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SPD party leadership on Friday voted unanimously to go-ahead with formal coalition talks, the Greens and FDP are scheduled to hold similar party votes on Sunday and Monday respectively.
The leaders of Germany's center-left Social Democrats (SPD), climate-friendly Greens and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) are to recommend to their parties that they should begin formal coalition negotiations.
"We are convinced that we can conclude an ambitious and viable coalition agreement," the parties said Friday in a 12-page exploratory paper.
"The exploratory talks were characterized by trust, respect and mutual consideration. We want to continue that," the paper continues.
Friday's decision is an important step on the way to a new federal government, which in Germany often takes weeks or months.
Negotiators from the three political parties expressed enthusiasm about the road ahead, with all pointing to the opportunity for fundamental change.
"If parties that are so different could agree on joint challenges and solutions, then that would be an opportunity to unite our country," FDP leader Christian Lindner said, adding that the constellation offers "a chance that a possible coalition could be greater than the sum of its parts."
"It has been a long time," said Lindner, since Germany "has had a comparable opportunity to modernize society, the economy and the state."
He went on to praise the "entirely new style and possibilities" current negotiations provide. "This style alone," he said, "marks a break with Germany's past political culture."
Scholz, too, praised the "genial" mood of policy based negotiations, noting that they could well give rise to the "largest industrial modernization project in Germany in a century."
Green Party co-leader Habeck spoke of the "embers" that could "spark societal modernization." Green Party co-chair Baerbock said the initial agreement heralds a "coalition of progress" to "really use the next decade as a decade of renewal."
The parties have been holding exploratory talks about the possibility of forming a new government for more than a week.
The SPD came out top in Germany's election on September 26 with 25.7% support just ahead of the CDU/CSU on 24.1%.
SPD candidate Olaf Scholz said he wanted to explore the possibilities of a coalition with kingmakers the Greens and the FDP, rather than renew the alliance with the conservative CDU/CSU bloc.
If the formal coalition talks announced Friday are ultimately successful, Scholz, who is finance minister and vice chancellor in the outgoing government, will become Germany's new leader.
The three-way coalition now under discussion has never been tried at the national level.
The only politically plausible alternatives would be a government led by the CDU/CSU with the Greens and FDP, or a rerun of the "grand coalition'' of Germany's traditional big parties.
Merkel, who has led Germany since 2005, will step down once the new government is in place.
The preliminary talks concluded with a pact for Germany to exit from coal-fired power stations by 2030, according to Friday's joint statement.
"This requires the massive expansion of renewables and the construction of modern gas-fired power plants in order to meet the rising demand for electricity and energy over the next decade at competitive prices," the statement said.
The parties agreed on using 2% of land for onshore wind power farms, to equip all suitable rooftops with solar panels and to cut time for planning and permits by at least half, the statement said.
The parties also said they would adhere to the country's debt brake — a constitutional measure that limits budget excesses.
Germany's DPA news agency said the Greens would still need to hold a small party congress to approve the plan, possibly over the weekend.
It said the FDP also wants to refer the results of the exploratory talks to party committees.
If both parties approve the plan, formal coalition talks could start next week.
Even before Friday's talks wrapped up, the plan already had strong public support.
A poll by public broadcaster ZDF showed 62% of those asked approved of a so-called traffic-light coalition, referring to the colors of the three parties.
js,mm/rc (dpa, Reuters)