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German SPD leader invokes Europe to sell coalition deal with Merkel

From Reuters - February 14, 2018

VILSHOFEN, Germany (Reuters) - Germanys Social Democrats (SPD) must seize the opportunity to reform the European Union in a new governing alliance with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the partys interim leader said on Wednesday in appealing to members to back their coalition deal.

The SPDs 464,000 members vote in a postal ballot beginning on Feb. 20 on whether the party should go ahead with the agreement its leaders clinched last week to renew their power sharing alliance with Merkels conservative bloc.

Olaf Scholz, appointed SPD interim leader on Tuesday, said EU reform plans included in the coalition agreement were a strong reason to back the deal.

The window of opportunity is now, not in five or 10 years - maybe then it wont be there any more, he told party members gathered in a beer tent in Vilshofen, in the southern state of Bavaria. We need to act now.

The coalition deal envisages stronger Franco-German cooperation, allocating budget funds for economic stabilization in Europe, increased German contributions to the EU budget, and transforming the ESM bailout fund into a European Monetary Fund.

But EU reform, which has moved up the agenda with Britain poised to leave the bloc next year, is an issue that fails to resonate with many party members who are more concerned with jobs and working conditions.

SPD leaders, facing a slump in opinion polls, have their work cut out to convince rank-and-file to endorse the coalition deal with Merkel, a re-run of the power-sharing arrangement they began in 2013.

Many within the SPD harbor misgivings about sharing power with Merkel, believing the party should rebuild in opposition after suffering its worst result in last Septembers election since Germany became a federal republic in 1949.

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