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Germany

Stop and Go in Traffic Light Coalition

Would a coalition between the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the neo-liberal FDP be possible? A look at where they're similar, and where there are problems.

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The SPD (red), FDP (yellow) Greens are far apart on major points

The only absolute guarantee for Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to remain just that would be to extend his coalition of Social Democrats and Green party by one and add the pro-business Free Democrats. But the FDP, which waged bitter war against many red-green proposals during the election, said they'd rather go into the opposition than face the reality of a "traffic-light coalition."

Indeed, foreign policy might be the only field that the SPD, the FDP and the Greens all generally agree on. Unfortunately for Schröder, that's not a dealmaker in Germany at the moment.

Labor Market

In the labor market, the neo-liberals are far away from the red-green government. Both the SPD and the Greens want to keep measures in place that forbid companies above 10 employees to hire and fire workers. The FDP argues vigorously that the inability of companies to make snap personnel decisions is one of the reasons companies no longer want to invest in Germany. The neo-liberals' plan to dismantle the Federal Employment Agency is also anti-red-green, which renamed and refurbished the agency.

Logo Agentur für Arbeit

The Federal Employment Agency would be dismantled if the FDP got its wish

The SPD's talk of a set minimum wage also goes against FDP notions of labor flexibility. The three parties do share similar ideas on how to tweak the red-green government's Hartz IV labor market reforms (introduced in 2003), such as better pension plans. All parties also agree that the low-wage sector needs to be expanded.

Health care

The SPD and Greens want Germans, no matter how they earn their money, to contribute to public health funds, that form the backbone of the social welfare system. Under the SPD plan, every health insurance company would be required to insure a person, regardless of risk. There would be no distinction between private and statutory insurance plans. The insurance rates would be income-based.

Patientengespräch am Computer

The SPD wants public health funds to cover every person, regardless of risk or cost

The neo-liberals would like to privatize the public health funds entirely, but not allow them to reject applicants or make those who are sick pay higher premiums. Further disagreements remain over nursing care insurance, which the FDP wants to eliminate over time and the SPD and Greens want to expand.

Budget policy


While the neo-liberals want to introduce cost-cutting measures and financial discipline, the red-green government has refused to tighten the belt any further at a time when the economy is performing miserably. The approaches highlight one of the major divides between the red-green government and the FDP: How big a role should the state play in trying to spark economic growth?

Differing tax philosophies are also one of the major reasons a traffic-light coalition will probably never happen. In an effort to simplify the tax code, the FDP wants to eliminate loopholes and significantly lower taxes for the rich. The SPD and Greens, on the other hand, want to raise taxes for wealthier Germans in an effort to balance out public spending, and want some tax loopholes, like one that compensates commuters, to stay in place.

Energy

Atomkraftwerk Stade abgeschaltet

The nuclear plant in Stade became the first one taken off the grid as part of the red-green government's nuclear phase-out

The environment is the likely major battlefield between the FDP and the Greens. One of the biggest Green Party accomplishments after their seven years in the government was convincing Germany's energy companies to phase out nuclear energy and replace it with alternative energy -- like wind and hydro-power. The FDP wants to keep nuclear energy around and only encourage alternative energy sources if they prove profitable. The neo-liberals also want to get rid of the eco-tax introduced by the red-green government on gas.

Foreign and Domestic Security

There are few disagreements in this area. In the security crackdown in the years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the FDP and the Greens have alternately served as the voice of reason: fighting against encroachment on civil rights and promoting a tolerant immigration policy. The SPD and the Greens passed the country's first immigration bill and their foreign policy has largely resonated with the FDP.

The only point of disagreement is Turkey -- where the FDP has sided with the Christian Democrats against the red-green government's push to let the predominantly Muslim country join the European Union.

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