German Energy Policy Said to Switch to SPD

Germany’s Social Democrats are poised to assume control of the country’s energy overhaul in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s third term, party officials with knowledge of the matter said.

Responsibility for energy policy will be shifted to an enlarged Economy Ministry run by the SPD, four officials said on condition of anonymity because cabinet decisions have not yet been made public. Energy policy was shared with the Environment Ministry led by Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union in her second term. Cabinet posts will probably be announced on Dec. 15 after the coalition parties meet, three of the people said.

Eva Wuellner, a CDU spokeswoman, declined to comment on the cabinet when contacted by telephone today. No one from the SPD immediately returned calls seeking comment.

An SPD-run Economy Ministry equipped with additional powers is part of the coalition calculus worked out between Merkel, her Bavarian ally Horst Seehofer and their prospective coalition partner, SPD Chairman Sigmar Gabriel. Under the division, Merkel held on to the Finance Ministry for Wolfgang Schaeuble, with the SPD securing two ministries in return, one of the people said, without naming the ministries.

“Sigmar Gabriel doesn’t want to risk taking on the Finance Ministry,” Manfred Guellner, the head of polling company Forsa, said today in a telephone interview. That’s why he’s pressing for a new “super-ministry” encompassing energy, Guellner said.

Posts Announced

Merkel has been mostly out of public view for the last two weeks as the Social Democrats put the coalition accord to a vote of its 475,000 members. The result of the ballot is due Dec. 14, followed by separate meetings of the three coalition parties on Dec. 15. Only then can cabinet posts be announced, according to the terms of the coalition contract.

While Merkel, Gabriel and Seehofer, the Bavarian prime minister who leads the CDU’s Christian Social Union sister party, have made preliminary decisions on ministerial jobs, the distribution of posts remains flexible, all four officials said.

The Economy Ministry deal is subject to internal SPD backing, according to one of the people, who said that there is ongoing discussion in the party over cabinet posts. Gabriel is still considering whether a bid for the chancellery in 2017 would best be served by heading the “super-ministry” or by remaining outside the cabinet as SPD parliamentary group leader, one of the people said. The others said Gabriel’s intentions remained unclear.

Merkel’s Call

Merkel has yet to tell her cabinet colleagues which of them still has a job and will probably only call them as late as Dec. 15, one of the people said.

In her second term, energy policy was split between the Economy Ministry run by Philipp Roesler, the former leader of Merkel’s second-term Free Democratic Party coalition partner, and the environment portfolio currently held by Peter Altmaier, a Christian Democrat like the chancellor and a Merkel confidant.

That led to clashes over policy including subsidies for solar and wind power and the European Union’s proposed carbon-market fix. Under the division envisaged, the Environment Ministry would retain control of the running down of Germany’s nuclear power plants as it switches to renewables, according to one of the people.

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