German liberals would expect finance ministry in Merkel
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[September 18, 2017]
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's
Free Democrats (FDP) would want the finance ministry in exchange for
joining Chancellor Angela Merkel in the country's next coalition
government, a member of the party's executive said.
Setting out conditions days before federal elections that Merkel is
almost certain to win, albeit short of an absolute majority, the FDP
also ruled out partnering her conservatives if she supported French
plans to deepen fiscal integration in the euro zone.
Often viewed as Merkel's natural allies, the socially liberal FDP were
part of her second government from 2009 to 2013. They crashed out of
parliament that year but are hoping to re-enter the legislature on
Sunday as the third-largest party.
Current Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, of Merkel's Christian
Democrats (CDU), has held the post since 2009 and is the most
high-profile member of her cabinet.
But Alexander Hahn, a member of the FDP's national executive, said the
ministry should go to someone from his party.
"The FDP should enter no government in which it cannot name a finance
minister," Hahn told mass-market daily Bild in remarks published on
On Sunday, FDP leader Christian Lindner said setting the agenda for
Europe was the most important issue for his party in any coalition talks
with the conservatives after the Sept. 24 vote.
"I fear that Ms Merkel has already agreed to new funding mechanisms (for
the EU) with (French President Emmanuel) Macron," he told the Welt am
"Everything that goes in the direction of financial transfer on the
European level, be it a euro zone budget or a banking union, is a red
line for us".
Macron, who is to present his views on the future of the euro zone on
Sept. 26, has called for a finance minister and a standalone budget for
the bloc, while European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on
Wednesday urged EU governments to use economic recovery as a springboard
toward closer union.
PRIME MOVER SCHAEUBLE
Merkel has said she would work with Macron on strengthening the euro
[to top of second column]
Free Democratic Party (FDP) leader Wolfgang Kubicki speaks at the
FDP party convention in Berlin, Germany, September 17, 2017.
But Germany remains insistent that member states should take primary
responsibility for their own economic problems, a principle whose prime exponent
has been Schaeuble.
He is revered by a significant part of the conservative voter base who see him
as a guardian of their austerity-oriented interests in the euro zone.
The FDP, who held the foreign minister in their last union with the
conservatives, have reinvented themselves under Lindner, who preaches a hard
line on Europe.
They are polling 8 to 10 percent in surveys, while Merkel's conservatives are on
around 37 percent, leaving their combined forces just short of a majority.
Analysts say completing a banking union and creating a euro zone budget would
provide more stability for the currency bloc, and that a conservative/FDP
coalition might threaten such plans.
"I fear there could be a strong reaction on bond markets should the FDP push for
a literal enforcement of fiscal rules or for an expulsion of Greece as part of a
future ruling coalition," said Martin Lueck of asset manager BlackRock.
A grand coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), Merkel's current
partners and polling around 23 percent, would make it much easier for the
chancellor to work with Macron on overhauling the euro zone.
The centre-left SPD have often criticized Schaeuble's tough stance on Greece and
have even backed the idea of common euro zone debt.
The FDP are fighting for third spot against the anti-immigrant Alternative for
Germany (AfD), which is forecast to enter parliament for the first time.
(Writing by Joseph Nasr; editing by John Stonestreet)
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