No mood for celebration in the grand coalition

An anniversary celebration is not planned, nor is a "birthday review". On the occasion of the two-year anniversary of the grand coalition on Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) does not even want to show herself in public. Internal talks and stock studies are on her schedule. Deputy government spokesman Thomas Steg described Thursday as a "completely normal day". On Wednesday, Vice Chancellor Franz Muntefering was given a farewell.

The 22. November 2005, on the other hand, was a special day. For the first time, Germany got a female chancellor. Merkel's parents witnessed their daughter's election in parliament. "I am happy," Merkel said later after receiving the certificate of appointment. Weeks of harmony and a spirit of optimism followed in the grand coalition. Even on the one-year "birthday" of the black-red coalition a year ago, the general debate was still dominated by mutual backslapping, even though the long wrangling over the health care reform had already left its mark on the coalition.Two years after taking office, the grand coalition is seen by many involved as more of a hardship than a joy. Although grand coalition officials are aring everyone that the coalition will last until the fall of 2009, there is still a lot to be done. But there is not much more to be felt at present than the will to persevere. "A government does not have to pass a new law every month," Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble said in an interview. The majority of the agreements in the coalition agreement are "on track". And what has not yet been set in motion "usually comes to nothing anyway". Already, Foreign Minister and Muntefering's successor as Vice Chancellor, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD), is warning of a two-year long permanent election campaign: "That would be devastating".At the same time, at least the economic policy record of the grand coalition is not all that bad. The economy is growing, unemployment is falling, the state of public finances is improving. However, the economy is slowly slowing down, and risks from high oil prices and the real estate and credit crises are increasing. Upcoming state election campaigns don't make things any easier for coalition, either. The ballots in Hesse and Lower Saxony are due at the end of January, followed by Hamburg in February and Bavaria in the fall. On Wednesday, Merkel's most important partner in the government, Vice Chancellor and Labor Minister Franz Muntefering (SPD), also said goodbye to the cabinet.Merkel nevertheless "firmly ames that the coalition will work until 2009". New elections are "not an ie," the chancellor told the Bild newspaper. From Merkel's point of view, the coalition also still has enough to do. Merkel names budget consolidation, climate protection, the expansion of research funding, internal security and family policy as further priorities.There was still a little good cheer among the governing coalition shortly before the anniversary. Muntefering, who left office on Wednesday, juggled in the cabinet room with a red-and-black soccer ball that Merkel had given him. There was unanimous applause from CDU/CSU and SPD ministers for the performance.

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