German parties begin formal talks on new ‘grand coalition’

January 26, 2018
German Chancellor and chairwomen of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Angela Merkel, addresses the media during a statement prior to the opening of coalition negotiations on a new German government between the Christian Unions block and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of two smaller parties met Friday for the start of formal negotiations on forming a new governing coalition, some four months after voters went to the polls.

Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats, its Bavaria-only sister party and the center-left Social Democrats all took a beating in last September’s national election, which saw strong gains for an upstart nationalist party that had campaigned against immigration.

The long-time chancellor’s attempts at entering into a previously untested coalition with the Greens and pro-business Free Democrats failed last year, contributing to a delay in forming a government unprecedented in post-war German history.

Going into Friday’s meeting, 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.

Schulz faces strong opposition from his own party members to a renewal of the “grand coalition” that’s 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 reject the deal in a vote.