January 23, 2018 / 4:45 PM / 8 months ago

Germany anti-euro party to chair budget committee if SPD joins government

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German anti-euro party Alternative for Germany (AfD) is set to chair parliament’s key budget committee if talks succeed to renew a “grand coalition” of conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD), according to a document seen by Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: AFD leader Jorg Meuthen and co-leader Alexander Gauland (L) attend the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD), congress in Hanover, Germany December 3, 2017. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

The AfD, which stormed into parliament for the first time in September, will become the largest opposition party in the lower house, the Bundestag, if conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel forms a government with the SPD.

A blueprint agreed among the Bundestag party factions on how to share out the various committees showed that, if that happened, they would respect the tradition that allows the main opposition party to head the budget committee, which vets euro zone bailouts.

The AfD, which wants Germany to leave the euro zone, was also set to chair the law and consumer protection committee and the tourism committee.

Merkel’s conservatives, the SPD, the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP) had pondered changing the rules to prevent the AfD chairing the budget committee, which debates Germany’s spending plans, including bailout aid for Greece.

The AfD has put forward lawmaker Peter Boehringer to chair the committee, whose members will have to vote on his appointment.

Plans to ostracise the AfD in the Bundestag were dropped by other parties after they concluded that this would only strengthen the party, which says Islam is incompatible with the German constitution.

The AfD became the third largest party in September’s election, while both the conservatives and the SPD suffered steep losses after four years in coalition.

As a result, the SPD’s rank and file are by no means certain to vote in favour of renewing that alliance after the conclusion of formal negotiations, which begin this Friday.

Germany is the largest contributor to euro zone rescue programmes and, even though Boehringer could not single-handedly veto aid, his hostility towards the euro zone is likely to create tension.

Last year, he described as a “disgrace” French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposals to install a euro zone finance minister and create a budget for the single currency bloc.

The AfD draws most of its support from people angry at Merkel’s decision in 2015 to open Germany’s borders to more than a million people seeking asylum, most of them Muslims from the Middle East.

Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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