BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives made major concessions to the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) to agree a coalition deal on Wednesday that should give Europe’s powerhouse a new government after four months of uncertainty.
In a move likely to herald a shift in Germany’s euro zone policy, a source involved in the negotiations said the SPD would take the finance ministry, a post held until recently by conservative Wolfgang Schaeuble, widely despised in struggling euro zone states during his eight-year tenure for his rigid focus on fiscal discipline.
SPD leader Martin Schulz said earlier this week that his party had ensured an agreement with the conservatives would put an end to “forced austerity” and set up an investment budget for the euro zone.
Handing over the crucial finance ministry suggests the conservatives had to make big concessions to get the SPD to agree to renew the ‘grand coalition’ that has governed Germany since 2013 and secure Merkel’s fourth term in office.
Merkel said the difficult coalition talks had been worth it and the government would be a stable one.
Schulz said the agreement reached with the conservatives would mean a change in direction for the European Union.
Bruised by its worst election result in the post-war era, the SPD had planned to revamp itself in opposition and only agreed to the coalition talks reluctantly. Its 464,000 members still have the chance to veto the deal in a postal ballot.
Julian Reichelt, editor of Germany’s biggest selling paper, Bild, suggested they had got the better end of the deal, tweeting: “This is the first SPD government led by a CDU chancellor.”
While the talks have dragged on, Europe’s biggest economy has moved into overdrive, suggesting that there may be increased scope for government spending and investment.
In a message posted alongside a photo of Schulz and other SPD negotiators smiling, the SPD negotiators wrote: “Tired but happy. There is an agreement! Finally. Now the final details are being worked into the text.”
The deal should allow Germany to resume its leading role in international affairs and, at least for now, put an end to questions about how long Merkel will stay in her job.