German ruling coalition puts on show of unity

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 04, 2012 6:19 PM
German ruling coalition puts on show of unity

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's center-right coalition, shaken by a row last month in choosing a candidate for the German Presidency, put on a show of unity Sunday as party leaders held their first formal talks of 2012 and side-stepped the more divisive issues.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has come under intense strain in recent months due to parties' squabbles over eurozone policy and taxation, and almost ruptured a fortnight ago when the junior partners, the Free Democrats (FDP), defiantly backed the opposition's presidential candidate.

During two and a half hours of talks in Berlin late on Sunday party leaders struck several agreements, including giving Germany's consumer advisory body (Stiftung Warentest) an extra 1.5 million euros so it could shed more light on financial products.

Hermann Groehe, general secretary of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) praised the "very good, collegial atmosphere." Leaders of other parties echoed his comments.

Last month Merkel bowed to pressure from the FDP and agreed to support presidential candidate Joachim Gauck, whose candidacy she had publicly opposed in 2010.

Further tensions are expected in the run-up to next year's election, not least on issues such as the permanent euro zone rescue fund. The Christian Social Union (CSU), Merkel's sister party in Bavaria, repeated Saturday it opposed any increase in the fund, while Merkel is coming under intense international pressure to increase its firepower.

(Reporting by Holger Hansen, writing by Alexandra Hudson)