German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has urged political parties to return to the negotiating table after coalition talks to form a new government collapsed on Sunday night. His comments come in the wake of the announcement by Free Democrats leader Christian Lindner that he was pulling his party out of the talks because of a failure to reach agreement over the issues of immigration and carbon emissions reductions.
Efforts to form a coalition government had been ongoing since elections in September resulted in a reduced majority for Angela Merkel’s CDU party, forcing it to look for coalition partners to build a stable government. The talks involved the centre-right CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, the liberal Free Democratic Party and the Greens. The Social Democrats, who had formed part of the previous government with CDU/CSU, ruled themselves out of another grand coalition after their poor showing in the elections. The deadline for the parties to come to an agreement past over the weekend despite a marathon negotiating session on Sunday night. On Monday morning Chancellor Merkel met with President Steinmeier to brief him on the failed talks.
“There would be incomprehension and great concern inside and outside our country, and particularly in our European neighbourhood, if the political forces in the biggest and economically strongest country in Europe of all places didn’t fulfil their responsibility,” Steinmeier said in a press conference after his meeting with Merkel.
Free Democrat leader Christian Lindner blamed a lack of trust among the negotiating parties for the breakdown of the talks. The main sticking points were the questions of immigration, which the conservative CSU wanted to see limited to 200,000 people per year and the closure of coal powered plants – a demand by the Greens that the FDP felt would damage Germany’s economic growth. Merkel’s options now include trying to coax the Social Democrats back into coalition, something that the SPD leader has sternly ruled out or attempting to form a minority government, perhaps with the Greens and counting on the support of other parties on specific votes. If these fall through and the FDP refuse to return to the negotiating table, fresh elections will have to be called for next year.