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Germany's Greens still keen on finance ministry in coalition talks

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By Reuters

By Michael Nienaber and Andreas Rinke

BERLIN – Germany’s pro-spending Greens pushed back against a media report on Wednesday which said the party had decided to give up its demand in coalition talks to control the powerful finance ministry so that the fiscally more hawkish Free Democrats (FDP) could take it.

A negotiator from the Greens said the report was not true, as did a party spokesperson, who added no decision had been made on the ministries and who would get which job in the future coalition government.

The fiscally conservative newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) said in an online report that Greens negotiators had decided to demand six ministries in coalition talks, but the finance ministry was not on this list anymore.

Instead, the Greens want to be in charge of foreign affairs, environment/climate, transportation, agriculture, families and transformation, the FAZ reported, citing party sources.

The decision was driven by concerns among Greens negotiators that the FDP could be humiliated if the party would not get the finance ministry and this could endanger the stability of the new coalition government, according to the FAZ report.

Germany’s three-way coalition talks have been heating up as the two smaller parties, the pro-spending Greens and the more fiscally conservative FDP, are both wrangling over who should take the finance minister job.

With the European Union discussing whether the fight against climate change requires changes in the bloc’s joint fiscal rules to allow more spending on green technology, much is at stake in the duel being fought in secretive negotiations in Berlin.

FDP leader Christian Lindner, 42, who wants to become finance minister, has called for a return to solid public finances and a reduction of debt levels across the euro zone following the COVID-19 pandemic.

In contrast, Greens co-leader Robert Habeck, 52, who is also keen to get the top position, has called for a “flexible interpretation” of the fiscal rules of the European Union’s Stability and Growth Pact to guarantee that all member states can increase public investments needed for a faster shift towards a carbon neutral economy.

The tussle is not going unnoticed in other European capitals, where the coalition negotiations and horse-trading over ministerial posts are being closely followed.

However, any finance minister will be constrained by the jointly agreed principles and policy goals of the coalition deal and the chancellor’s overall authority to establish guidelines.

Officials of the three parties have repeatedly said that decisions on minister jobs will only be made at the very end of the negotiations which are expected to last several more weeks.

The Social Democrats hope to wrap up coalition negotiations with the Greens and the FDP before the end of the month so that Chancellor-in-waiting Olaf Scholz can be elected as Angela Merkel’s successor before an EU summit on Dec. 16-17.