CSU, SPD on clash course ahead of German coalition negotiations

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-30 02:58:33|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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BERLIN, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- Policy demands made by the Christian Social Union (CSU) have put the party on a collision course with the German Social Democrats (SPD) ahead of looming coalition negotiations.

CSU delegates in the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag) called for a stricter stance on humanitarian migration, higher defense spending and rejected federal vision of a "United States of Europe" during their winter conference at the Bavarian Seeon monastery.

Formal negotiations between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), CSU and SPD over the formation of a German government are scheduled to commence on January 7. German media have repeatedly questioned whether an agreement could still be reached on the re-launch of a so-called "grand coalition" in light of their seemingly contradictory policy stances.

The CSU has now further complicated the quest for legislative compromises with a series of new proposals, including lifting the German defense spending to the annual NATO goal of 2 percent of GDP.

Germany's yearly military budget currently amounts to around 1.2 percent of GDP, although acting Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) has repeatedly advocated for higher spending to ensure NATO compliance. However, SPD leader Martin Schulz and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) are staunchly opposed to what they perceive to be an arbitrary spending target.

In parallel, the CSU suggested expanding the budget for developmental aid by "at least" the same rate. Nevertheless, senior SPD figures were quick to snub calls for higher defense expenditure on Friday.

SPD Vice-President Ralf Stegner told the newspaper Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger that Germany needed to invest in "education, families and infrastructure, rather than participating in an arms race."

In what is set to become another potential obstacle to successful coalition talks, the CSU also outlined its desire to establish a stricter asylum policy regime in Germany at its winter conference.

"It is not acceptable that Germany has accepted more refugees than all other 27 European Union (EU) members combined", a draft CSU statement read.

The party advocated for relocating the process of evaluating asylum applications and deportations to the EU's external frontiers in order to alleviate the situation. Uniform standards for asylum policy were needed to ensure that Germany was no longer the "main destination for refugees."

The CSU additionally wants to see a "reversal of the burden of proof" with regards to border controls. Accordingly, a ban on controls and checks at the internal frontiers between EU members would only be legally-justified when the European Commission can prove that the external borders were secure.

"Without safe outer borders, no open internal borders" the Bavarian CSU party leader Alexander Dobrindt said.

Highlighting deep ideological divisions between the parties, the CSU policy document strictly rejects calls by SPD leader Martin Schulz to eventually establish a "United States of Europe".

The concept of a "borderless, ever closer union" had failed and found "no acceptance amongst the populace", the paper read.

Instead, the CSU argued for formulating criteria which defined "at which point the integration process has been concluded and we no longer desire to transfer additional competences to Brussels." Unlike the SPD, the party refused to support proposals made by French President Emmanuel Macron to create a Eurozone budget and Finance Minister.

In what appeared to be a swerve to the right of the political spectrum, imitating the newly-appointed Chancellor of neighboring Austria Sebastian Kurz, Bavarian governor Markus Soeder (CSU) summarized the party conference resolutions as an answer to Germany's recent electoral result "centered on the reduction of immigration."

If even the left-leaning Green party (Gruene) could commit to this objective during failed earlier "Jamaica" coalition talks, then the SPD "could do so as well", Soeder said.