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Schulz ready for tense talks with Merkel

04 December 2017

The leader of Germany's Social Democratic party on Friday denied reports he had green-lighted talks about another "grand coalition" with Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats.

The leader of the Social Democrats (SPD) Martin Schulz leaves after a joint meeting with Horst Seehofer, the head of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) and Chancellor Angela Merkel, hosted by the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in Schloss Bellevue in Berlin, Germany, November 30, 2017.

After Merkel's negotiations to form a coalition with two smaller parties broke down, however, that left only a return to the grand coalition, a minority government, or new elections as her options.

Schultz had initially refused to consider another "grand coalition" with Merkel after a disastrous showing of the Social Democrats in the election on September 24, saying the Social Democrats needed to go into opposition.

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The CDU leader also said talks with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) would have to be conducted on the basis of mutual respect, and the compromise is part of it.

Malu Dreyer, an SPD member and premier of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, said she was sceptical the SPD could agree a "convincing, substantive proposal" with conservatives.

The SPD will hold a party congress in Berlin on December 7-9, where it is expected to debate its options.

Merkel is facing the most serious political crisis since she assumed office 12 years ago after the breakdown of the government coalition exploratory talks on November 19. "As before, I remain sceptical that you can do that by carrying on "business as usual" in a grand coalition".

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The unusually testy tone Schulz struck is a reflection of the differences between conservatives and Social Democrats not just over the policies of a possible grand coalition, but whether even to try to form one at all.

After the party convention of the SPD in the coming week, the CDU will discuss the way forward, according to Klaus Schueler, federal manager of the CDU.

"It's not automatic that there will be a new grand coalition", Schulz told reporters in Berlin.

At the same time, the SPD chief began naming his conditions, stressing in particular that he wants Germany to back French President Emmanuel Macron's initiative to reform the European Union.

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Schulz ready for tense talks with Merkel