German Greens Chief Trittin Says Merkel’s Policy Bars Coalition

The co-leader of Germany’s Greens, Juergen Trittin, sharpened his party’s attack on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, saying policy differences put them on “collision course” in federal elections this fall.

Trittin, one of his party’s two lead candidates for the Sept. 22 vote, said the opposition Green stance on labor policy, climate change and measures to get more women on company boards were almost irreconcilable with those of Merkel’s CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU. Allying the parties in the face of such a divide wouldn’t be “especially convincing,” he said.

“I’m not saying that this is impossible in either case,” Trittin said in an interview in his parliamentary office in Berlin yesterday. “However, regarding the issues that are on the table now -- the minimum wage, women’s quotas, climate protection law -- on all these points, the CDU, and above all the CSU, want the opposite of what the Greens want.”

Less than five months before elections that will determine the course of Europe’s biggest economy and whether crisis-ravaged euro countries can ease up on budget cuts, the Greens voted at a weekend convention to bet on an alliance with the opposition Social Democratic Party of Peer Steinbrueck to stop Merkel winning a third term.

Trittin, 58, who replaced Merkel as environment minister in 1998, serving in the post until 2005 in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s SPD-Greens coalition, said that he plans to warn of the impact of Merkel’s austerity-first crisis policy on a trip to the U.S. next week. He said he’ll tell audiences at Harvard University and the Brookings Institution in Washington that Merkel’s approach is isolating Germany in Europe.

Merkel’s Minority

“I believe that the question of consolidation, and overcoming the crisis exclusively by saving and cutting spending has little chance of succeeding, and that’s a position that’s becoming more and more a minority in Europe,” Trittin said. “It’s our task to make clear that there’s a different position in Europe and in Germany.”

During a five-day trip that starts May 6, Trittin said he will meet with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and officials from the International Monetary Fund.

The Greens and the IMF share a “very similar” view on how to tackle the crisis, Trittin said. “Consolidation fails if you focus exclusively on saving -- you also have to invest.”

Domestically, the Greens are gambling that a platform of tax increases for those earning 60,000 euros ($78,400) and above will appeal to average voters. Trittin rejected criticism of his party’s tax plans as the reaction of those “defending their own purses.”

Support Steady

Polls suggest the Green message resonates thus far. Support for the Greens was unchanged at 14 percent in a weekly Emnid poll taken before the party convention and published yesterday. That’s 4 percentage points higher than the party took at the last election in 2009. With the SPD at 26 percent, up a point, the two parties had a combined tally of 40 percent, not enough to form a coalition after the election.

While Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc led with 40 percent, up one point, her Free Democratic Party coalition partner dropped to 4 percent, less than one-third of its tally in 2009 and below the 5 percent threshold to win seats in parliament. The anti-capitalist Left Party had 7 percent in the poll of 2,440 voters conducted April 18-24. No margin of error was given.


If those poll results are replicated on Sept. 22, then the Greens can either watch as Merkel forms a rerun of her first-term “grand coalition” with the SPD, or they can become potential kingmakers, either by allying with the Left in a three-way tie-up with the SPD or by courting Merkel’s bloc.

Steinbrueck has said the SPD won’t form a coalition with the Left. Trittin said it is the Greens’ push for “more modernity, more fairness and for sustainability” that will determine its openness to coalition-building.

“That’s why I think on these core points that we should ally with a party that’s heading more or less in the same direction, and that’s the SPD,” he said. For all the potential for conflict, “there’s a fundamental common wish of both parties to empower people to have a bigger share of what society has to offer. We share this fundamental direction in policy, whereas the other parties are going in another direction.”

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