Let's get started on coalition talks, Germany's Greens say

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 09, 2017 4:43 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's Greens on Monday said talks on a three-way coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) should get under way after the conservative bloc overcame a key stumbling block by settling its migrant row.

Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) appeared to make a concession to their conservative Bavarian allies on Sunday by agreeing to put a number on how many people Germany would accept per year on humanitarian grounds, namely a net total of around 200,000 individuals.

That cleared the way for talks on forming a "Jamaica" tie-up - previously untested at the national level but the most likely option after a Sept. 24 vote left Merkel's conservatives as the strongest bloc and in need of partners. The Social Democrats, their current coalition partner, want to go into opposition.

Cem Ozdemir, co-leader of the pro-migrant Greens, avoided clearly rejecting the conservatives' migrant deal and so left open the door to a Jamaica coalition - the name deriving from the black, green and yellow colors of the parties, which match those of the Caribbean island's flag.

"I'm curious to see how they will explain that to us," Ozdemir said of the conservative agreement in an interview on ZDF television on Monday.

The Greens reject a cap on migrant arrivals that the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) has been advocating in view of an influx of 890,000 migrants in 2015 and 280,000 in 2016, with many of them entering the country via Bavaria.

Although arrivals are expected to drop further this year, the issue is expected to set sparks flying between the CSU and Greens in coalition talks.

Nonetheless Ozdemir urged the conservatives to quickly invite the FDP and Greens to exploratory talks on forming a coalition, saying: "We all need to just get started now."

Then the parties will find out whether they can work together, he said, adding that all groups taking part in coalition negotiations would need to make concessions.

"Compromises always mean everyone needs to give a bit," he said.

Simone Peter, another senior Greens member, had on Sunday criticised the conservative deal, saying it seemed like "a cap because it indiscriminately lumps refugee groups together and once the limit is reached it apparently plays them off against each other for no reason."

Senior CSU member Thomas Kreuzer told Deutschlandfunk radio the CSU expected what it had agreed with Merkel's CDU on Sunday to be in the coalition agreement. He said he could imagine scenarios whereby the number 200,000 might need to be adjusted.

The FDP said the conservative compromise had prepared the way for coalition talks.

"The foundations have been laid," Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, deputy head of the FDP, said on ZDF television.

The conservative sister parties agreed to push for an immigration law that would give priority to migrants with skills to plug gaps in the labor market - a move welcomed by Strack-Zimmermann.

But on the limit, she said there could be no compromises on the right to asylum.

The right to political asylum is in Article 16a of Germany's constitution and cannot be abolished. Merkel has previously said the fundamental right to asylum for those who are being persecuted for political reasons cannot be restricted.

(Reporting by Gernot Heller; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Toby Chopra)