Germany's coalition agreement: What's in it?

Germany's Social Democrats and Angela Merkel's conservatives have signed a coalition agreement. DW examines their plans for the country's future.

Germany's two biggest political parties  — the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), together with the Bavarian sister part the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) — agreed on a 177-page paper that lays out the policies the new government has committed to pursuing over the next four years in power.

The agreement, which was finalized more than five months after September elections, represented an important victory for Angela Merkel, who is expected to serve her fourth and final term as chancellor at the helm of another "grand coalition." The SPD rank-and-file voted in favor of the deal in early March, the last major hurdle for forming the government.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Chancellor: Angela Merkel (CDU)

Christian Democrat (CDU) Angela Merkel is Germany's chancellor. She is in her fourth term as leader of the German government and in her third at the head of a "grand coalition" between the CDU, its conservative Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Social Democrats (SPD). Merkel says she will not run for chancellor at the next general election in 2021.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Minister of the Interior, Heimat and Construction: Horst Seehofer (CSU)

Seehofer was Bavaria's state premier until he took over the interior portfolio in Merkel's Cabinet. This will be the first time that the vaguely patriotic "Heimat" concept (roughly "homeland") is included in the interior minister's domain. Bavaria, however, has had a state Heimat Ministry for five years. Seehofer remains head of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Minister for Foreign Affairs: Heiko Maas (SPD)

Former Justice Minister Heiko Maas succeeded his Social Democrat colleague, Sigmar Gabriel, as foreign minister in March. Maas was in charge of the Justice Ministry when the government passed a controversial internet law to combat hate speech online.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Finance Minister: Olaf Scholz (SPD)

Scholz served as mayor of Hamburg before moving to Berlin to take the reins at the Finance Ministry. The Finance Ministry's capture was a significant win for the SPD. Scholz will also serve as vice-chancellor. He had been in Merkel's Cabinet once before, as minister of labor and social affairs from 2007 to 2009.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Minister of Defense: Ursula von der Leyen (CDU)

Von der Leyen has been defense minister since 2013 and kept her job in the new government. This comes despite numerous scandals within the Bundeswehr, Germany's military, that broke since she took over the Defense Ministry. Her relationship with the troops suffered, but Merkel trusts her.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Economic and Energy Affairs Minister: Peter Altmaier (CDU)

Altmaier was Merkel's chief of staff at the Chancellery before his nomination to take over the Economy Ministry. The last time a CDU politician was in the post was half a century before. Altmaier is regarded as extremely loyal to the chancellor.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection: Katarina Barley (SPD)

Katarina Barley took over as justice minister after serving as both minister of family affairs and labor in the previous government. The 49-year-old is a lawyer by training and holds both British and German citizenship.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Minister of Labor and Social Affairs: Hubertus Heil (SPD)

Hubertus Heil succeeded Andrea Nahles, who stepped down to take over as head of the SPD. A member of the Bundestag since 1998, Heil has twice served as the party's secretary general.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Minister for the Environment: Svenja Schulze (SPD)

Svenja Schulze replaced party colleague Barbara Hendricks, Germany's former minister for the environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety, in March. Schulze previously served as minister for innovation, science and research in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Minister for Health: Jens Spahn (CDU)

Jens Spahn, 37, is representative of a new political generation within the CDU and seen as a future contender for party leadership. In the last government, he served as the parliamentary state secretary in the Finance Ministry. Prior to that, he helped lead the CDU's health policy in the Bundestag.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Minister of Education and Research: Anja Karliczek (CDU)

Anja Karliczek, a former hotel manager who is relatively unknown, was nominated by Merkel to take over the Education Ministry. She had a lot of money to spend: The ministry's budget was increased by €11 billion ($13.6 billion) to pay for school and university improvements shortly before her appointment.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth: Franziska Giffey (SPD)

Franziska Giffey's elevation from the mayor of Berlin's Neukölln district to cabinet minister was perhaps one of the most eye-catching appointments. Giffey bypassed the Bundestag altogether to ascend into government. But the SPD leadership believed her experience in charge of what has often been described as Berlin's "troubled" district made her the most suitable candidate for the role.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development: Gerd Müller (CSU)

Gerd Müller, 62, retained his post as development minister, which he has held since December 2013. He won the job over fellow CSU member Dorothee Bär, who was also in the running. Bär became the state minister for digital affairs in the chancellery, a newly created job.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure: Andreas Scheuer (CSU)

Scheuer, considered a close ally of CSU party head Seehofer, took over the Transport Ministry from party colleague Alexander Dobrindt. He is experienced in the field: From 2009 to 2013, he was parliamentary state secretary in the Transport Ministry. Prior to his latest appointment, he was the CSU's secretary general.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Minister for Food and Agriculture: Julia Klöckner (CDU)

Klöckner previously worked as parliamentary state secretary in the Agriculture Ministry from 2009 to 2011. Between her ministerial stints in Berlin, she was deputy chair of the CDU and headed the CDU in the western German state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

Ministers under Merkel: Germany's new government

Chief of Staff at the Chancellery: Helge Braun (CDU)

Helge Braun took over from CDU colleague Peter Altmaier as Chancellery head in March. He had previously served in deputy positions in the Chancellery and Education Ministry.

The key points of the contract

A continuation of the coalition that has governed Germany since 2013 was pretty much a last resort. The SPD had initially ruled out entering another Merkel-led coalition after their worst election result since World War II. And then talks between the conservative bloc and the smaller Free Democrats and Greens collapsed in November.

The long, almost tortuous, negotiations threaten to create tension even before the new government holds its first cabinet meeting.

The repeated appearance of the phrase "We want to..." in the text, leaves plenty of room for future interpretation. 

So what was agreed?

Refugees/Family reunification: The previous government (also a CDU/SPD grand coalition) had suspended the right of refugees with a "limited protection status" to bring their families over. The new coalition deal says this will be limited to 1,000 people per month. On top of that, the number of asylum-seekers taken in altogether is to be capped at between 180,000 and 220,000 per year.

The plan to reunite families of refugees has been one of the most contentious coalition issues

Europe: The parties underlined the importance of European Union reform and said Germany wants to work closely with France to protect the eurozone from global crises. The new government would be willing to pay more into the EU budget, while the parties stressed that budgetary discipline remains crucial.  

Defense and development: The coalition agreement is vague on this point, committing to spending an additional €2 billion ($2.46 billion) on "international responsibility" and mid-term plans to invest roughly €9 billion more, but the topic remains a contentious one between the parties. Any investments in development will be tied to increased defense spending. 

Germany's NATO missions

Germany's role in NATO

West Germany officially joined the trans-Atlantic alliance in 1955. However, it wasn't until after reunification in 1990 that the German government considered "out of area" missions led by NATO. From peacekeeping to deterrence, Germany's Bundeswehr has since been deployed in several countries across the globe in defense of its allies.

Germany's NATO missions

Bosnia: Germany's first NATO mission

In 1995, Germany participated in its first "out of area" NATO mission as part of a UN-mandated peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the deployment, German soldiers joined other NATO member forces to provide security in the wake of the Bosnian War. The peacekeeping mission included more than 60,000 troops from NATO's member states and partners.

Germany's NATO missions

Keeping the peace in Kosovo

Since the beginning of the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, some 8,500 German soldiers have been deployed in the young country. In 1999, NATO launched an air assault against Serbian forces accused of carrying out a brutal crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists and their civilian supporters. Approximately 550 Bundeswehr troops are still stationed in Kosovo.

Germany's NATO missions

Patrolling the Aegean Sea

In 2016, Germany deployed its combat support ship "Bonn" to lead a NATO mission backed by the EU in the Aegean Sea. The mission included conducting "reconnaissance, monitoring and surveillance of illegal crossings" in Greek and Turkish territorial waters at the height of the migration crisis. Germany, Greece and Turkey had requested assistance from the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Germany's NATO missions

More than a decade in Afghanistan

In 2003, Germany's parliament voted to send Bundeswehr troops to Afghanistan in support of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Germany became the third-largest contributor of troops and led the Regional Command North. More than 50 German troops were killed during the mission. Nearly a thousand soldiers are still deployed in Afghanistan as part of Resolute Support.

Germany's NATO missions

German tanks in Lithuania

Forming part of NATO's "enhanced forward presence" in the Baltic states, 450 Bundeswehr soldiers have been deployed to Lithuania so far in 2017. The battalion-size battlegroups there are led by Germany, Canada, the UK and US to reinforce collective defense on the alliance's eastern flank. It forms the "biggest reinforcement of Alliance collective defence in a generation," according to NATO.

Germany's NATO missions

Taking over the leadership

The Bundeswehr is due to take over leadership of NATO's multinational Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) at the start of 2019. The rapid reaction force has been set up to counter potential Russian aggression on the alliance's eastern flank.

Arms deals with Saudi Arabia: The paper also included a phrase that might be seen as a breakthrough for Germany's anti-arms trade activists — "The government will with immediate effect not approve any exports to countries as long as they are involved in the Yemen war."

Top tax rate: The CDU and SPD are not planning any more tax hikes. The SPD had been pushing for an increase from 42 percent to 45 percent.

Solidarity tax: The special tax instituted after the reunification of Germany in 1990 to help support the former East of the country will be gradually reduced. This is a compromise in a debate that has been running in Germany for several years.

How to waste taxpayers' money in Germany

When glitterpigs fly

German taxpayers paid €100,000 ($117,000) for the floating sculpture of this "Glitzerschwein" (glitter pig) to be installed in Halle, southern Germany. The half-tonne sculpture was elected by city officials as a symbol of Halle's history — a herd of pigs supposedly helped discover the first salt deposit in the city. The crystals symbolize grains of salt.

How to waste taxpayers' money in Germany

Too much money, too little view

The town of Brakel near Paderborn first decided to build a fish ladder on its local stream. Then, the city officials also built a €6,200 platform for the visitors. bringing them literally a step closer to nature.

How to waste taxpayers' money in Germany

Solar-powered garbage disposal

The city of Potsdam has started introducing new, Swiss-made, solar-powered trash cans at a cost of €10,500 each. The can has a built-in garbage press which expands its storage capacity, and an electronic "fullness" indicator. Still, its price tag is a far cry from traditional dumpsters, which cost about €300 apiece.

How to waste taxpayers' money in Germany

Now a shiny eyesore

An artistic statement or a waste of money? A local artist gilded a large house in a struggling part of Hamburg, covering an area of some 300 square meters (3,230 square feet) with real gold leaves. Cultural authorities donated over €85,600 for the project.

How to waste taxpayers' money in Germany

Ghost car park

The public garage in downtown Winsen, near Hamburg, has been open for months. Still, the building's 534 parking spots are mostly unused and all but the ground-floor level are unsettlingly empty. The town paid almost €11 million to build the garage, and it will continue to cover the business deficit in the years to come.

How to waste taxpayers' money in Germany

Lime tree squared

This 400-year-old lime tree in Oberursel near Frankfurt is dying. Local officials have decided to say goodbye to it by making it a part of an art project titled "The passage of time." The celebrity tree will be enclosed in a metal frame with no glass. The price is €77,000, plus a negligible opportunity cost in lost firewood.

How to waste taxpayers' money in Germany

More MPs, more problems

Thanks to Germany's electoral system and September's unusually diverse results, the new parliament is set to have over 700 members, or about 100 more than usual. The bump will force another €75 million out of citizens' pockets in 2018 alone, says the German Taxpayers Federation.

Health insurance: Here too, the SPD failed in its bid to establish a "citizens' insurance" that would guarantee basic health care standards for both state and private patients. Instead, the two sides pledged to restore parity between the contributions from employers and employees.

Housing: The two sides have agreed to a new construction target of 1.5 million new apartments in Germany by 2022 — an ambitious goal, given that the current rate is only around 280,000 a year.

Glyphosate: A small but significant gain for the SPD here. The two parties agreed to ban the use of the controversial pesticide, which is thought to be responsible for killing huge insect populations across Europe in the past few years. 

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