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Merkel's conservatives signal readiness to compromise

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives have signaled willingness to compromise on a couple of key issues for the Social Democrats. The two sides are negotiating towards an agreement to form a coalition government.

The parliamentary floor leader of Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), Volker Kauder, told ARD public television that his party understood how important a demand to introduce a general minimum wage of 8.50 euros ($11.46) was to the Social Democrats (SPD).

"For the SPD the 8.50 euros is an article of faith," Kauder said. "And I have taken note of this, so it is correct that these 8.50 euros will turn up somewhere," he added, apparently referring to the coalition agreement the parties have been negotiating towards.

This followed a similar statement from the chancellor herself at a meeting of young Christian Democrats in Erfurt on Friday.

Dual citizenship

Kauder also didn't rule out compromising on the Social Democrats demand that the coalition agreement include a pledge to introduce dual citizenship for immigrants to Germany, something the conservatives have traditionally been dead set against. Kauder said, though, that several issues related to this still needed to be cleared up.

The idea of dual citizenship remains a tough sell in the party, though. Another senior CDU member, Wolfgang Bosbach, told "Die “Welt" newspaper that he didn't see how the party could compromise on this issue.

Kauder's statements on Sunday may have come partly in response to renewed demands from the SPD, made by party chairman Sigmar Gabriel on the last day of a three-day convention on Saturday.

"I won't present a coalition agreement in which dual citizenship is not included," Gabriel told the 600 delegates in Leipzig.

Fine line for SPD

Negotiators for the SPD, which took 25.7 percent of the vote in theSeptember 22 election, are under pressure from their own party membership to win at least some key concessions from the CDU.

There is considerable skepticism within the SPD about joining a coalition with the much more powerful bloc of Merkel's CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), which fell just five seats short of a majority. One indication of this skepticism came at the Leipzig convention, where a number of members of the party executive were re-elected, but with significantly lower numbers than two years ago.

The Social Democrats have also pledged to put the coalition agreement to a vote among the party's general membership. But the conservatives argue that they can't give away too much, as this would not mirror the will of the voters.

"Forty percent of voters chose the conservatives' platform. Support for the SPD's ideas was much lower. This simple fact has to be reflected in the 'grand coalition' program," Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said in comments to be published in Monday's edition of the mass-circulation "Bild" newspaper.

With the coalition talks set to enter their last 10 days, they could also become more difficult, as the parties agreed early on to leave the most contentious issues to last.

"The major points of conflict will be decided in the last two days," Kauder said.

pfd/slk (dpa, Reuters, AFP)