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Germany: SPD, Greens, FDP make progress in exploratory talks

The parties that made the most gains in the German election could reach common ground by the end of this week. Differences in tax policy and climate change are said to be the main sticking points in the talks.

A traffic light in front of the German parliament

The so-called "traffic light coalition" is based on the colors of the parties SPD, FDP and Greens

Three major German political parties — the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and neoliberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) — are expected to finish exploratory talks for a possible coalition this week, the FDP said on Tuesday.

The SPD came first in September's parliamentary election. The party is seeking to form a "traffic light coalition," based on the colors of each party: red for the SPD, yellow for the FDP and green for the Greens.

What did the party leaders say about the talks? 

"We will assess the results of the past few days' discussions and write down what we can do together," FDP General Secretary Volker Wissing said, adding that the parties are now discussing the areas where they are the furthest apart.

The three parties have kept quiet about their exploratory talks, which lasted 14 hours on Monday, saying they needed to sort out their differences in private.

"After (the) past days of talks, I am sure we can come up with an agreement together if we work on it," SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil said, adding that he is optimistic about the next two days of negotiations.

Michael Kellner, the Greens' national director, said the talks had been in-depth. Kellner added that the amount of common ground had grown, while the number of differences have shrunk. "But there also remain things to solve, to clarify," he added.

In a recent poll, 51% of Germans said they favored the traffic light coalition, far more than the two possibilities that included Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, even though they came in second in the election.

Fundamental differences 

Though the Greens and the SPD are seen as ideologically close, the FDP is further away from both of them, especially on economic and fiscal policy.

The sticking points in the exploratory talks are said to be differences in tax and financial policy, as well as how to go about tackling climate change.

Though the SPD and the Greens favor moderate tax increases for the wealthy, the FDP strongly rejects those. When it comes to climate policy, the FDP want to rely more on market forces than the SPD and Greens.

If an agreement is reached on Friday, the Greens have said they would need to convene a small party congress to approve their part in it, but they have said they would hold that meeting on Sunday to make a decision quickly.

jcg/wd (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

Watch video 03:12

Can Germany's traffic light parties form a coalition?