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Greens agree landmark coalition with Merkel's CDU in German state of Hesse

Germany's Green party has voted in favor of joining forces with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) to form a coalition in the state of Hesse. It is the first such coalition to rule a large German state.

Green party members in the central state of Hesse joined the CDU on Saturday in giving the green light to the coalition deal.

The agreement was passed by 74.2 percent of Hesse's Greens after several hours of deliberations. A total of 1,056 of roughly 5,400 party members were gathered in Frankfurt for the vote.

"You are great," the state's Greens leader, Tarek Al-Wazir told party members.

The coalition had already been formally approved hours earlier by Hesse's Christian Democrats during a small party congress.

It is only the second time a German state will have seen a CDU-Green coalition at the helm. Previously, the city-state of Hamburg and some municipalities have been governed by the combination. A CDU-Green coalition came into force in Hamburg 2008, but was broken off two years into the term.

Hurdles overcome

The two parties reached the coalition agreement earlier this month after several weeks of negotiations. Key sticking points related to budgetary concerns and the expansion of Frankfurt airport.

The two parties agreed to reduce noise pollution caused by the airport by, among other things, ensuring regular seven-hour breaks were to be introduced to protect residents in surrounding areas.

The Greens originally wanted a strict ban on night flights and also questioned the need for a new terminal at the airport. However, Hessian CDU leader Volker Bouffier insisted that the hub had to remain competitive.

The Hessian CDU won state elections in September with 38.3 percent of the vote. The party at first began coalition discussions with the Social Democrats (SPD), which received 30.7 percent, but later decided in favor of the Greens, who had received just 11.1 percent of votes.

The coalition, which will govern for five years, will be sworn in on January 18.

ccp/jm (dpa, Reuters)

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