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Merkel strikes note of optimism for grand coalition

China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-09 09:52

BERLIN - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Conservative Union and Martin Schulz's Social Democratic Party on Sunday kicked off weeklong exploratory talks for a renewed grand coalition government.

The week of meetings will examine whether both sides have enough common ground to begin formal coalition negotiations toward a new government by March or April.

Merkel voiced optimism that an alliance can be established in a new attempt at shaking Europe's biggest economy out of political paralysis after September's inconclusive elections.

"I am going into these talks with optimism. At the same time, it is clear to me that we will have an enormous amount of work in front of us over the next few days, but we are willing to take it on and to bring a good result," Merkel told journalists.

The talks are not without pitfalls - including tricky questions surrounding the more than 1 million asylum-seekers who have arrived in Germany since 2015.

The far-right, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany capitalized on growing misgivings over the new arrivals, winning more than 90 parliamentary seats in the election.

Schulz, meanwhile, signaled that his party was going into the talks with an open mind, while determined to extract key concessions on social welfare reforms.

"We're not drawing any red lines, but we want as many red policies in Germany implemented as possible," he said, in a reference to the SPD party's color.

The first exploratory talks on a coalition among the Union, the Greens and the Free Democratic Party broke down in late November after the FDP walked away from the negotiating table.

The linkup with the SPD, known as the grand coalition as they are two largest parties in the Bundestag, remains the only feasible option for Merkel, who said a minority government would not be accepted.

It is expected that an agreement of the talks will be reached on Jan 12, and then it will be submitted for each party to be approved.

A new government will not be born before the Easter even if talks go well.

Latest opinion polls suggest, however, that a potential new grand coalition enjoys little favor with Germans.

A survey found that 34 percent of Germans prefer new elections, while only 30 percent favored a return of the conservative-SPD alliance.

Xinhua - Afp

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