New German Finance Mnister raises Greek hopes of debt relief

Violet Powell
February 8, 2018

The CDU will get the economy and defence portfolios and, in a move created to stop more voters turning to the rightwing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, Mrs Merkel's Bavarian ally Horst Seehofer - who takes a tough line on immigration - will become interior minister.

Some 463,723 SPD members are entitled to vote, including over 24,000 new members who have joined since the prospect of another grand coalition emerged in January.

The Social Democrats (SPD), burnt from four years as junior partners in the last government, came to the table with much more leverage this time, as Merkel was out of options.

Merkel , in power for over 12 years, at first tried to cobble together a novel three-way coalition with the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats, but those efforts collapsed in November.

Senior European Union officials welcomed Wednesday's agreement in Berlin to form a new left-right grand coalition government, calling the long-awaited announcement a boost for the EU as a whole.

But the next German government - and Angela Merkel's fourth term as chancellor - hinges now on a vote of SPD members.

Henrik Enderlein, a professor of political economy at the Hertie School of Governance, said on Twitter that Merkel had made "major concessions" by giving up key ministries to the SPD and the CSU.

Which party runs which ministry isn't decisive, she said.

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The move will lead to a realignment of some of the 5,600 US forces in Iraq as they become an "enduring presence" in that country. The contractors spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations and declined to reveal the exact size of the drawdown.

"Germany would again assume an active and leading role within the European Union", he told the press conference.

As a final round of talks stretched into the evening, both sides sounded upbeat a deal would be sealed on Tuesday, just in time to meet a self-imposed deadline.

The new coalition will put the far-right Alternative for Germany, the third-largest party in the German parliament, known as the Bundestag, in the opposition.

Mrs Merkel's new coalition government will increase spending on pensions, schools and the country's internet infrastructure.

Germany has been in limbo since an inconclusive September election left Merkel and her CDU/CSU bloc without a ruling majority, leading to the longest coalition negotiations in postwar history and weakening the veteran chancellor's leadership.

A key stumbling block was overcome last month after the parties agreed a deal over immigration that would allow at least 1,000 family members of refugees into the country every month from August.

Mr Schulz has styled the coalition agreement on Europe as "an end of forced austerity" - a pitch created to appeal to his party's 464,000 members before they vote on the deal, which is the final hurdle the SPD needs to pass before the government can be formed. But governing in her shadow has cost them vital support and they scored a historic low 20.5 per cent in the September poll.

The paper had claimed that Tsipras was hoping for a SPD finance minister who would be more open to easing austerity but reported that debt relief remains the Greek premier's principal target.

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