German coalition talks reach breakthrough

Berlin : German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Conservatives Union and the Social Democrats early on Friday achieved a breakthrough in government formation talks, agreeing on transferring more money to the European Union.

The move may end political uncertainty in German after the September 24 federal elections. No government has been formed since then, marking a record amount of time for Germany to go without a government since WWII.

After overnight talks on Thursday night, the three parties, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its sister party the Christian Social Union and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) agreed on a 28-page blueprint, Xinhua news agency reported quoting Focus Online.

Merkel said at a press conference on Friday that the paper was "not superficial". "It's about investing in the future, especially in children and families. In addition, more should be invested in apartments, in traffic and in the energy transition," she added.

A total of 15,000 new jobs for police officers are needed, said Merkel, adding the world is not waiting for Germany. Therefore, Europe needs a new departure, and she was optimistic that things were moving ahead.

SPD's Martin Schulz said the paper reflects the desire for renewal, in families, education and the digital challenge, adding social cohesion must be strengthened.

"The three parties are ready to make Europe strong again," said Schulz.

CSU chief Horst Seehofer said he was "highly satisfied" with the outcomes.

Talks focused mainly on differences over tax and migration. The immigration of refugees should not exceed 180,000 to 220,000 people per year, no tax increases are planned, and the family reunion for refugees should be possible in the future "only for humanitarian reasons" and limited to 1,000 cases per month.

The three parties also agreed on the strengthening of the European Union, especially more money flowing from Germany to Brussels.

The paper vows close partnership with France, saying that "we want to sustainably strengthen and reform the euro zone so that the euro can better withstand global crises," the parties said.

They stressed the crucial role Franco-German cooperation will play in European integration, saying a renewal of the EU can only succeed if Germany and France "work together with all their strength".

Negotiating groups of the Union and the SPD have unanimously agreed on the outcomes of the exploratory talks, according to the German Press Agency.

The three parties will enter into formal and detailed government coalition talks after each party agrees on the outcomes of the exploratory talks.

The SPD has scheduled a special national conference on January 21 in Bonn, where party members will vote whether to join the formal grand coalition talks.

However, the SPD is still facing strong opposition of a renewed grand coalition, especially from its grassroots and youth members, who are worried about the further marginalization of the party in its cooperation with the Union.

Many observers and party members hope the breakthrough in the talks will help avoid a minority government led by Merkel or snap federal elections.

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