Critics weigh in on Germany's coalition talks 'breakthrough'

Critics weigh in on Germany's coalition talks 'breakthrough'

Critics weigh in on Germany's coalition talks 'breakthrough'

German Social Democratic (SPD) leaders appealed to party members Friday to swallow their doubts and endorse an overnight deal to renew a "grand coalition" with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives for another four years.

The leaders of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc and the center-left SPD agreed on January 12 on the basis to move ahead with coalition negotiations, after marathon overnight talks.

Since the September 24 federal elections Germany has not yet formed a new government so that Merkel's caretaker government could not make major policy changes on any issues.

The deal cleared a first hurdle when the SPD's 45-member board approved it. "But I don't think we need a new instrument to do so", he said.

The deal reached by Merkel and the SPD on Friday pledges close cooperation with France on strengthening the euro zone, in Berlin's first substantive response to Macron's proposals.

The deal was welcomed by Germany's European allies, but her prospective partner now faces a tough task to sell it to skeptical supporters.

The section on Europe, entitled, A New Awakening for Europe, is the most concrete response so far from Berlin to French President Emmanuel Macron's ideas for reforming the European Union, spelled out days after the German election in September in a speech at the Sorbonne University in Paris.

Merkel initially attempted to form a coalition with two smaller parties. "Together we are determined to use Germany's strength, both economically and politically, to make Europe a great project again".

The conservatives also performed poorly in the election, and the three coalition parties' support dropped by a total of almost 14 percentage points.

Angela Merkel with Horst Seehofer left and Martin Schulz after exploratory talks about forming a new coalition government at the SPD headquarters in Berlin Germany

The parties agreed to limit numbers of refugees and migrants coming to Germany to around 200,000 following arrival of more than 1million asylum seekers since 2015.

The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany capitalised on voter anger over the issue to score 12.6% in the general election, a record for a far-right party in the post-war period.

The German parties' glacial place in setting up a new administration is testing the patience of voters who gave Merkel's Christian Democratic-led bloc the most votes in the September 24 contest.

"The agreement between Merkel and Schulz forms the basis for a new coalition government in Germany".

Though most European economies - and the euro - have been in good shape in recent months, the lack of German leadership was threatening to affect Brexit and stall the push for European Union reform, led most vocally by French president Emmanuel Macron.

The SPD's youth wing chief Kevin Kuehnert said he would embark on a national tour to press his case against a new grand coalition, known as "GroKo" in German political shorthand.

But as hopelessness in the early hours of Friday gave way to cautious optimism in the morning, the steepness of the climb ahead remained evident: All three leaders must now secure the support of their party hierarchies.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called it a "significant, positive, forward-looking contribution" to the European policy debate.

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