German Leaders Confident on New Gov't

German Leaders Confident on New Gov't

BERLIN (AP) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Social Democratic leader Martin Schulz said Friday they're confident they will be able to reach agreement on a new coalition government after working through the night to conclude negotiations on a basis for how the conservative and center-left parties can govern together.

In session that started Thursday morning and lasted more than 24 hours, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, the Bavarian-only Christian Social Union and the Social Democrats hammered out a 28-page document outlining their compromise positions on a wide range of issues, including taxes, migration and health care.

"I think we have achieved outstanding results," Schulz told reporters. "For us, what we have written in this preliminary agreement is not rhetoric, we mean it very seriously."

Schulz still faces the major hurdles of getting his party membership to approve entering formal coalition negotiations with Merkel's conservatives, as well as any coalition agreement, but said it was a good indicator of support that his 13-member negotiating team had decided unanimously to recommend going ahead with talks.

After the week of negotiations and the overnight session, an obviously tired Merkel told reporters that she too was now "optimistic that things will move forward" to forming a new coalition government.

"We are working seriously ... on creating the conditions to be able to live well in Germany in 10 or 15 years," she said.

"We dealt with questions of investment for the future," she added, pointing to education, digitalization, energy and construction as major issues.

Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union, added that if the Social Democrats give the green light, an agreement may be able to be reached before Easter with the current momentum.

"If we succeed, these could be four very, very good years — I am already speaking of these years because I believe we will succeed," Seehofer said.

Had the talks failed, Merkel's only options would have been to form a minority government or hold new elections. Despite the challenges ahead, the news buoyed markets and sent the euro to a three-year high of $1.2138.

Following a dismal result in Germany's Sept. 24 election, the Social Democrats initially vowed not to enter into another government with Merkel's conservatives, but reconsidered their position after the long-time chancellor's attempts to form a coalition with two smaller parties collapsed. There still remains much resistance to it within the party's membership, however.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier appealed to the negotiators Thursday to consider their responsibility toward Europe, not just their own parties and political futures.

Part of the agreement reached calls for increased German financing for the European Union so that it can strengthen its institutions.

"We have, in what feels like a long time since the election, seen that the world will not wait for us," Merkel said. "We are convinced that we need a new awakening for Europe."

"So I have no worries about us finding common solutions with France," she added.

(KA)