Parties enter final round of talks to build new German coalition government

Deutsche Welle, February 4, 2018

More than four months after holding general elections, Germany remains in political limbo without a new government.

Negotiations between the CDU/CSU (Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union) and the SPD (Social Democratic Party) have entered what many hope could be the final round, with a number of issues still unsettled between the parties.

The parties managed to reach agreement on energy and agriculture issues as well as on the divisive issue of refugee family reunifications, but there’s still no consensus, especially over healthcare reforms. The conservative CDU/CSU bloc have squarely rejected SPD calls for introducing sweeping changes to Germany health insurance system which would see the country’s universal multi-payer health care system replaced by a national single-payer model.

“We’ll have to negotiate very, very intensively on these issues today and I think agreements are possible but they still haven’t been reached,” (SPD leader Martin) Schulz told reporters.

http://www.dw.com…

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Germany’s divided SPD: the ultimate grand coalition decider

Deutsche Welle, February 4, 2018

After German reunification in 1990, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) boasted nearly a million members. These days, that figure is just over 440,000. But the members that remain are set to play a crucial role in the future of the center-left party.

The Christian Democrats (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the SPD have set a Sunday deadline for concluding coalition talks, though party leaders have agreed to a two-day grace period in the event they have yet to overcome key differences.

But without the consent of SPD party members, Germany will not be governed by a so-called grand coalition. Once talks have concluded, a copy of the coalition treaty will be sent to each of them for review. When going over the document, the key issue will be: Does the proposed government agenda bear the stamp of the Social Democrats in a clearly perceptible manner, or were the SPD’s negotiators shortchanged by their conservative counterparts?

As was the case four years ago, it’s the SPD that has the last word when it comes to signing a coalition treaty with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU and their Bavarian sister party, the CSU.

In contrast to negotiations to form Germany’s previous government in 2013, which 76 percent of the SPD’s members approved, dissenting voices in the party have the opportunity to derail the current grand coalition at an early stage. Many Social Democrats already feel that some of their key demands are being overlooked.

http://www.dw.com…

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Germany’s grand coalition talks enter second period of extra-time

Deutsche Welle, February 6, 2018

German officials remained positive on Tuesday morning that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc and the Social Democrats (SPD) would strike a deal to forge a new coalition government by the evening.

As she headed into the final round of talks, Merkel called on all sides to make the necessary concessions and strike a deal that would end months of political limbo.
“Each of us will still have to make painful compromises,” the chancellor said. “I am prepared to do that if we can be sure in the end that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages,” she added.

SPD leader Martin Schulz also said today’s decisive stalks were “about nothing less than building stable, lasting government in one of the largest industrialized countries in the world.”

However, the sides still remain divided on several issues, most notably labor and healthcare policy.

The CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), continue to reject any sweeping changes to Germany’s health insurance system. The SPD, meanwhile, wants to see Germany’s two-tier health system reformed with a new system that closes the care gap between citizens with private and statutory insurance.

The CDU’s Klöckner said her party wanted to see welcome changes to Germany’s healthcare model but warned that a “one-size-fits-all” system would be too expensive.

http://www.dw.com…

Germany has a multi-payer system for health care composed of competing, not-for-profit, nongovernmental health insurance funds (“sickness funds”) in the compulsory statutory health insurance (SHI) system, and those with higher incomes can choose private health insurance (PHI). PHI is especially attractive for young people with good incomes, as insurers may offer them contracts with more extensive ranges of services and lower premiums. Thus Germany has a two-tiered system with a “care gap between citizens with private and statutory insurance.”

Four months after their election, talks may finally conclude today on formation of a coalition government. One of the major issues still to be decided is whether or not the parties will agree to close the gap in their two-tiered system by replacing it with a national single payer model. Although the conservative opposition has not yet yielded, the success in forming a coalition government may be at stake. We may know the results later today.

The issue for us is that more egalitarian European systems, such as that in Germany, may still be inequitable if people are allowed to buy up out of the compulsory system. The fact that single payer has become a major negotiating issue in Germany shows that their citizens understand that as well. Although the divide is between center-left and conservative politicians, just as in the United States, is that where the people are? Or would they prefer that the politicians move past the polarization and adopt a fully egalitarian system?

(As of Feb. 6, 9:00 PM, Central European Time, there are no further media reports on the progress of the negotiations.)

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