Published: Thu, February 08, 2018

German parties 'close in on coalition deal'

German parties 'close in on coalition deal'

Talks between the top German parties on forming a new government for Chancellor Angela Merkel's fourth term spilled into overtime yesterday but confidence appeared to be growing they would strike a deal.

The deal, under which the two partners will share what they considered as the most crucial ministries for themselves, will however to be approved by SPD members in the coming weeks.

In a draft version of the deal seen by AFP, the two parties agreed to support European Union reforms and a eurozone investment budget proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

SPD negotiator Manuela Schwesig, aware of the need to push through distinctive SPD policies to sell the deal to the party at large, said: "We've promised our members that we'll negotiate until the other side squeals, and we'll do that".

Unconfirmed reports in the German media say the new finance minister and vice chancellor would be Olaf Scholz, Hamburg's centre-left mayor.

All of this could go down well with SPD party members, who will vote on any final coalition deal.

This could prove hard after swathes of young, disillusioned Germans joined the party in recent months in a bid to stop the SPD entering their third "grand coalition" with Merkel since 2005. But the cost of the deal is high, strengthening the SPD's hand in pursuing European integration and signaling the German chancellor's limits as Europe's de-facto leader.

It involves Mrs Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavaria sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD).

"This government will have an even clearer SPD stamp than the former grand coalition did".

Another alliance between Merkel's Christian Democratic-led bloc and the SPD, a "grand coalition" between the two biggest parties, appeared nearly impossible after the 24 September election, when the SPD suffered its worst defeat since World War II.

The Rheinische Post newspaper, citing an internal SPD schedule, reported that Merkel, the leader of her Bavarian allies Horst Seehofer and SPD chief Martin Schulz wanted to present a final coalition agreement on Tuesday. Many members are skeptical after the party's disastrous election result, which followed four years of being a "grand coalition" as a junior partner to Merkel's conservatives.

Mrs Merkel has been running a caretaker government since late October.

The announcement represents a huge breakthrough for Merkel, who has struggled to form a government since suffering embarrassment at September's election.

Martin Schulz, head of Germany's Social Democratic Party.

If the coalition comes together, the nationalist Alternative for Germany will be the biggest opposition party.

The CDU and the SPD have been in coalition talks since the first week of January after the collapse of Merkel's attempt to form a coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats and the Green party.

The failure of earlier coalition talks reduced the time available to advance key projects before the EU institutions effectively halt for much of 2019 due to EU Parliament elections.

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