German Greens pull out of coalition talks with Merkel

Germany’s Green party on Wednesday pulled out of coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, who must now get their rival Social Democrats on board in order to form a new government.

“The Greens don’t want to negotiate on a coalition”, party vice-president Claudia Roth told a press conference after the lengthy talks on joining Merkel’s conservative CDU party and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, broke down.

“Do we have a solid basis for four years of (coalition) government? That didn’t seem to us to be the case after these talks,” she added. Hermann Groehe, secretary general of Merkel’s CDU party confirmed that talks had collapsed.

Negotiations on forming a left-right “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats (SPD) are due to resume on Thursday.

Despite a convincing win at the polls on September 22 , the CDU and CSU need to form an alliance with another party in order to ensure a majority in parliament.

A recent poll showed two-thirds of Germans would favour a left-right “grand coalition” between the two big parties, Merkel’s conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats.

The two main parties have already held two rounds of talks with a third already pencilled in for Thursday before the talks with the Greens broke down.

The CDU and the Greens have never governed together at national level, although they have done so regionally.

Groehe stressed the “intensity” of the negotiations and the “great mutual respect” between the two parties, despite their policy differences, which centre mainly around social issues.

The secretary-general of the Bavarian CSU, more conservative than the CDU and thus even less close to the Greens, said he had been surprised by the “serious level” of the talks.

The conservatives had not found “insurmountable obstacles,” to working with the ecologists, he added.

Among the issues where the Greens and Merkel could not bridge the gap, Roth cited policy on refugees and asylum seekers, as well as on energy and arms exports.

For his part Groehe said the conservatives were strongly opposed to the high taxes envisaged by the Greens.

The Social Democrats will decide at a convention of 200 delegates on Sunday whether to enter into formal discussions with Merkel on forming a new “grand coalition”.

The idea of introducing an across-the-board minimum wage is a key policy promise of the SPD while the Conservatives have up to now preferred minimum wage levels to be negotiated by sector and region.

Groehe has assured that the make up of the next government will be announced by October 22, within a month of the elections.

September’s elections handed Merkel a third mandate as chancellor, with the CDU and CSU securing a combined 41.5 percent of the votes case, well ahead of the SPD who won 25.7 percent.

The conservatives’ task of putting together a majority government was made more difficult as the liberal FDP party, part of the outgoing government, failed to secure any seats in the Bundestag chamber this time around.

Merkel’s victory is seen as a stabilising influence in Europe and she has vowed that Germany, the EU’s powerhouse economy, will not change course.

Germany had been considered the “sick man of Europe” around a decade ago but is now an anchor of stability in the EU.

Analysts agree that a centre-right, centre-left coalition will herald no major policy changes, particularly with regard to Europe.

Gilles Moec, co-head of European Economics Research at Deutsche Bank, said Germany’s stance on Europe throughout the crisis “has been increasingly co-managed between CDU and SPD”.