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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, October 22, 2018

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Germany awaits a new government, as top leaders huddle up

Merkel and Schulz

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BERLIN, Germany - German leaders are expected to begin talks on forming a new government in Berlin this weekend.

Leaders from three parties will head to the negotiating table, in a bid to give the country a new government by March. 

Leaders of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats, their Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union, and their previous partners, the Social Democrats, will sit down on Sunday for a new round of talks intended to hammer out the basis of a new government.

The talks come three months after the September 24 election and after a breakdown of talks last November. 

In the September election, Merkel and her party weakened, leaving the chancellor being under pressure and taking no chances. 

Now, the goal would be to hold “tight and productive” talks in the spirit of trust and optimism - however, over the next six days, there would be a complete news blackout aimed at preventing a repeat of a breakdown last November, when the Free Democrats walked out on the chancellor.

However, the Social Democrats, whose supporters remain unconvinced that a third government with the party that was previously its main rival is in its best interest.

Amongst the key issues are immigration and the refugees situation, health and elder care, European unity, and education.

The biggest sticking point however, remains that the huge influx of migrants - which has emerged as a polarizing issue in Germany and has contributed to the drop of 14 percentage points in support overall for the negotiating parties. 

Many of those voters switched to the far-right Alternative for Germany, which campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform.

Now, Conservatives and Social Democrats are split over the number of people that should be allowed to enter the country.

Further, they are asking for applications to be made for protection on humanitarian grounds. 

While Merkel and the Bavarians believe 200,000 applications should be the limit, the Social Democrats oppose any restrictions.

The Social Democrats support legislation that would allow Germany to admit qualified immigrants to fill thousands of openings in companies and factories. 

Meanwhile, the Social Democrats would like to replace the current mix of private and public providers with a universal system financed by taxpayers. 

This, they claim would end what they see as effectively a two-class system.

However, Merkel’s conservatives want to preserve the current system.

All parties meanwhile do agree on the need to improve care for nearly three million people, mostly older Germans who are dependent on care, either in their own homes or in facilities.

While conservatives have rejected Martin Schulz’ bid of a “United States of Europe” by 2025 as unrealistic - the sticking point will be a common approach on changes to the eurozone, along the lines proposed by the French President Emmanuel Macron, who is seeking a shared budget and governing structure.

Merkel however, understands the need to maintain a strong Franco-German alliance despite reluctance in her party.

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