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German parties negotiate grand coalition

German parties negotiate grand coalition

Coalition talks between Germany's centre-left and conservative parties dragged on into Wednesday morning after Chancellor Angela Merkel negotiated through the night to break four months of paralysis in Berlin.

The SPD is also set to take control of the family, labour, justice, environment and foreign ministries, with Mr Schulz reportedly set to head up the latter. Even then, SPD grassroots members will still need to vote on any deal.

Schulz, whose party has played junior partner to Merkel's in the government for the past four years, initially ruled out the possibility of another grand coalition under his leadership.

Merkel's attempt to put together a government with two smaller parties collapsed in November.

On the pressing issue of reform to the European Union and euro single currency, CDU and SPD have agreed in principle to French President Emmanuel Macron's proposals, especially to outfit the eurozone with its own budget for investments managed by a joint finance minister, a draft of the coalition accord seen by AFP showed.

The first shadow on this seemingly positive outcome is the possibility it will be rejected by the SPD's members, who will vote on it in the next few weeks. She also noted that many conservatives will not be happy with the SPD taking over the finance ministry.

The agreement represents a U-turn by the SPD, which had originally said it would rather rebuild itself in opposition than prop up another Merkel administration, after suffering its worst election result since World War II.

A green light could see a new Merkel-led government in place by the end of next month.

As a final round of talks stretched into the evening, both sides sounded upbeat a deal would be sealed on Tuesday, just in time to meet a self-imposed deadline.

Representatives from Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, alongside partners from the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) party, agreed terms with SPD negotiators on Wednesday.

Mrs Merkel has been fighting to stay in power since suffering damaging losses in September's elections.

The yes-or-no referendum will be held by postal ballot, with the result expected to be announced around March 4.

On defence spending too, both sides remained at odds as the finish line neared with the conservatives more open than the SPD to raising military spending closer to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation targets, as pushed for by US President Donald Trump.

Mrs Merkel's new coalition government will increase spending on pensions, schools and the country's internet infrastructure.

September's election left her coalition, made up of the same three parties, severely weakened.

The principal opposition to the coalition, meanwhile, will come from the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, whose very name is a rebuff to Ms. Merkel's insistent centrism.

But governing in her shadow has cost them vital support and they scored a historic low 20.5% in the election.

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