German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz has made clear he is in no rush to form another grand coalition with Angela Merkel’s conservatives, telling reporters in Berlin, “We are under no time pressure.”
This is partly theater. Schulz ruled out another left-right pact after losing the election in September, but now it may be the only way to form a majority government. His base is skeptical, so he must take it slow.
Schulz is also signaling to Merkel that she better give the Social Democrats enough concessions for them to justify four more years of coalition government.
In an interview with Der Spiegel, Schulz makes two demands:
- A “refoundation” of the European Union along the lines of French president Emmanuel Macron’s proposals. That would include appointing a European finance minister and harmonizing tax rates.
- Merging private and statutory health insurance.
Both would be problematic for the Christian Democrats. A more pro-European line could cause further defections to the far right. Rationalizing health insurance would run into opposition from doctors, who benefit from the current system.
Other Social Democratic demands could include:
- Instead of cutting taxes, raising infrastructure, health-care and education spending.
- Introducing a Canadian-style immigration system to attract foreign talent.
- Giving part-time workers a legal right to a full-time contract.