Angela Merkel's party, others strike coalition deal

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SPD party members still need to formally approve coalition talks before they can begin.

Merkel, whose first attempt to form a coalition with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) failed in November, said on Sunday at the start of five days of talks with the SPD that the negotiations could succeed. According to an opinion poll published this week and reported by BBC, 54% of the Germans want the "grand coalition" to go ahead, while one in three believe it won't stick.

Though members of both parties worry that another grand coalition could further erode their support and strengthen fringe parties, they fear new elections even more.

But he has been forced to wait for months for a concrete response from Mrs Merkel, who has come under mounting criticism at home and overseas for her plodding reaction, aggravated by her failure to form a new government.

Ms. Merkel's only other option is to rule as a minority government, which would mean building coalitions on the fly, behind every new piece of legislation, always worrying about an insurrection. "There is still a risk, even in a scenario where Merkel is able to form a government, that she will not be able to fulfill her complete term".

Merkel has also agreed to a "soft" immigration cap of 200,000 per year, although the Social Democrats feel uneasy this.

Macron in September offered an ambitious vision for European renewal, but has had to wait since for a response from EU powerhouse Germany, with much on hold there after parliamentary elections.

Europe's pre-eminent leader for more than 12 years, Merkel's star is waning as she pays for her 2015 decision to leave German borders open to over a million refugees, a move that cost her Christian Democrats votes and fueled the rise of the far-right. The leader of that social-democratic party, the horrendous Martin Schulz, said at the end of a year ago that he hoped for a "United States of Europe".

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Lawmakers also agreed to maintain investments in transport "at least at their current level" in the paper, while Germany's federal states will receive increasing subsidies of up to 1 Euro billion per year by the end of 2021 for communal infrastructure projects.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier reminded the negotiators of their responsibility - towards not just their own parties and political futures, but also to?Europe.

Negotiators in the preliminary governing talks said on Tuesday that any agreement on specific issues depends on them reaching an overall deal.

The SPD's youth wing chief Kevin Kuehnert has said he would embark on a national tour to press his case against a new grand coalition, known as "GroKo" in German political shorthand.

Seehofer told reporters this grand coalition would be different than the last one, and said the deal highlights that - for example, by including a basic pension guarantee.

While the main issues were refugees, climate goals, social security, and the relationship with Europe, taxes and the ability to pay for new programs appear to have been the sticking point overnight.

Merkel's bloc does not support the SPD's ideas and, in turn, proposes an increase of military spending in the framework of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member states' agreement to spend 2 percent of the GDP on the military, which the SPD opposes.

"In the interest of her party's electoral strength, she should not stay in office for the entire legislative term".

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