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Germany

Hamburg's Greens Approve Landmark Coalition Deal With CDU

Hamburg's Greens party approved the first-ever coalition deal with the Christian Democrats at state level when members passed a deal negotiated by the executives of the two parties earlier this month.

Hamburg's mayor Ole von Beust of the Christian Democrats (CDU), right, Michael Freytag, chairman of Hamburg's Christian Democratic Party (CDU), 2nd left, Christa Goetsch, parlamentary floorleader of Hamburg's Green Party, 2nd right, and Anja Hajduk, chairwoman of the Greens

One big happy family? The leaders of the Green-CDU coalition get close in Hamburg

The Greens party -- known in the northern city-state as the Greens Alternative List [GAL] -- approved the 65-page coalition agreement by a large majority on Sunday, April 27.

The Christian Democratic Union [CDU] members are to vote on the coalition Monday, but passage is regarded as certain.

CDU Mayor Ole von Beust is set to be confirmed in office by the state legislature on May 7. Von Beust was able to run Hamburg for the past four years without a coalition partner until he lost his majority in the Feb. 24 elections.

Von Beust with GAL's Christa Goetsch

Von Beust with GAL's Christa Goetsch

"In politics as in normal life, it is important to have the strength and the courage to walk new paths," said Hamburg's CDU Mayor Ole von Beust. "It's not an experiment but a chance ... Even if it may seem unusual to many, I'm convinced it'll be a success for Hamburg."

He expressed confidence the unusual arrangement would work.

"I'm looking forward to a return to normal politics, when the work starts," he said after the GAL had voted.

Although there are several deals with the CDU at local level, the Greens have never before entered into government alongside the CDU at state or federal level, preferring to strike deals with the Social Democrats [SPD].

The Greens have typically partnered with the SPD, while the CDU has traditionally found an ally in the free-market liberal Free Democratic Party [FDP], but the addition of fifth party -- the Left Party -- has forced political camps to rethink their well-practice two-party alliances.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is also head of the CDU, welcomed the new partnership in Hamburg, but denied speculations that it could be a sign of things to come at the federal level.

Party members see hope but approach with caution

Hamburg's mayor Ole von Beust of the Christian Democrats (CDU), right, , Michael Freytag, chairman of Hamburg's Christian Democratic Party (CDU), 2nd right, Christa Goetsch, parlamentary floorleader of Hamburg's Green Party, left, and Anja Hajduk, chairwoman of the Greens sign a coalition contract.

History is made as the Greens and the CDU sign the coalition contract in Hamburg

GAL leader Anja Hajduk acknowledged the party was entering a new phase.

"There are Green goals there, but there are risks," she said.

Hamburg CDU head Michael Freytag, who had more positive words, was quoted saying: "Without doubt, this is no marriage of love. But if we succeed ... in turning this government program into reality, today marks the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

The initial coalition agreement was signed on Thursday, April 17, in Hamburg's City Hall, follows five weeks of intensive political negotiations that centered on energy and environmental issues.

In the deal, the GAL has agreed -- contrary to its previous position -- to allow the River Elbe to be dredged to a greater depth so that the largest container ships can enter the port, Europe's third largest after Rotterdam and Antwerp.

Another serious point of difference is a coal-fired power station at Moorburg within the city limits. Construction has started, although final approval for the power station -- a modern plant that also heats buildings -- still has to be granted.

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