Germany’s Merkel makes breakthrough in bid to form coalition

Chancellor Angela Merkel said her conservatives reached a breakthrough deal Friday 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… [Read full story]

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