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Confidence grows for deal on new Merkel government
08 February 2018, 09:25 | Tara Lloyd
Angela Merkel is currently hammering out the country's digital strategy for the next four years | Odd Andersen AFP via Getty Images
Germany has been in limbo since an inconclusive September election left Merkel and her CDU/CSU bloc without a ruling majority, leading to the longest coalition negotiations in postwar history and weakening the veteran chancellor's leadership.
Merkel at first turned to two smaller parties, the Free Democrats and Greens, to form a new government.
Many SPD members, however, are fiercely opposed to propping up Mrs Merkel's conservative alliance for another four years, blaming the party's electoral decline on its role as junior partner in Mrs Merkel's government over the past four years.
The coalition treaty puts Europe front and centre, with the parties agreeing to support the ambitious European Union reform drive of French President Emmanuel Macron to give the bloc "a new start".
Handing over the crucial Finance Ministry suggests the conservatives had to make big concessions to get the SPD to agree to renew the "grand coalition" that has governed Germany since 2013 and secure Mrs Merkel's fourth term in office.
SPD has gained the top three ministries - Foreign, Finance and Labor and Social Welfare - in the new German coalition, dpa later reported.
Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz is slated to take over as finance minister, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.
The conservatives have rejected SPD calls for sweeping reform of health insurance and talks are now expected to focus on improving public healthcare, such as by changing billing rules for doctors, who earn more by treating private patients.
Schulz is hoping that the half-time assessment, which was not part of the previous two coalition pacts between the parties, will help sell the deal to the 460,000 SPD members who will have the final say on the agreement in an upcoming referendum.
That would leave only an unprecedented minority government under Merkel or a new election as options.
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The political impasse in a key European Union member has had repercussions overseas, holding up French President Emmanuel Macron's push to overhaul the bloc and deepen eurozone integration. "So it's a good day", said Alexander Dobrindt of the CSU. The SPD will also run the foreign ministry.
A key stumbling block was overcome last month after the parties agreed a deal over immigration that would allow at least 1,000 family members of refugees into the country every month from August.
The battle between supporters and opponents of a new "grand coalition" has been hard-fought, and at times emotional.
Germany's draft coalition deal includes a goal of ending use of the weed-killer glyphosate within the country but gives no time frame, after Berlin swung a vote in November extending its use across the European Union.
An Insa poll on Monday showed mounting pressure on Schulz, with support for the SPD dropping to just 17%, well below its election result of 20.5%, the party's worst since Germany became a federal republic in 1949.
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