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Germany

German Parties Discuss Post-Coalition Plans

Despite jointly governing the country, members of Germany's two main parties are meeting in separate conference rooms to discuss where each is headed -- ideally as the sole leader of a future government.

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The parties agree that setting path would be easier if they could do it alone.

After being forced by voters to work on Germany's social and economic problems together, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) are both meeting this week in Berlin to discuss their parties' overall direction.

Even as members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's grand coalition stress that Germany's two main parties can work together, neither one is interested in having the other's input in defining their new long-term platforms, which will last far longer than one election cycle -- the CDU's current program is from 1994 while the SPD's dates back to 1989.

Roland Koch

Koch wants to make sure the discussions remain independent of each other

"The more a party is forced to take a coalition partner's wishes into consideration, the clearer it becomes what could be done differently if the coalition partner wasn't there," Hesse Premier Roland Koch (CDU) told the Süddeutsche Zeitung Monday.

Koch said he expects a heated internal debate in determining the CDU's direction and added that the party's new program, which it hopes to have finished by this time next year, would put a focus on family and social policies, the economy and labor markets as well as integration.

Emphasizing the importance of Christian values in the CDU, the party's General Secretary Ronald Pofalla said the new program needs to take into account "that in some parts of the former East Germany more than 50 percent of children are born out of wedlock, in the places where they are being born at all."

Parties disagree on role of the state

But the question of how much responsibility should be left to the state is likely to be the main point of contention between the parties in 2007, when they've both finished their new programs.

Beck hält sich bereit

Beck will make his first major speech to the party as designated chairman this week

The SPD is also aiming to replace the guidelines it set for itself and enhance its image as the party that strives for social equality; it would not close the door on raising taxes if it were free of the grand coalition corset.

"The state is not taking good enough care of preventing disease, unemployment, lack of education and poverty," according to SPD program guidelines written by designated party head Kurt Beck.

SPD for more state intervention, CDU calls for less

Designated SPD chairman Jens Bullerjahn said Germany needs to turn around its systerm where "taxes are too low and spending too high," in an interview on Sunday with the mass market Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

The SPD's Niels Annen called for his party to maintain a "strong social state" and fight for system of "fairer financing" in the program.

Pofalla, however, said he wanted the state to take step back, and re-evaluate how it can become more efficient.

"The state is overwhelmed with the breadth of tasks it has taken over in the past decades," he said in an interview on the Deutschlandfunk radio station. "We think the state needs to take a step back so it can accomplish the tasks it already has."

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