German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday her conservative bloc is willing to start talks on trying to forge a “stable government” with the Social Democrats, with an eye on the large challenges Germany faces both internationally and domestically.
“We are ready to hold talks with the Social Democrats … in a serious, engaged, honest way and obviously with the intention of success as well,” Merkel told reporters after a meeting with her party’s leadership in Berlin.
Talks between Merkel’s conservative bloc and two smaller parties to form a previously untried coalition collapsed a week ago. Merkel’s partners in the outgoing government, the Social Democrats, initially refused to consider another so-called “grand coalition” after a disastrous showing in the election.
But following an appeal from the country’s president they reversed course Friday and said they are now open to holding talks.
Merkel said that her conservative bloc was “prepared to take responsibility” for governing again, while acknowledging that compromise would be necessary to form another alliance with the Social Democrats.
“For us it is important that we achieve stability for our country, and that we are the anchor of that stability,” she said.
The chancellor said that in the face of problems in Germany and Europe, such as the task of integrating hundreds of thousands of migrants, but also “regarding the conflicts in the Middle East, the situation in Russia, and the situation in the U.S.A.,” the government needs to be “capable of acting.”
Merkel, the leader of her party’s Bavarian-only sister Christian Social Union, Horst Seehofer, and Social Democratic leader Martin Schulz are due to meet German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday.
Schulz later Monday struck a somewhat skeptical note about the meeting, telling reporters that he would talk with Merkel and Seehofer about “if and in which form” they would continue discussions and “if it even makes sense to continue to talk with one another.”
Schulz said his party’s members would have a final say over any agreement, be it a revival of the grand coalition or a Merkel-led minority government tolerated by the Social Democrats.
Strife over the CSU-run Agriculture Ministry’s decision Monday to back an extension of the use of weed killer glyphosate within the European Union illustrated how difficult the talks may be.
Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, a prominent Social Democrat, said she had told Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt only a few hours before the vote that her party was against any extension, and that Germany should have abstained.
“Anyone who is interested in developing trust between two parties cannot behave that way,” she said.
Earlier in the day, a leading member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats suggested coalition talks with the Social Democrats will only get underway in earnest next year.
Julia Kloeckner, a deputy leader of the Christian Democrats, said on public television ARD that thoroughness is more important than speed.
If Merkel can’t put together a coalition, the only options would be a minority government or a new election, months after the Sept. 24 vote.
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