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Merkel: Way clear for coalition negotiations

October 9, 2017

Chancellor Merkel says a compromise on migration reached with the Bavarian CSU is a good basis for exploratory talks on forming a ruling coalition with the Greens and the FDP. Talks are to begin on October 18.

Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer in Berlin
Image: Getty Images/AFP/O. Andersen

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday invited the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Green Party to separate coalition negotiations starting on Wednesday next week, after saying her Christian Democrats (CDU) had reached a viable compromise on migration with Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU).

She said the CDU and CSU had "reached a common outcome that I feel is a very good basis for entering into exploratory talks with the FDP and [...] the Greens," Merkel said at a joint press conference with CSU leader Horst Seehofer in Berlin.

The issue of a cap on migration has been a bone of contention for years between the two parties, with the CSU urging that just 200,000 refugees allowed into Germany each year — a limit that critics say breaches German constitutional law on refugees' rights.

After long discussions on Sunday, leaders of both parties reached a compromise, agreeing to attempt to limit the influx of refugees without imposing an official cap.

Thorny talks ahead?

Even so, the issue is likely to cause difficulties with the Greens, who oppose any form of limitation on refugee numbers. Greens co-leader Cem Özdemir has already criticized the compromise, saying that it might be the position taken by the CDU/CSU, but was "not the position of a future government."

Despite this and other remaining differences between the CDU/CSU, FDP and Greens, Merkel said on Saturday that a "Jamaica" coalition consisting of the four parties — so-called because the combination of the parties' signature colors results in the colors of the Jamaican flag — was the only realistic option to form a reliable government. This came after the Social Democrats (SPD), the current junior coalition partner, said that they wanted to go into opposition rather than again form part of a "grand coalition."

So far, the schedule for exploratory talks envisages separate talks between the CDU/CSU and the FDP and the CDU/CSU and the Greens on October 18, followed by talks between FDP and Greens the following day. All parties are scheduled to convene on October 20.

The four parties have all said they will not enter into any coalition with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which will send 94 deputies to the Bundestag after receiving some 13 percent of the vote in September elections.

tj/kms (AFP, dpa)