Merkel to start coalition talks next week


FRANKFURT • German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she’ll begin exploratory coalition talks next week with the Greens and the pro-market Free Democrats, the first step toward a possible new government for Europe’s biggest economy.

Just over two weeks after winning a fourth term, Merkel plans to start on Oct 18 with what’s likely to be a complex negotiation with two smaller parties on setting up a coalition that’s untested at the national level. She cleared the way on Sunday night by reaching a compromise within her Christian Democratic led bloc on limiting refugee numbers.

“I think this will give us momentum pretty quickly,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin yesterday. “We found a classic compromise.”

The deal on refugees includes the goal of limiting net annual migration to Germany, including asylum seekers, to 200,000. It’s a partial concession by Merkel to her Christian Social Union sister party in Bavaria, which stepped up demands for a refugee cap after the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party won parliamentary seats in the Sept 24 election.

Merkel’s shift on refugees is the first policy fallout from Germany’s election. AfD won 12.6%, becoming the first farright party to enter the Bundestag, or lower house, since the immediate aftermath of World War II.

Merkel said she’ll hold separate talks with the smaller parties on Oct 18, followed by a first full meeting on Oct 20. Before that, a regional election in Lower Saxony on Sunday will offer all parties the first gauge of support since the national vote.