German liberals want control of Finance Ministry in Merkel coalition

German investor sentiment has improved by more than expected in September in readings that bode well for Chancellor Angela Merkel as she seeks a fourth term in Sunday's national election.
FDP leader Christian Lindner says setting the agenda for Europe is the most important issue for his party in any coalition talk with the conservatives.
FDP leader Christian Lindner says setting the agenda for Europe is the most important issue for his party in any coalition talk with the conservatives.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BERLIN • Germany's Free Democ- rats will want the Finance Ministry in exchange for joining Chancellor Angela Merkel in the country's next coalition government, according to a member of the party's executive.

Setting out conditions days before the Sept 24 federal elections that Dr Merkel is almost certain to win, albeit short of an absolute majority, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) also ruled out partnering her conservatives if she supported French plans to deepen fiscal integration in the euro zone.

Often viewed as Dr Merkel's natural ally, the socially liberal FDP was part of her second government from 2009 to 2013. it crashed out of Parliament that year but is hoping to re-enter the legislature as the third-largest party.

Current Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, of Dr Merkel's Christian Democrats, has held the post since 2009 and is the highest-profile member of her Cabinet. But Mr Alexander Hahn, a member of the FDP's national executive, said the ministry should go to his party. "The FDP should enter no government in which it cannot name a finance minister," he told Bild newspaper yesterday.

On Sunday, FDP leader Christian Lindner said setting the agenda for Europe was the most important issue for his party in any coalition talk with the conservatives.

"I fear that Dr Merkel has already agreed to new funding mechanisms (for the EU) with (French President Emmanuel) Macron," Mr Lindner told Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "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."

Mr Macron has called for a finance minister and a standalone budget for the bloc. But Germany remains insistent that member states should take primary responsibility for their own economic problems, a principle whose prime exponent has been Dr Schaeuble. He is revered by the conservative voter base, which sees him as a guardian of its austerity-oriented interests in the euro zone.

The FDP, which held the foreign minister's post in its last union with the conservatives, has reinvented itself under Mr Lindner. It is polling 8 per cent to 10 per cent in surveys, while Dr Merkel's conservatives are on around 37 per cent.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2017, with the headline 'German liberals want control of Finance Ministry in Merkel coalition'. Print Edition | Subscribe