February 7, 2018 / 7:00 PM / 12 days ago

Factbox - Social Democrats compromise to secure German coalition deal

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) vowed to “negotiate until the other side squeals” in coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives. In the end, the SPD compromised on a number of policy issues.

The centre-left SPD must now sell the coalition agreement agreed with Merkel’s conservatives on Wednesday to its 464,000 party members who get to vote on the deal in a postal ballot in the coming weeks.

A ‘no’ vote would catapult Germany into a full political crisis and test the constitutional arrangements of the federal republic like never before since its creation in 1949.

In the coalition negotiations, the SPD sought to improve on agreements clinched in exploratory talks with the conservatives in January. Four policy areas were particularly contentious: migration, health insurance, employment policy and Europe.

The analysis below traces the SPD’s position on these issues from its election manifesto, published on June 26 last year, to the coalition blueprint agreed on Jan. 12 after exploratory talks, to SPD leader Martin Schulz’s Jan. 21 pledges to improve on that deal, and finally to the full coalition agreement.

MIGRANTS

* Election manifesto:

“We want a good refugee policy for all people ... If a refugee is allowed to stay in Germany, then he must be given good help here.”

* Coalition blueprint:

- Cap at 1,000 a month the number of people allowed to join their family now living as refugees in Germany.

* Schulz in a speech to party congress in Bonn:

“There is no rule for hardship cases with family reunions. This is where the conservatives have to move. I’ll tell you today quite clearly: a hardship rule will come. We will fight for further improvements in the coalition negotiations”.

* Coalition agreement (adds ‘hardship cases’ from blueprint):

- Cap at 1,000 a month the number of people allowed to join their family now living as refugees in Germany, plus so-called ‘hardship cases’, which are to be defined by coalition lawmakers.

HEALTH INSURANCE

* Election manifesto:

“All people should get the same care when they get sick. To this end, we will introduce a citizen’s insurance ... If someone becomes ill, then they get good help. No matter how much money they have.”

* Coalition blueprint:

“We will ensure that in the future too everyone is covered by good, comprehensive medical and nursing care from the beginning until the end of their life, independent of their income and residential area.”

“Employers and employees should make equal contributions to health insurance.”

* Schulz in a speech to party congress in Bonn:

“With citizen’s insurance, we have not been able to prevail. But we are not giving up on the goal of dismantling the two-class medical system. We will demand concrete action to reduce two-tier medical care - and we will prevail.”

* Coalition agreement:

“We will ensure that in the future too everyone is covered by good, comprehensive medical and nursing care from the beginning until the end of their life, independent of their income and residential area.”

- From Jan. 1, 2019, employers and employees will make equal contributions to health insurance.

- Make the health insurance system less onerous for the self-employed.

EMPLOYMENT POLICY

* Election manifesto:

“Everyone should have a permanent job. Nobody should be afraid of losing his job ... That is why we will abolish fixed-term employment contracts.”

* Coalition blueprint:

“We want to support families to have more time for each other. We will develop models to create more room for family time.”

- Workers can work shortened hours for a fixed period, with certain conditions:

- They do not have the right within this period to return to full time early; employers can reject employees’ requests to move to part-time work for a period of less than one year or more than five; the entitlement to part-time work applies only to firms that generally employ a total of more than 45 employees; once the period of part-time work is over, the employee must wait at least a year to request a new reduction in hours worked.

* Schulz in a speech to party congress in Bonn:

“Fixed-term work (contracts) must be the exception. Especially for career starters, fixed-term work must again become the norm. So we will not let up in any coalition negotiations on this point.”

* Coalition agreement:

- Lower to 18 months the limit that employers can set on fixed-term contracts imposed without justification, down from 24 months under current rules. Only one extension will be allowed within that time instead of three permitted under existing rules.

EUROPE

* Election manifesto:

“We want a better and fairer Europe”

* Coalition blueprint:

- Want to renew and bolster Franco-German cooperation

- Favour specific budget funds for economic stabilisation

- Willing to contribute more to the EU budget

- Want the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to become a parliamentarily controlled European Monetary Fund

* Schulz in a speech to party congress in Bonn:

- He mentioned Europe 25 times in a 57-minute speech.

- “In the exploratory talks, we achieved a paradigm shift in Germany’s Europe policy: away from the austerity policy and towards a strengthened common responsibility for our continent and its institutions. For me as a convinced European, this is a historic success.”

* Coalition agreement:

This strengthens the blueprint’s language on stability.

- EU’s Stability and Growth Pact remains our compass

- We want to renew and bolster Franco-German cooperation

- Favour specific budget funds for economic stabilisation

- Are willing to contribute more to the EU budget

- Want the ESM to become a parliamentarily controlled European Monetary Fund

Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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