Ger­many’s SPD lead­ers urge sup­port for coali­tion deal with Merkel

Wary party mem­bers want more con­ces­sions

The Washington Post - - THE WORLD -

ber­lin — Ger­man So­cial Demo­cratic (SPD) lead­ers ap­pealed to party mem­bers Fri­day to swal­low their doubts and en­dorse an overnight deal to re­new a “grand coali­tion” with Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s con­ser­va­tives for an­other four years.

The deal eased months of un­cer­tainty that has un­der­mined Ger­many’s role as the Euro­pean Union’s piv­otal power, as the bloc con­fronts such ma­jor chal­lenges as Brexit, euro-zone re­form and im­mi­gra­tion, and ques­tions about Merkel’s fu­ture.

“The world will not wait for us,” a weary-look­ing Merkel said Fri­day morn­ing af­ter 25 hours of talks, which yielded a deal open­ing the way to for­mal ne­go­ti­a­tions on the de­tails.

But some in the wary SPD rank and file said the deal lacked suf­fi­cient con­ces­sions to the cen­ter­left party, which af­ter four years of a some­times awk­ward coali­tion with Merkel suf­fered its worst elec­tion re­sults since 1933 last Septem­ber.

Chris­tian Demo­cratic law­mak­ers greeted their leader with a round of ap­plause when she out­lined the ar­range­ment, which pledged closer co­op­er­a­tion with France to strengthen the euro zone and a crack­down on arms sales to coun­tries in con­flict zones.

But SPD lead­ers will have a harder time con­vinc­ing mem­bers that they should ap­prove the pact at a Jan. 21 party congress and again in a postal vote at the end of for­mal coali­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“The SPD got its way in many ar­eas,” se­nior SPD law­maker Hu­ber­tus Heil told pub­lic broad­caster RBB in what is likely to be the first of many such en­treaties to rank-and-file mem­bers in the com­ing week.

SPD Chair­man Martin Schulz was ad­dress­ing those mem­bers when, stand­ing along­side Merkel, he told re­porters that the out­line deal would pre­serve and strengthen Ger­many’s wel­fare state for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

“From the kinder­garten to the school, to the univer­sity and the work­place and then on into old age and care homes, we want to strengthen re­spect, op­por­tu­nity and sol­i­dar­ity, and bring th­ese sys­tems up to date,” he said.

The par­ties agreed to spend more on the E.U. — a long way short of Schulz’s am­bi­tion to cre­ate a “United States of Europe” by 2025. The SPD’s plan to cre­ate par­ity be­tween pri­vate and pub­lic health care was also miss­ing from the deal.

Pledges to spend more in poorer re­gions and al­low up to 1,000 fam­ily mem­bers each month to join refugees al­ready liv­ing in Ger­many also seemed de­signed to pla­cate SPD mem­bers dis­trust­ful of gov­ern­ing with Merkel again.

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