BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives have started the final day of intensive talks with Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) before both camps decide whether to start formal negotiations on forging a coalition.
Merkel, already weakened by losses to the far-right in a September election, is pinning her hopes for a fourth term on a re-run of the ‘grand coalition’ with the SPD after talks on a three-way coalition with other parties collapsed in November.
Both sides have said there are high hurdles to clear.
Following is a summary of the main agreed and outstanding policy areas:
Drop target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, which had looked unrealistic. Extended deadline for the 40 percent target to the vague ‘early 2020s’. Stick to goal to cut emissions by 55 percent by 2030.
Cut tax on electricity to reduce energy costs and tender an extra 4 gigawatts of solar energy plus onshore and offshore wind-generating capacity.
Present plans by end of year to exit coal-fired energy.
Lift threshold for top income tax rate of 42 percent to 60,000 euros (£44,356) a year from 53,700 euros (£39,701). There may be further discussion of tax changes, with both camps keen to phase out the “solidarity tax” introduced after reunification in 1990 to support poorer eastern states.
Rules to attract skilled immigrants, though parties at odds on what they should call such a law.
Invest 12 billion euros to expand fast internet connections by 2025.
With 45 billion euros available to spend, there is a consensus over commitment to balanced budget.
Range of measures to achieve climate targets, including support for electric vehicles and public transport.
Aim to avoid driving bans in some cities due to high emissions levels by supporting cleaner combustion engines which may include costly hardware refits as well as software upgrades.
Set up a German-French centre to develop artificial intelligence.
Sharply reduce use of weed killer glyphosate and to end its use as quickly as possible.
The SPD stresses it wants a stronger Europe with deeper integration. The party has called for a “United States of Europe” by 2025 - a step too far for the conservatives who do not want to risk German taxpayers’ money. The conservatives disapprove of French proposals for a euro zone budget and finance minister.
Most of all, the conservatives want to continue a suspension of family reunions for asylum seekers who are allowed to stay in Germany. The SPD want the suspension, which expires in March, to end.
The SPD wants to abolish what it sees as a divisive system with private and public sectors and replace it with ‘citizens insurance’ for everybody. Conservatives reject this, arguing changes would stifle competition and result in worse care.
Reporting by Madeline Chambers; editing by Ralph Boulton
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