burden the conversations with taunts. At the start of the actual coalition negotiations, they are holding back for the time being.

On this day, however, Hamburg’s mayor and SPD vice-president Olaf Scholz, who heads the important finance and tax working group for his party, stands out. Via “Wirtschaftswoche” he etched against the Union, a new Groko and thus indirectly against Schulz: “We will only experience a real departure when a Social Democrat is again in the Chancellery.”

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Sources: dpa, Reuters, AFP

Four months after the election, the Union and the SPD enter into coalition negotiations. It won’t be easy: some of the participants dragged themselves into the discussions, badly battered.

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So here we go. So right. The CDU, CSU and SPD start coalition negotiations to give the republic a new government – just four months after the election. But a mood of optimism may not really set in. Many enter the negotiations with a queasy feeling, especially with the SPD.

The future of the SPD leadership is uncertain

The comrades have had tough days and weeks behind them – and now there are even harder ones ahead of them. What will be left of the party and its leadership is uncertain. Will Germany actually have a new government in a few weeks? This is also a worrying situation for Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU).

The SPD leadership started the talks slightly traumatized. At the party conference in Bonn last Sunday, only a wafer-thin majority said yes to coalition negotiations with the Union. A humiliation for party leader Martin Schulz and his team. How can such a divided party become one? How do you prepare for coalition negotiations in such a situation? And above all: How can you survive the SPD membership decision, whose vote on a coalition agreement since Bonn is more unpredictable than ever?

SPD leadership relies on “team building”

In order to discuss these questions, Schulz gathered the party leadership, the prime ministers, federal ministers and the members of the exploratory team at the SPD headquarters on Thursday. Behind closed doors, they discussed strategies, established negotiation teams and processes. But it was also about the social democratic spirit and the urgent attempt to somehow hold the store together. One of the comrades involved called it “team building”.

The SPD superiors discussed there for hours. Nobody had previously had any interest in the outward appearance of the SPD going into the negotiations hastily. That would be badly received by the grassroots. It had to look like a struggle, a sufficiently painful affair. That applied to the preparatory meeting – but now also to the actual negotiations.

Some impatient, others hesitant

This collides with a fair amount of impatience on the part of the Union, which is now in a hurry – at its number two attempt after a fruitless Jamaica week with the FDP and the Greens. You can finish negotiating by the time of the carnival. In other words: until Women’s Carnival on February 8th. Union parliamentary group leader Volker Kauder (CDU) is already suspicious, otherwise the faltering Groko would be “an issue at all carnival events – we do badly in terms of grenades.” And anyway: How would TV pictures of the not-yet-coalitionists screeching to the public?

But the SPD hesitates and does not want to be pushed. Group leader Andrea Nahles already stated that she was against “absolute final dates”. The disagreement over the schedule is a foretaste of what content-related disputes are likely to follow. The conversations promise to be difficult.

Not least because of the demands that the SPD party congress gave to its own negotiators. It’s about refugees, the labor market and the health system. Despite gentle compromise signals from the CDU – it will not be a sure-fire success. Other new topics that are missing in the 28-page paper on the results of the explorations could still cause controversy.

SPD leader Schulz is fighting on different fronts

In addition, Schulz has to prevent his own party from slipping away. And try to appease Jusos and other vehement Groko opponents in their own party who continue to drum and even advertise to join the party for a short time only to vote against black and red in the membership decision.

So wrong world with the SPD: The prospect of governing plagues the party. The entry of new party members suddenly has something threatening for the SPD leadership. And with some Union politicians, the SPD leadership seems to be more than one or the other Groko opponent in its own ranks these days.

Schulz is badly hit. After the Bonn vote, it is hardly conceivable that he will be able to hold onto the party leadership in the long term. If he presents a result at the end of the coalition negotiations that fails with the members, he would probably be gone immediately. The rest of the SPD leadership too. If the SPD breaks off negotiations prematurely because of irreconcilable differences, the party threatens to crash again. None of these are pleasant prospects.

A lot is at stake for Chancellor Merkel too

Then there is the debate about Schulz’s role: the question of whether or not he should go to the cabinet. The SPD leader ruled that out before the election. Now he is keeping a low profile. There is a desire among the comrades that he should at least at this point stand by his word, polish up the credibility of the SPD and do something for the profile of the party. First there was a murmur in the background, then there were requests to speak from backbenchers. But now comrades from the front row are also speaking openly about it. The situation is therefore extremely uncomfortable for Schulz.

But not just for him. For Merkel, it’s about gradually turning the corner. And urgently. Her hands are tied as executive chancellor, especially on the important European stage. For the time being, she has to make clear statements, for example on initiatives by French President Emmanuel Macron. It was not until Wednesday that Merkel appeared again at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Also to show that Germany is still there, on the world stage.

Would-be coalitionists have seldom been under such pressure to start their negotiations. The exhaustion is great before it has even started.

So it goes on: The timetable for the coalition negotiations

– Friday: The party leaders Angela Merkel (CDU), Horst Seehofer (CSU) and Martin Schulz (SPD) meet at the CDU headquarters in Berlin. Then a so-called “small group” of 15 top representatives from the three parties comes together. The group is to act as a “coordination and steering committee”.

– Weekend: A number of working groups will meet on different policy areas.

– Sunday: In the evening the “small group” should come together again.

– Tuesday: According to Schulz, the head of the SPD is to meet for the first time the “big round” of negotiators from the CDU, CSU and SPD.