German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives entered coalition talks Sunday with knotty issues still to untangle with their historic Centre-left rivals, but a deal could finally be in sight.
More than four months after an election beating for both parties, “the coalition agreement is gradually coming into shape” between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD), Merkel’s chief whip Michael Grosse-Broemer said late Saturday.
But plenty of issues are not yet “done and dusted”, he added, pointing to disagreements over labor law, reform of the health system and housing policy.
Leaders hope to wrap up the talks on repeating the “grand coalition” or “GroKo” that has ruled since 2013 by Sunday evening, with the option of extending into Monday or Tuesday.
Germany’s partners abroad are watching impatiently from the sidelines, as Berlin has been paralyzed since September on urgent issues like reform of the European Union.
Both sides “intend and want to keep to the timetable,” Grosse-Broemer said.
“But we’ll have to wait until the talks are over before we can say something,” he added, seeing an “exciting” day ahead.
“We promised we’d negotiate until they squeal, and that’s what we’ll do,” said SPD negotiator Manuela Schwesig as she arrived at talks early Sunday.
Both sides are reluctant to compromise too much and risk losing support, but are equally fearful of going back to voters in repeat elections that could see a further rise of the far-right.