Angela Merkel has been unable to form a working coalition government since Germany went to the polls on September 24 with both the SPD and Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) as well as its sister party the CSU losing support.
After the collapse of forming a Jamaica coalition in a three-way coalition with two smaller parties failed Mrs Merkel has been forced to make overtures to her main political rivals lead by Martin Schulz, who had previously ruled out forming an alliance.
SPD leader Martin Schulz said after party board discussions in Berlin: “Regarding the formation of a new government, there was broad support for not ruling any option out.”
Mr Schulz, who held talks late on Thursday with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, mrs Merkel and her Bavarian ally Horst Seehofer, denied he had agreed to another grand coalition.
Mr Schulz said: “I can clearly deny the media report about me having given the green light for grand coalition negotiations. This is simply wrong,” adding that the report appeared to be based on sources within Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU bloc.
He added that whoever circulated such reports was damaging trust.
Ties between the SPD and conservatives – still sharing power in a caretaker capacity – have already been strained this week after a conservative minister backed extending the use of a weedkiller at the European Union level against the SPD’s wishes and without its prior knowledge.
Mr Schulz said: “We have a lot of options for building a government. We should talk about each of these options. That’s exactly what I will propose to the party leadership on Monday.”
The SPD will hold a party congress in Berlin on December 7-9, where it is expected to debate its options.
CDU manager Klaus Schueler said: “It’s now up to the SPD to provide clarity.
“The fact that we underlined today that we are prepared to enter such talks with the SPD shows that we’re aiming to bring these talks to a successful conclusion.”
Another senior member of Merkel’s CDU, Mike Mohring, said he was hopeful for an eventual grand coalition and expected a new government to be formed by March.
He told Reuters: “The way for a grand coalition has been paved,” after taking part in a teleconference where Merkel had briefed the federal board of the CDU on Thursday night’s talks with Schulz and the president.
Mr Schulz, a former president of the European Parliament, has said he wants changes in Germany’s approach to the European Union and in economic and social policy.
In an interview with Der Spiegel magazine, Schulz said the SPD backed French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for closer eurozone integration, including a new finance minister for the currency bloc – ideas that face resistance from conservatives.
Mr Schulz was quoted as saying: “Giving Emmanuel Macron a positive answer will be a key element in every negotiation with the SPD,” adding that he also backed a joint EU tax policy.