Merkel allies try to appease fuming SPD ahead of German coalition talks

BERLIN: Senior members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives urged the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) on Thursday to refrain from drawing red lines on policy issues that could complicate exploratory talks to form a stable government.
Merkel is struggling to find a coalition partner after her centre-right bloc bled support to the far right in a September 24 election and her attempts to form a three-way tie-up with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens failed.
The SPD, which governed in coalition under Merkel since 2013 and suffered its worst election result in postwar history, had previously been strongly opposed to another “grand coalition”.
But under pressure from President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, SPD leader Martin Schulz has changed tack and signalled his willingness to discuss a way out of the political impasse in Europe’s biggest economy.
Steinmeier, a former SPD lawmaker and foreign minister, was scheduled to host a joint meeting later on Thursday between Merkel, her Bavarian conservative ally Horst Seehofer and Schulz as part of his efforts to facilitate the formation of a stable government.
The atmosphere ahead of the talks has been soured, however, by a fierce dispute between cabinet colleagues over a European Union licence for a weedkiller.
Conservative Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt angered the SPD on Monday by breaking protocol to back an EU proposal to extend the use of glyphosate in the bloc for another five years, a measure opposed by the SPD. In reaction, SPD members have called for compensation and set various policy conditions.
“I recommend to all of us that we should not complicate the efforts to find a stable form of cooperation by publicly drawing red lines,” Health Minister Hermann Groehe, a senior member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), told Rheinische Post daily.
Groehe said both parties could look back at four successful years.
— Reuters