NEW GOVT EYED BY APRIL

Germany’s Merkel makes breakthrough

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BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel said her conservatives reached a breakthrough deal Friday (Saturday in Manila) with Germany’s second biggest party, the Social Democrats, to build a new coalition government to give Europe a “fresh start.”

After more than 24 hours of talks and months of political paralysis, red-eyed party chiefs and their negotiating teams reached an in-principle agreement that could lead to a new government for the biggest EU economy in coming months.

In the all-night negotiations in Berlin, the three sides—Merkel’s Christian Democrats, Horst Seehofer of her Bavarian allies the CSU, and the Social Democrats (SPD) of Martin Schulz—hammered out a 28-page paper as the basis for the formal coalition talks ahead.

The hope was to form a new government “before Easter,” which falls on April 1, said the CSU’s Seehofer.


In their joint blueprint, the parties agreed on key policy outlines—to join EU partner France in a push to “strengthen and reform” the eurozone, to limit the influx of asylum seekers to Germany to around 200,000 a year, and to refrain from tax hikes given the healthy state of public coffers.

Merkel voiced relief that the trio of parties had passed a milestone, telling a press conference that “the world is not waiting for us—we need a fresh start in Europe. A fresh start for Europe is also a fresh start for Germany.”

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the deal was “significant” and “positive” for the EU’s future, while French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “satisfied and happy” that the deadlock was broken.

Despite the agreement, potential pitfalls remain, including upcoming votes by skeptical SPD delegates and members that could yet derail plans for another left-right “grand coalition”—the constellation that has ruled Germany for the past four years and remains in charge as a caretaker government.

Germany has been in political limbo since a September 24 election in which Merkel failed to win a clear majority—in part due to the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) which took millions of votes from all major parties.

AFP

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