Merkel wants initial coalition deal with SPD by mid-January

Merkel wants initial coalition deal with SPD by mid-January

BERLIN – Reuters
Merkel wants initial coalition deal with SPD by mid-January

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Dec. 18 that she hoped to conclude exploratory talks with the Social Democrats (SPD) on forming a government by mid-January so that both parties can launch official negotiations on renewing their alliance.

Merkel made the comments after she was asked if comments by French President Emmanuel Macron that he hoped to make progress with Germany on ideas to reform the euro zone by March were realistic.

SPD members will have the final say on any deal to renew the alliance with Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Christian Social Union (CSU) Bavarian allies.

“We want to build a stable government,” Merkel said. “This means that the success of the exploratory talks means, in the view of the CDU, as well as the CSU, that we need to reach agreement on specific issues during the exploratory talks.”

“From our perspective, anything short of that would mean the exploratory talks were not successful,” Merkel added.

Germany’s center-left SPD warned Merkel’s conservatives that it would not win approval from its members for a new coalition government if it gave way on key election promises.

The SPD agreed only reluctantly to enter talks, after voters rewarded it in September for the last four years of “grand coalition” under Merkel by handing it its worst result since 1933.

General Secretary Lars Klingbeil said they would demand distinctive leftist policies, along the lines of the single “citizen’s insurance” that the SPD wants to replace Germany’s private and public healthcare systems.

“The Union [CDU/CSU] knows that the SPD members have the final say ... and we need to be able to convince them on substance,” Klingbeil told the public broadcaster ZDF.

The SPD, which shed support to the far right and to the hard-left Die Linke in the election, says the existing hybrid health insurance system discriminates against the poor.

Conservatives, including Merkel, say switching to a unified system would erode competition and worsen services.

SPD members gave leader Martin Schulz the green light at a party congress last week to launch talks with Merkel’s conservatives, raising hopes of an end to months of political deadlock created by an inconclusive election result.

SPD and conservative negotiators will hold their first meeting on Dec. 20.