German SPD backs talks with Merkel after impassioned Europe speech

German SPD backs talks with Merkel after impassioned Europe speech
From Reuters - December 7, 2017

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germanys Social Democrats (SPD) voted on Thursday to hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkels conservatives on forming a government after their leader made an impassioned plea for a free hand to work for a social United States of Europe.

The vote clears the way for talks that could resolve the impasse into which Europes economic powerhouse was plunged after Merkel and the SPD shed support in a September election, greatly complicating the parliamentary arithmetic.

Martin Schulz urged reluctant center-left SPD members to be open to Merkels overtures to renew the coalition that has governed for the past four years, saying the party had a responsibility to revive social democracy in Germany.

A new grand coalition with the reluctant SPD is Merkels best hope of extending her 12 years in power after talks with two smaller parties failed, giving the smaller SPD greater leverage in any negotiations.

The question isnt grand coalition or no grand coalition, he said in a speech to his partys biennial congress, Nor minority government or fresh elections. No - its about how we exercise our responsibility, including to the next generation.

Schulz said the party would only recover if it could offer a clear vision of a Germany and a Europe that worked for their citizens, calling for deeper European integration and a United States of Europe by 2025.

Europe does not always work for its people, rather too often for the big companies, he said, outlining a populist vision that goes well beyond Merkels own openness to limited structural reforms and bureaucratic streamlining.

Talks between the two parties are expected to begin in earnest in the new year. A special congress will have to be convened at which party members will vote on whether to support a final agreement, which could fall short of a formal coalition, and could include tolerating a minority government.

Stephan Weil, the influential premier of the state of Lower Saxony, said the SPD would want to see its policies reflected in return for supporting any government.

I think the majority of the delegates see themselves as a European party and they expect that Germany becomes a driving force in Europe again, he said of Schulzs proposals regarding the European Union.

Schulzs proposals were received more cautiously by Merkel.



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