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SPD’s Martin Schulz announces preliminary German coalition talks

Angela Merkel's CDU could be heading into another grand coalition government with the center-left SPD. Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz said that the party would start exploratory talks — but with some options. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) has decided to open preliminary talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to form another grand coalition — though the center-left party was careful to underline that it wanted to keep open the possibility of a softer "cooperative coalition," while the CDU is mainly interested in forming a grand coalition. The decision was announced at SPD headquarters in Berlin on Friday by leader Martin Schulz after a meeting of the party's 45-member leadership committee. "We will go into the talks openly and constructively," Schulz said in a press conference, before adding that the talks would begin at the start of January. The SPD has tentatively pencilled in a party congress on January 14, when it will aim to vote on the results of the exploratory talks. Schulz said that he would meet Angela Merkel, along with other CDU and SPD leaders, before Christmas to discuss the form the talks would take. "The CDU is taking it seriously. We are also taking it seriously," Schulz said, though he was cautiously added that "there are different models of how a stable government can be formed." Merkel for her part welcomed the move, saying she had "great respect" for the SPD's decision. The announcement represents something of a climb-down for Schulz, who announced that the SPD would go into opposition in the immediate aftermath of a historically bad election result on September 24. But the CDU's subsequent failure to form a "Jamaica" coalition with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) has left Germany at an unprecedented impasse, and the SPD voted last week to enter new talks. But many in the SPD are wary about entering into another alliance with Merkel, with pundits blaming the party's slump in the polls on its failure to distinguish itself from the CDU during the last four years. The consensus for many inside and outside the party was that the SPD needed some time in opposition to reassess its policies and win back credibility in its base. For that reason, the Social Democrats want to make sure that any preliminary coalition talks keep various options open. So how could it pan out? 'GroKo' - Grand coalition This currently seems like the mostly likely option, though in the current fluctuating situation that is no certainty. Some 68 percent of SPD supporters are in favor of a new grand coalition, according to a poll by public broadcaster ARD, though the "Juso" SPD youth wing and the left of the party are against it. A grand coalition would also be the CDU's preference, since it would ensure a stable working majority in the Bundestag — though it would mean sharing the cabinet ministries with the SPD. But this would also carry risks. Fatigue at the grand coalition's relentlessly centrist approach was perceived as one reason why both parties lost ground in September's election (the CDU lost 9 percentage points, while the SPD lost 5), and a continuation of the same policies — under Merkel's passive management style — could see Germany's biggest parties lose even more favor. Another problem is that this iteration of the grand coalition will be functioning on a much slimmer majority. Read more: Opinion: Germany, a paralyzed nation 'KoKo' - Cooperative coalition The left wing of the SPD is less keen on allying with Merkel, and suggested a kind of "open relationship" with the CDU. The SPD would get to keep a few ministries, and would agree a foreshortened coalition contract that would cover only basic issues — such as the budget and Europe policy. Other issues would remain open, and would allow both parties to try to build parliamentary majorities on a range of issues. The CDU is against the idea. CDU minority government In this scenario, which some in the SPD actually prefer, the CDU would take all the cabinet ministries and form a government on its own, with a "toleration" agreement with the SPD that would ensure agreement on basic issues like the budget, but would leave Merkel to try to seek majorities however she can from one issue to the next.

Angela Merkel’s CDU could be heading into another grand coalition government with the center-left SPD. Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz said that the party would start exploratory talks — but with some options. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) has decided to open preliminary talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to form another grand coalition — though ... Read More »

Martin Schulz defends SPD ahead of coalition talks with CDU/CSU

The SPD leader has denied that his party has been "sulking" since its historically bad election result. The SPD, CDU and CSU are to meet on Wednesday for preliminary talks over a renewal of their "grand coalition." Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz lashed out on Saturday against criticism from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), days before the three parties are set to start preliminary talks over a new coalition government. "We have not been sulking … you have made a mess of everything," he said during his final speech at an SPD party convention in Berlin. The head of the CSU's parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, Alexander Dobrindt, said on Thursday the SPD had been "sulking" ever since its historically low vote share — 20.5 percent — in the September national elections. Dobrindt had also accused Schulz — a former President of the European Parliament — of being a "European radical" after Schulz told SPD delegates he wanted the EU to become a "United States of Europe" by 2025. "Yes, Mr. Dobrindt. It's not just me, but my entire party. We are all radical pro-Europeans," Schulz said. Read more: SPD's Martin Schulz defends his 'United States of Europe' SPD will decide its own future Schulz also said the SPD had accepted responsibility for maintaining Germany's political stability after SPD delegates voted in favor of entering preliminary coalition talks with the CDU/CSU. "It frustrates me that others have brought this country into an impasse (…) and we — not for the first time in history — now have to take on this national responsibility," he said. Preliminary talks over a three-way government between the CDU/CSU, the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Green Party fell apart in November after the FDP left talks. Schulz said however that the SPD was ready to take on responsibility on its own terms: "How we take on this responsibility is up to us alone. We won't take any lectures from others." Read more: SPD open to grand coalition talks, re-elects Schulz as party chair Making peoples' lives better Senior officials from the SPD, CDU and CSU are to meet on Wednesday for preliminary coalition talks. If successful, SPD delegates will again need to give their approval for the three parties to start formal coalition negotiations. But divisions have emerged within the SPD in recent days on renewing the three-way "grand coalition:" Some including the party's youth wing have called for the SPD to enter the opposition and support a CDU/CSU minority government. Senior CDU figures have rejected that outcome. "If we want to strengthen Europe in this restless world, then we need a stable majority," said Volker Kauder, the head of the CDU in the Bundestag, on Saturday. Schulz said the SPD should focus on concrete political problems in upcoming talks, including old age poverty, social care and affordable housing. "The crux of the matter is how we are can make peoples' lives in this country better," he said. Read more: Opinion: Germany, a paralyzed nation Speculation about finance ministry Speculation is already rife as to who will occupy senior ministerial appointments in a new "grand coalition." The German weekly Der Spiegel reported Thursday that Germany's caretaker Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, had told senior SPD officials he could imagine himself as finance minister in a new three-way coalition. Gabriel, a former SPD leader, denied the report in an interview on Saturday with German national radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. "No one knows, what the next [government] will look like," he said. "What the Spiegel wrote is nonsense."

The SPD leader has denied that his party has been “sulking” since its historically bad election result. The SPD, CDU and CSU are to meet on Wednesday for preliminary talks over a renewal of their “grand coalition.” Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz lashed out on Saturday against criticism from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its ... Read More »

SPD’s Martin Schulz defends his ‘United States of Europe’

Leader of Germany's Social Democrats Martin Schulz has called for a "United States of Europe" by 2025. But what did he mean? And where does that lead the SPD? The former European Parliament president told DW more. "Daydreamer," "Europe radical," "the best way to destroy the EU:" these were just some of the comments thrown at Social Democrats leader Martin Schulz by media and opposition politicians after proposing the establishment of the "United States of Europe" at the SPD's party conference on Thursday. Only eight years from now, Schulz's envisioned treaty would also see member states who don't agree politely asked to leave Brussels. Returning to the stage for day two on Friday, the former European Parliament president defended his proposal, calling on the 600 present delegates to "once again develop a passion for Europe." "Economic, cultural, social and political integration: The best protection against fascism, war and anti-Democrats," he added, prompting rapturous applause across the conference hall. If the overwhelming response was anything to go by, the Social Democrats seem largely united on the issue — unlike the evident division a day earlier over whether they should enter exploratory talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservatives. Read more: SPD open to grand coalition talks, re-elects Schulz as party chair How about a united SPD? In an interview with DW at Friday's party conference, Schulz brushed off accusations of division in the SPD. "Our proposals tabled yesterday, unanimously adopted by the bureau of the party, for the opening of negotiations — first of all about content, about improving the domestic situation in Germany and the situation in the European Union — got an overwhelming majority, around 90 percent. That opens a path for open-ended negotiations, for sure," Schulz said. With the SPD's top names due to meet with Merkel and her conservatives on Wednesday, Europe now looks to be one of the Social Democrat's key issues at the table. So far, however, Merkel's conservatives have been reluctant to show any desire in supporting the proposals for EU reform, suggested by French President Emmanuel Macron — including an EU finance minister. "Discussing — especially after Brexit — how the remaining 27 EU states can improve the basis of the cooperation that's the Lisbon Treaty, which is visibly not sufficient for solving a lot of problems we have internally, and international relations. That's what I mean with the United States of Europe," Schulz told DW. "It wouldn't be a kind of United States of America on European soil." Failing Social Democrats in EU But not everyone's entirely convinced. Michelle Rauschkolb, who sits on the national board of Jusos — the SPD youth wing — told DW that although she supports Schulz's call for closer cooperation between EU member states, the SPD should be concentrating right now on redefining its image after the party's disastrous show in September's elections, where they walked away with just 20.5 percent of the vote. At the same time, she added that moving Europe into the foreground of the SPD's agenda could be useful in pulling back voters, especially among Germany's youth. "We've seen the demise of Social Democrats across Europe, so it's important for us, as Germany's Social Democrats to encourage a better, closer Europe. It's our job to push on improving social issues in Europe." Echoing Schulz's sentiments over the SPD's unity, however, was Member of the European Parliament and Chairman of the SPD in the EU, Jens Geier. "The party isn't divided," he told DW against a backdrop of postcards and free drawstring bags for party conferencegoers, emblazoned with the words: "We are Europe, baby!" "Everyone is entitled to a different opinion. And these exploratory talks with Merkel's conservatives sets nothing in stone about a grand coalition," Geier said, adding that Europe would play an important role in any discussions. Read more: What you need to know about another Angela Merkel-led grand coalition in Germany "The fact alone that the topic of Europe has been put so high upon the agenda is a new quality for the SPD," he said, referring to the party's ongoing attempts to redefine itself. "Look at all the proposals put forward for EU reforms from French President Macron. And what have we heard from the conservatives? 'No'." With Macron and Schulz's political relationship blossoming — the French president even encouraged Schulz last week to form a grand coalition with Merkel — Geier was quick to add: "Macron's not one of us." "We don't have to sign everything he says, but he's the only president in the EU actively calling for reform and more cooperation right now. So the least we can do is be open to talks with France," Geier said. Read more: European allies urge Martin Schulz to form a government But before the Social Democrats get anywhere near talks with their French neighbors, first come Wednesday's talks, a little closer to home with Merkel's conservatives. Schulz, however, is in no rush. "We have no need to speed up," he told DW. "Especially considering the fact that the so-called 'Jamaica' allies crashed completely with negotiations. They took two months to disagree." Bearing the leisurely pace in mind, while there might be no "United States of Europe" by 2025, Germany might, if it's lucky, at least have a new government.

Leader of Germany’s Social Democrats Martin Schulz has called for a “United States of Europe” by 2025. But what did he mean? And where does that lead the SPD? The former European Parliament president told DW more. “Daydreamer,” “Europe radical,” “the best way to destroy the EU:” these were just some of the comments thrown at Social Democrats leader Martin ... Read More »

Merkel’s challenger Martin Schulz lays out vision for chancellery

The ex-European Parliament president has vowed to tackle gender pay gaps, calling them one of the greatest injustices. He further discussed defense spending, executive pay and tax cuts in a German newspaper interview. Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz has discussed some of his policy goals in an interview published by the German weekly "Bild am Sonntag," offering insight into how he plans to challenge Angela Merkel for Germany's top political job. "I would tackle two things directly: the clear commitment to strengthening the European Union and the abolition of one of the greatest injustices: that women for the same work earn less than men," Schutz said. Germany has one of the highest pay gaps in the EU, with a wage discrepancy of over 20 percent between men and women. The politician with the center-left SPD added that his policy will be geared towards the work and life of ordinary citizens. Schulz, who served as European Parliament president from 2012 and stepped down earlier this year, also vowed to curb executive pay. He has made social justice issues a key part of his pitch for leading the country. "I promise that, as chancellor, I will implement a law limiting managers' pay in my agenda for the first 100 days in office," he told "Bild am Sonntag." Schulz said he does not intend to offer tax cuts after German recorded a record-breaking budget surplus amounting to more than 20 billion euros ($21.62 billion). Instead, he says he would use the excess cash for education and infrastructure projects. 'We owe it to our soldiers' Schulz said he wanted to increase defense spending, saying Germany's armed forces known as the Bundeswehr needed more money and should receive it. "We owe it to our soldiers that they are optimally equipped," Schulz said in the interview. However, he stopped short of calling for a comprehensive overhaul of the armed forces, in contrast to Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has vowed to go forward with a significant increase in defense spending. Defense spending has become a major subject of debate ahead of the parliamentary elections slated for September after US President Donald Trump's administration warned NATO member states of possible fallout if they failed to meet a 2 percent of GDP target. However, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a member of Schulz' party, has questioned how the target should be assessed, arguing it should include aid and development programs. Schulz said Germany and other European nations needed to work together to stem crises instead of solely pouring money into defense. Meanwhile, the ex-European Parliament president said Gabriel, who stepped out of the race for the German chancellery, would "certainly be part of the federal government." He said Gabriel has done a "super job" as foreign minister. Polls have shown a narrowing gap between Schulz's SPD and Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the run-up to the Bundestag elections.

The ex-European Parliament president has vowed to tackle gender pay gaps, calling them one of the greatest injustices. He further discussed defense spending, executive pay and tax cuts in a German newspaper interview. Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz has discussed some of his policy goals in an interview published by the German weekly “Bild am Sonntag,” offering insight ... Read More »

EU lawmakers cancel Turkey trip over coup criticism

Talks aimed at restoring political dialogue between the European Union and Turkey fail to get off the launch pad. Ankara objected to meeting one MEP because of her harsh criticisms of Ankara's post-coup crackdown. Top European Union lawmakers cancelled a trip to Turkey after Ankara announced it would refuse to meet one MEP because of her critical comments about Turkey's post-coup crackdown. Elmar Brok, chairman of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee and Kati Piri, the assembly's rapporteur on Turkey, were scheduled to "hold high-level meetings with Turkish authorities and representatives of the opposition and civil society with a view to restore political dialogue," according to a statement released by the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz. "The Turks agreed to meet Brok but they did not want to meet Piri" because of the positions she has taken, an unnamed source tells AFP. Schulz had talked to the two MEPs and decided "to postpone the visit until Parliament's prerogatives are respected." "Brok and Piri represent the European Parliament and we cannot allow (them) to have a pick-and-choose approach on who speaks to whom," Schulz said in the statement. Lines of communication The head of the parliament had previously contacted Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, and on Tuesday he met EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik to keep the lines of communication open, according to the statement. "The European Union remains committed to dialogue. Dialogue however requires the two sides to be willing to talk to each other," Schulz said. "I continue to hope that the European Parliament will be able to visit Turkey soon." Meanwhile German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrapped up a tense visit to Ankara on Tuesday. The EU has long been critical of Turkey's human rights record. The coup purge, with tens of thousands of people being detained, has strained relations to breaking point. Many MEPs support breaking off already difficult membership talks with Ankara. But EP President Schulz stressed the importance of dialogue in his statement. "The European Union remains committed to dialogue," he said. "Dialogue however requires the two sides to be willing to talk to each other. I continue to hope that the EP will be able to visit Turkey soon." But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly rejected EU criticism of the post-coup crackdown, and on Monday he warned the bloc it should decide by the end of the year whether the membership talks should continue. Formal talks began in 2005 but there has been painfully little progress despite the two sides agreeing to speed up the process in March as part of an accord aimed at curbing migrant flows into Greece.

Talks aimed at restoring political dialogue between the European Union and Turkey fail to get off the launch pad. Ankara objected to meeting one MEP because of her harsh criticisms of Ankara’s post-coup crackdown. Top European Union lawmakers cancelled a trip to Turkey after Ankara announced it would refuse to meet one MEP because of her critical comments about Turkey’s ... Read More »

Brussels: Turkey could face economic sanctions

Hard-line President Recep Tayyip Erdogan risks losing Turkey's lucrative customs union with the EU, its main trading partner. European Parliament chief Martin Schulz has said economic sanctions are being considered. European Parliament President Martin Schulz has confirmed rumors in Brussels that EU leaders at their summit in December could opt for economic sanctions in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ongoing crackdown on dissent - instead of terminating controversial EU accession talks. Schulz told Germany's "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper that breaking off talks with Turkey would rob the EU of the channels to help Turkey's opposition and the tens of thousands held in detention since July's failed putsch. Instead, Schulz said: "We as the EU will have to consider which economic measures we can take." He warned, however, that should Turkey under Erdogan reintroduce the death penalty - in breach of its obligations within the 47-nation Council of Europe - then accession negotiations "would be ended." Trade: Erdogan's 'weak spot' Schulz's remarks followed a commentary Saturday on German public radio Deutschlandfunk by the Brussels correspondent of "Handelsblatt" Ruth Berschens. Since the signing of the customs union in 1995, the deal on duty-free exchanges in industrial products had made the EU into Turkey's biggest trading partner, Berschens wrote. Erdogan has wanted to widen the customs union to include more of the agricultural and service industries, she said. Should the EU terminate the customs union, subject to renegotiation since 2015, this would amount to a "bitter setback" for many Turkish companies, she wrote. "His political rise as chief of the governing AKP party was due especially to his successful economic policies. During Erdogan's [prime ministerial] period of government a new middle class emerged in Turkey," Berschens said. "The president cannot betray their interests otherwise he could lose political support across the country," she said. "That is Erdogan's "weak spot," alongside the EU's deal on refugees reached in March and Turkey's role as NATO partner hosting troops from alliance nations. "Exasperation is mounting among Europeans. In Brussels something is brewing. If the Turkish president persists [on his current course] then a decision could be made at the EU summit in December that could hurt Erdogan," Berschens predicted. The European Commission had numerous reasons for not breaking off protracted talks on Turkey's bid for EU accession, she continued, added that Brussels would walk "into a trap" set by Erdogan. "The Turkish president is only waiting for the EU to finally place the stool before the door," said Berschens, adding that Europe and especially Germany still had good reputations in Turkey. "Erdogan doesn't want to take personal responsibility for a final rupture with Europe, because he would end up in great distress explaining himself to his fellow citizens," she said. "Many Turks reject a total break with Europe." Cumhuriyet head detained Meanwhile, Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency said late Saturday thatAkin Atalay, the chief executive director of the Turkish opposition newspaper "Cumhuriyet," had been remanded in custody after returning from Germany. Nine other "Cumhuriyet" staff and executive members are already under arrest. Since Ankara declared a state of emergency in July following an attempted coup, some 37,000 people have been arrested in Turkey and more than 100,000 government employees have been dismissed or suspended. More than 170 media outlets have been shut down. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus claimed Saturday that the closures were necessary in order to address multiple terror threats.

Hard-line President Recep Tayyip Erdogan risks losing Turkey’s lucrative customs union with the EU, its main trading partner. European Parliament chief Martin Schulz has said economic sanctions are being considered. European Parliament President Martin Schulz has confirmed rumors in Brussels that EU leaders at their summit in December could opt for economic sanctions in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip ... Read More »

European Parliament President Schulz warns of ‘implosion of EU’

The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, has said the EU is on an open-ended "slippery slope." The silent majority underestimated the danger, he warned, and called on EU politicians to show commitment. European Parliament President Martin Schulz urged the European Union on Tuesday not to underestimate the current threat to the 28-member bloc. The trust of many people in "entire institutions, whether national or European," was lost, Schulz told the German daily "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (FAZ). Schulz said there was the risk of an "implosion of the EU," partly due to Euroskeptic movements within EU member states, "If the British leave the EU, there will be demands for further escape referendums," the German Social Democrat politician said, referring to the UK's upcoming "Brexit" referendum in June. While admitting that Euroskeptics remained in the minority, Schulz said the silent majority was taken in by the notion that in the end everything would be fine. The negative outcome of last week's Dutch referendum on the Association Agreement with Ukraine showed that this was a fallacy that wasn't to be relied upon, he added. 'Reach the hearts of the people' "In Europe, we are on a slippery path," the EU president said, accusing EU leaders of showing too little commitment to the European idea. "Hardly any of the governments are really fighting to reach the hearts of the people," he added, urging them to counter the "easy answers" of EU skeptics with a clear commitment to the bloc. In light of the Netherlands referendum, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn also warned of further referendums regarding complex questions. "If someone wants to break Europe, then they just need to hold more referendums," he said, adding that the Netherlands referendum had mainly been used by Eurocritics as a domestic vote against Mark Rutte's government and the EU.

The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, has said the EU is on an open-ended “slippery slope.” The silent majority underestimated the danger, he warned, and called on EU politicians to show commitment. European Parliament President Martin Schulz urged the European Union on Tuesday not to underestimate the current threat to the 28-member bloc. The trust of many people ... Read More »

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