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German SPD Leader Says Still 'Big Hurdles' to Clear in Coalition Talks

German SPD Leader Says Still 'Big Hurdles' to Clear in Coalition Talks”

Local media reported that negotiation teams have so far reached agreement on several sensitive topics, including climate targets and drafting a law to attract skilled immigrants.

According to the poll conducted by the Infratest institute and published by the business daily Handelsblatt on Thursday, 56 per cent see Merkel departing early, should she be re-elected chancellor by the Bundestag.

A big challenge in talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) is to find a way to mend the battered reputation of Germany's mighty auto industry after a diesel scandal and meet climate targets.

Michael Grosse-Broemer, head of the conservative group in parliament, told reporters he expected hard talks on the most sensitive issues on Thursday, but remained upbeat that a deal could be reached. Some SPD members are also concerned that a new grand coalition would make the AfD the main opposition party.

As Europe's largest economy and pre-eminent power broker, Germany is crucial to the region's fortunes.

Merkel, weakened by an election setback in September, turned to the left-leaning SPD to seek a re-run of their so-called "grand coalition" after the collapse in November of talks on a three-way coalition untested at national level.

Two of the toughest areas to agree on will be policies on taxes, euro zone reform, with the SPD stronger advocates of deeper integration, and migrants, especially over whether family members should be allowed to join asylum seekers in Germany.

Deputy Finance Minister Jens Spahn said on Twitter that the surplus had been "priced into" sums being discussed during the exploratory discussions.

Emerging from the talks, Christian Social Union (CSU) Secretary General Andreas Scheuer said, without giving specific details, that the parties had got some interim results but nothing was fixed.

Participants have described the negotiations as "good", but SPD leaders need to convince their party members and are offering them a vote on January 21 on whether to proceed.

RND also reported that the parties had agreed to expand fast internet around the country by 2025, an investment they expected to require up to 12 billion euros in public financing during this legislative period.

The parties further agreed on tax incentives to promote research and investment in digitalization, RND said.

Even if the coalition talks win backing at the SPD party conference, it would not be the end of the story. The SPD will ask members to vote on that.



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