Merkel Under Pressure for Quick Talks

Merkel Under Pressure for Quick Talks

BERLIN (AP) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel faced pressure from inside her conservative bloc Sunday to aim for a quick coalition deal with center-left rivals without conceding too much ground on core issues such as immigration.

Talks between Merkel's conservative bloc and two smaller parties to form a previously untried coalition collapsed a week ago. Merkel's partners in the outgoing government, the center-left Social Democrats, initially refused to consider a repeat but said Friday they're open to holding talks.

If Merkel can't put together a coalition, the only options would be a minority government or a new election, months after the Sept. 24 vote.

On Sunday, the youth wing of Merkel's Union bloc published a resolution stating that the conservatives must not enter a coalition "at any price." Its leader, Paul Ziemiak, said any deal must contain recognizable conservative policies, particularly on migration and public finances.

Merkel's conservatives have pushed to curb migrant flows and are keen to ensure that Germany sticks to a balanced budget.

Negotiations "should be viewed as failed" if there is no deal by Christmas and the conservatives should instead aim for an unprecedented minority government, the resolution said.

It remains to be seen what party leaders will make of the proposed timetable, which looks unrealistic. Meanwhile, Merkel's outgoing Cabinet remains in office on a caretaker basis.

The Social Democrats, smarting from a disastrous result in September, have made clear they would demand a high price for cooperating again with Merkel's Union bloc.

"As things stand, Merkel is not in a position in which she can set conditions," prominent Social Democrat Malu Dreyer told the daily Trierscher Volksfreund on Saturday.

Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper that her caretaker government won't take decisions that could bind its successor's hands on "major political questions." That includes French President Emmanuel Macron's proposals for reforming the European Union.

Altmaier said the "constructive restraint" applies to "all European questions" as well as domestic matters, but said Berlin's position on Brexit won't be affected.