German parties begin formal talks on new ’grand coalition’

German parties begin formal talks on new ’grand coalition’

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting with the leaders of smaller parties for the start of formal talks on forming a new governing coalition. Ms Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats, their Bavaria-only sister party and the centre-left Social Democrats all suffered major losses in last September’s national election.

The long-time chancellor’s attempts at forming a previously untested coalition with the Greens and pro-business Free Democrats failed last year. Social Democrats leader Martin Schulz faces strong opposition from his own party members to a renewal of the “grand coalition” that’s governed Germany since 2013.

The three parties are aiming to complete negotiations within two weeks, after which the deal will be put to Social Democrat members for approval. Going into Friday’s meeting, Ms Merkel said that preliminary negotiations between the three parties had resulted in a “very good framework.”

She said her focus would be on setting an agenda for the new government that would allow Germany to tackle the challenges of a digital world and keep attracting outside investment. Despite the political turmoil, Germany’s economy has remained stable in recent months.

Social Democrats leader Martin Schulz said he hoped the talks, which the parties aims to conclude within two weeks, would be “swift and constructive”. “The European Union needs a strong pro-European Germany,” the former president of the European Parliament added.

Mr Schulz faces strong opposition from his own party members to a renewal of the “grand coalition” that has governed Germany since 2013. The head of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, Horst Seehofer, said his party was going into the talks “with good will.”

But he noted the potential for failure if the Social Democrat membership rejects the deal in a vote.

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