FACTBOX-German coalition talks postpone decision on motorway toll

by Reuters
Monday, 11 November 2013 19:04 GMT

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives are in talks with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) with the goal of having a new "grand coalition" government in place by Christmas.

The parties have created 16 working groups that are charged with proposing policy compromises on a range of issues, from economic and banking policy to the euro and energy.

Below are the latest details on the talks and comments from participants:

CAR TOLL FOR FOREIGNERS - The controversial push by the Bavarian CSU for a motorway toll for foreign drivers could not be resolved by negotiators and any decision will be postponed to the final round of talks, sources said. The SPD remains opposed to charging only foreigners, though the European Commission says it could be done by charging all drivers, then compensating German taxpayers. Support for the toll from Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) is also fading, sources say.

RENEWABLE ENERGY - Environment Minister Peter Altmaier has produced a paper for the conservatives obtained by Reuters that would reform renewable energy feed-in tariffs (FIT) and force those operating renewable plants in the future to market their green energy directly to consumers instead of relying on a surcharge to fund the gap between market prices and the higher FIT. The plans face resistance in the coalition talks.

WISH LISTS - Merkel warned negotiators in all parties to keep a lid on new spending wishes as tens of billions of euros worth of new demands emerge, notably from the construction, economy and labour working groups. The conservatives have ruled out any tax increases to fund new projects.

DUAL CITIZENSHIP - German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, from the CSU Bavarian sister party to Merkel's conservatives, told the "Muenchner Merkur" newspaper he strongly opposed dual citizenship as it would foster a permanent Turkish minority and slowly change the identity of German society. The SPD insists the conservatives agree to expand dual citizenship.

TAX PRIVILEGES - The SPD want to hold on to a tax privilege that means company cars are only taxed at 1 percent of their value, a party position paper seen by Reuters shows. The conservatives also want to keep the privilege for company cars, into which category most cars in Germany fall.

CO2 BACKLOADING - The SPD and conservatives have agreed to back EU plans to prop up carbon prices by 'backloading' permits. The EU plans had been stalled for months partly because Berlin withheld backing due to differences within Merkel's outgoing centre-right government.

ECONOMY - The two parties broadly agreed on economic policy during a meeting on Tuesday, participants said. The parties agreed to spend an extra 1 billion euros per year on broadband in rural areas but CDU co-chair Julia Kloeckner said it was still unclear how they would do this.

FOREIGN POLICY - The two parties have yet to agree on how much further power should be handed to the European Union.

They came closer to agreeing on a need for more transparency on arms exports. The CDU said parliament should be informed more quickly of sealed armament deals. SPD General Secretary Andrea Nahles said both sides agreed arms sale controls and the information available to parliament should be improved.

RENT CONTROLS - The working group on transport, construction and infrastructure agreed to tackle the issue of rapidly rising rents in big cities by introducing rent controls and building more new homes, which it wants to encourage with tax incentives.

BANKING UNION - On the issue of a banking union, chief CDU negotiator for EU issues Herbert Reul said there was agreement on the need for a European authority for bank resolution, but no deal on what form it should take. He said his party could envision a "special institution" tied to the European Council.

He said that until a planned European bank resolution fund was up and running, national funds should be used where needed. The question is whether banks will be wound up at a European level or, as has been the case until now, at a national level.

The German parties are aiming to reach an agreement on the issue by Nov. 13.

MINIMUM WAGE - Hermann Groehe of the CDU said there was agreement on the idea of setting up a commission to make recommendations on how to fix a minimum wage but no accord on the mandate of such a body, with the SPD sticking to its demand for a nationwide floor of 8.50 euros.

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel has said his party will not sign a coalition deal without agreement on a statutory minimum wage.

IT SECURITY - Interior Minister Friedrich said he wanted to include strict IT security standards in a coalition deal due to the spying activities of the U.S. National Security Agency. (Compiled by Berlin bureau, editing by Gareth Jones)

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