Spend on defense, Merkel's allies say, widening gap with SPD

BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian sister party (CSU) has proposed increasing Germany’s defense spending to a level that widens a policy gap with the Social Democrats (SPD) ahead of talks on forming a governing coalition.

A combination of two photos show German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz as they attend a debate of the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

A deal between Merkel’s conservative camp and the center-left (SPD) is her best chance of securing a fourth term in office but her possible coalition partners are angling for concessions before talks start in the new year.

The CSU said in a draft resolution seen by Reuters on Friday it wanted defense spending to reach NATO’s target of 2 percent of national output and more money spent on the military, drones and transportation infrastructure.

“Getting the best possible equipment, training and care for the soldiers as well as strengthening and modernizing the army costs money,” read the draft, which urged an increase in the defense budget to achieve these goals.

But more defense spending demanded by the CSU on Merkel’s right flank could make a deal with the SPD on her left harder.

The SPD has rejected NATO’s defense spending target and accused Merkel and her conservatives of kowtowing to the demands of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The document was skeptical about deeper European integration, rejecting the idea of “ever closer union” as advocated by SPD leader Martin Schulz, who has called for a “United States of Europe” to be achieved by 2025.

On immigration, where the two parties also disagree, the CSU draft said Germany can no longer be the main destination for refugees and the European Union mission that rescues refugees’ boats cannot be a shuttle service to Europe.

The party also proposed that African countries that agreed to take back refugees could be rewarded with more investment.

“In plain language: if you cooperate, you profit,” the draft said.

Reporting By Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg