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German coalition talks enter crunch stage amid ongoing setbacks

13 January 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats had still not reached an agreement on formal coalition talks as more than 18 hours of exploratory closed-door discussions continued before the expected Friday deadline.

The SPD has scheduled a special national conference on January 21 in Bonn, where party members will vote whether to join the formal grand coalition talks.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany's top parties still had "big obstacles" to surmount before reaching a new coalition deal, as a last-ditch round of negotiations went down to the wire.

"We Social Democrats, in our (leadership) committee, decided unanimously to recommend ... to the party congress to give the party leadership a mandate to pursue coalition negotiations to form a government", Schulz added.

"It's not inconceivable that Donald Trump could push the USA into a policy position that could cause a break with Europe, but we're pretty far from that - right now", he added. They grew when her first attempt at forging a new government collapsed in November.

Friday's deal was only an agreement to open full-fledged coalition talks that should produce a more detailed policy map for the next government.

According to the Reuters news agency, citing the German coalition paper, CDU/CSU bloc and the SPD party have agreed to boost the country's contribution to the European Union budget, devoting specific funds for economic stabilization, social convergence and structural reform support in the Eurozone.

And now, it seems, she can't even form a government.

As Europe's largest economy and pre-eminent power broker, Germany is crucial to the region's fortunes.

Macron in September offered an ambitious vision for European renewal, but has had to wait since for a response from EU powerhouse Germany, with much on hold there after parliamentary elections.

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The two coalition partners agreed to the aim as part of their wider talks to form a new coalition government following last September's elections.

Germany President Frank-Walter Steinmeier appealed to the negotiators Thursday to consider their responsibility toward Europe, not just their own parties and political futures. The leader of that social-democratic party, the horrendous Martin Schulz, said at the end of a year ago that he hoped for a "United States of Europe".

Merkel's troubles started with a bitterly disappointing election result in September.

Among the stumbling blocks that hampered the talks was the issue of migrant family reunifications.

The results of the coalition talks were quickly responded positively by major European leaders, who have been waiting impatiently for a new German government, as the biggest Eurozone economy plays a leading role in EU affairs.

After all, there is little appetite for a new conservative-SPD alliance.

He said the terms of the deal were "more favorable" for his vision of a reformed EU than a separate agreement that was discussed and abandoned between the Union and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) in November previous year.

Though a challenger has yet to come forward, impatience is growing in Christian Democrat ranks about Merkel's tendency to manage crises as they arise rather than presenting a vision the party can rally behind and sell to voters.

Merkel ruled with the SPD in two of her three terms in office, including in the last parliament from 2013-2017.

German coalition talks enter crunch stage amid ongoing setbacks