Martin Schulz seeks backing for grand coalition to end Germany crisis

Martin Schulz seeks backing for grand coalition to end Germany crisis

Whatever the outcome of any eventual talks with Merkel, it will have to satisfy the SPD party base, because members will ultimately vote to approve or scrap any coalition agreement.

Martin Schulz will seek to end weeks of political paralysis in Germany by attempting to persuade his Social Democrats (SPD) to form a grand coalition with Angela Merkel's conservatives, weeks after he warned that such a scenario would be a disaster for the party. Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) are reportedly keen to pursue a deal, although some conservatives have urged leaders to also consider a minority government, with the support of the SPD. "What is important is what we can implement".

The drafting process of such a constitutional treaty, Schulz said, should involve citizens across the Continent.

In the September general election, in which the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) syphoned millions of votes from all mainstream parties, the SPD scored just under 21 percent, its worst showing since World War II.

In his speech, Schulz listed center-left priorities such as equal treatment for men and women in the labor market and a relatively liberal approach to immigration, rejecting the idea of a cap on the number of refugees allowed into the country.

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He also advocated aiming for a federal "United States of Europe" by 2025, and argued that countries that don't want to sign up to a treaty establishing a federal setup should leave the European Union.

Schulz, a former head of the European Parliament, said a pre-condition for entering such talks would be "an about-face in European policy".

He believes that coalition talks with the Socialists could start next week, if the party members decide that direction, but these won't be finalized until the end of February or even the start of March.

Michael Broening of the SPD-linked Friedrich Ebert Foundation said the Social Democrats "once again find themselves in a Catch-22 situation".

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