Germany's awkward partners start renewed coalition push

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 06, 2017 8:58 AM

By Thomas Escritt and Michael Nienaber

BERLIN (Reuters) - The parties seeking to form Germany's next government begin a fresh round of talks on Monday, hoping that a sharper focus on policy detail will reinvigorate negotiations that have barely inched forward since a national election in September.

Despite weeks of exploratory talks, Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens remain far apart on climate, immigration and energy policy, and they disagree on where the blame lies for the lack of progress.

"By dragging their foot on climate protection, the FDP are playing into the hands of climate change deniers like (U.S. President Donald) Trump," Greens party chair Simone Peter told a news conference. "The lack of seriousness has to stop."

For his part, FDP leader Christian Lindner said the hard work of finding common ground was only now beginning.

"There haven't been attempts to build bridges in the past two weeks because that wasn't the purpose," he said. "We look forward in this phase to moving from outlines to the facts and goals that need to be harmonized - or not, as the case may be."

Senior Greens complain that talks have been hamstrung by the FDP's lack of preparedness. After a four-year absence from the federal parliament, the FDP lacks the policy expertise needed to negotiate the compromises that are needed, Green officials say.

But Lindner said he opposed the Greens' desire to "make an example of industrial Germany" by forcing it to meet expensive and constraining climate protection targets, and he suggested Germany could have a greater impact on the climate by helping other countries to improve their emissions record.

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For Merkel, the awkward three-way negotiations, forced on her after her conservative bloc shed votes in the election, represents her best chance of securing a fourth term in office, with many believing failure would oblige her to stand aside.

With her former coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD), determined to go into opposition after a disastrous election, Germany could face a lengthy period of drift at a time when many in Europe look to Berlin for leadership on issues ranging from euro zone governance to trans-Atlantic ties.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt and Michael Nienaber; Editing by Gareth Jones)