BERLIN – Talks between the conservative bloc of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and social democrats aimed at forming a government coalition went into extra time on Monday, as key issues still remained a sticking point.
An initial deal in the latest round of negotiations had originally been expected to be unveiled on Sunday, but it was agreed that discussions between Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, Horst Seehofer’s Christian Social Union and Martin Schulz’s Social Democratic Party would continue into extra time.
“I assume that we can get this finally done today,” the leader of the state of Hessen, Volker Bouffier of the CDU, told the press upon his arrival to the talks on Monday, adding that he was “not certain, but confident.”
The parliamentary leader of Bavaria’s CSU, Alexander Dobrindt, said the willingness to reach an agreement was there, but the stumbling blocks were “still big.”
The two main issues for the SPD were putting an end to unjustifiable temporary contracts and guaranteeing equality with regards to health insurance.
On Sunday, the blocs reached agreement on the topic of housing, setting out measures to stop rent rising, help for families with children, and set aside a 2-billion-euro ($2.4-billion) investment in social housing.
Once a final agreement has been hammered out, it will be put to about 440,000 SPD members for a vote.
Since the last federal elections were held in September 2017, when no party secured a sufficient majority to be able to govern alone, Merkel’s conservative bloc has been in talks with various parties aimed at reaching an agreement on forming a coalition.
The SPD had initially ruled out its involvement in another grand coalition, but after the first effort to form a coalition with the liberal Free Democratic Party and Alliance 90/The Greens collapsed, it altered its stance, and party members narrowly voted in favor of moving forward with negotiations.