BERLIN – Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats embarked Sunday on a final push for an agreement on a new German government, but negotiators adjourned for the night without resolving all their differences.
After an all-day session, the parties agreed to resume talks Monday, according to the Social Democrats’ general secretary, Lars Klingbeil. He said issues remain on which the parties are still some distance apart and “want to talk thoroughly and concentratedly.”
Germany’s effort to put together a governing coalition after its Sept. 24 election is already its longest since World War II. It won’t be over with these talks.
A deal will require approval in a ballot of the Social Democrats’ members, many of whom are skeptical about renewing the alliance that has governed Germany since 2013 after a disastrous election result in September.
Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, its Bavaria-only sister, the Christian Social Union, and the Social Democrats had set Sunday as a deadline to wrap up negotiations. They budgeted two extra days as a precaution when they opened formal talks on Jan. 26.
“The three parties have agreed and come closer on many points in recent days, but there are still issues to discuss – particularly on questions of social policy,” Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz told reporters as he arrived at Sunday’s talks.
Those include labor and health policy questions that are a priority for his party.
“I am still interested in making quick progress, but we want to give Germany a stable government, and a stable government involves a durable coalition deal that is agreeable to all,” he said. “So, in the end, we must take the time that we need to create such a stable foundation.”
Merkel said “important points” had to be cleared up. “We know what task we have and are trying to do justice to it,” she said.
Klingbeil later said that Sunday’s talks had been very constructive.
Merkel’s attempt to put together a government with two smaller parties collapsed in November. Schulz, who had previously ruled out renewing the “grand coalition” of Germany’s biggest parties, then reversed course but still faces resistance from parts of his party.
Failure to reach an agreement, or a deal’s rejection by Social Democrat members, would leave a minority government under Merkel or a new election as the only viable governing options.
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