As the three general secretaries of the parties planning to form the next goverment in Berlin -- the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) -- offered a progress report on coalition talks, they had a singular goal. After all the news reports about bickering between the conservative CDU/CSU bloc and the center-left SPD, they had hoped to demonstrate a bit of harmony between the parties, which are traditionally archrivals despite having governed together twice over the years.
When it comes to the most important issues, there's a high degree of unity, CDU General Secretary Hermann Gröhe told reporters -- particularly when it comes to policies on the European Union. SPD General Secretary Andrea Nahles agreed.
What they didn't reveal is the fact that the 12-page paper they negotiated in a working group covering European issues also includes a short note that has been appended to the minutes. In the text, which has been seen by SPIEGEL ONLINE, the CSU, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's CDU, calls for repeat deficit offenders to exit the euro zone.
"The CSU wants member states who will not be in a position in the foreseeable future to fulfill the stability criteria of the Maastricht Treaty to be given the possibility of temporarily leaving the euro zone," the text states. The CDU and the SPD take a different view from the CSU and no compromise is in sight.
Compared to a number of statements made in the past about the euro crisis by the Bavarian party, this one was actually pretty reserved. Still, the message is clear -- the party wants bankrupt nations to leave the common currency. That's precisely the position the CSU unanimously agreed to at a party conference last year. And it's certainly not good news for Merkel, who would prefer to do without such potentially burdensome political outbursts on European policy. It's also a sign that Merkel's sister party won't simply go along with policies from the chancellor that tend to be friendly towards the EU.
That applies to a number of other issues, too. In the minutes, the CSU adds another one of its pet demands -- namely for national referendums on "European decisions of particular importance." The CSU is also calling for more powers to be transferred from Brussels back to the EU member states as well as procedures for the restructuring of countries' debts.
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In addition to indicating that the CSU and the CDU aren't speaking with one voice during coalition talks, they also show that CSU party boss Horst Seehofer is already preparing for European Parliament elections that are scheduled in May. The CSU is hoping to take the wind out of the sails of the anti-euro Alternative for Germany (AFD) party, which has decent prospects of gaining seats in the EU's only elected body. With that in mind, it's unlikely the CSU is just going to sit back and allow the CDU and the SPD to negotiate gently for the sake of Merkel's party.
In the note, the CSU also pleads for a smaller European Commission, the EU's executive. "There has to be a reduction of the departments," said the CSU's Thomas Silberhorn, who is negotiating EU policy issues on behalf of his party. "The only places where cabinets are this big is Africa, where all tribes have to be taken into consideration when building governments."
With that kind of mood, it's little surprise that a statement by CSU General Secretary Alexander Dobrindt slightly disrupted the harmonious atmosphere between the CDU and SPD on Wednesday.
"We will not allow our culture of discussion to be disrupted by harmony," he said smugly. In terms of Germany's EU policies, he appears to be sticking to his word.