Macron boosts Merkel ahead of key coalition vote

Berlin Sebastian Kurz Österreich & Angela Merkel Deutschland

Horst Seehofer - the leader of the Christian Democrats' (CDU) ally, the Christian Social Union - is calling on Angela Merkel and Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz to make sure that the talks between Merkel's CDU and Schulz's SPD are successful.

Ralf Stegner - the deputy leader of the SPD - told Focus magazine his party would adopt a tougher approach in any new tie-up with conservatives after Merkel's party reneged on several key labour and pensions pledges during the last coalition government. The vote followed pleas by party and labor leaders to move forward with a joint policy outline reached January 12, rather than walk away from government.

"Of course I'd like to see the SPD convention give the green light for entering into coalition negotiations", Merkel said alongside Macron in Paris.

The vote, which was closely watched in Germany and overseas, paves the way for negotiators to launch in-depth talks that should lead to an official coalition agreement in several weeks.

Sunday's convention was the biggest obstacle to Merkel's plan to govern with the SPD.

Schulz, who was initially vehemently opposed to a coalition, has appealed to members to recognise their sense of historic responsibility, recalling how the SPD was the only party to vote against the law that enabled the Hitler dictatorship in 1933. She said she would pursue similarity important issues in a prospective new government.

A Forsa survey this week found that 61 percent of SPD voters were in favour of moving on to formal coalition talks.

Ahead of the vote, party leader Martin Schulz told delegates he would push for more concessions from the conservatives on labor, health and migration policies.

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Germany and France want to boost economic, social, political and technological cooperation by upgrading their bilateral agreement, known as the Elysee Treaty, concluded 55 years ago.

Speaking to newsmen after the preliminary deal Merkel said, "We have realised that the world isn't waiting for us...we are convinced that Europe needs a fresh start and have developed the right ideas to go with it".

On the European front, things are also trundling along uninterrupted, although French president Emmanuel Macron is likely frustrated that he can't continue his efforts to advance his EU agenda without getting the go-ahead from Merkel.

One CDU lawmaker, who admired Merkel's mastery of detail but complained she lacks empathy, said that handing over the chancellorship early would strengthen her successor and the party in the next election, due in 2021. Then a radically anti-coalition speech was delivered by the head of the party's youth wing, Kevin Kühnert.

Andrea Roemmele, professor for communication in politics at Hertie School of Governance, said the close result was hard for Schulz, who led the party to its worst election result last September since Germany became a federal republic in 1949.

In November, she was left considerably weakened after her first attempt to form a new coalition government collapsed when the pro-business FDP party walked out.

But he stressed the pro-European credentials of the SPD and said the coalition blueprint showed "true European ambition". And this is not only true for Angela Merkel, who is known for her "muddling through" approach to politics.

Former Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a Merkel party ally, said a "grand coalition" is the preferred option but not the only way, according to an interview with Die Welt newspaper.

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