'Big obstacles' still in the way in German coalition talks

Germany to cap yearly refugee arrivals at 220,000

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives (CDU-CSU) and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) plan to forge "a stable and effective government", according to a draft coalition deal seen by dpa.

SPD leaders, who need to convince their party members in a vote on January 21 on whether to proceed, are playing hardball.

The breakthrough brings her closer to a final agreement and a fourth term but several hurdles remain: formal talks bookended by two votes of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Schulz said the SPD would only agree to form a coalition if it was sure such a government would strengthen Europe, adding that his party would make suggestions on how to do that during Thursday's talks.

Party leaders worked through the night to sound out ways of removing the differences that would allow them to renew the "grand coalition" that's governed Germany for the past four years.

Opinion polls suggest most Germans are less than enthusiastic about a new conservative-SPD alliance, with a Focus magazine survey giving it just 30 percent support.

As the negotiations got underway, Merkel acknowledged there was a lot of work ahead, but said she was "optimistic" the parties could reach an agreement. Christian Lindner, the leader of the last party, a young looking middle aged narcissist, broke out of the talks, destroying Merkel's option to form the "Jamaica" coalition, named after the colors of the three political parties involved (black, green and yellow).

"She is tasked with putting together a government, and she hasn't done it", said Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund and a former presidential adviser.

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"So it's going to be a tough day", the chancellor said in a brief statement before joining leaders of the Social Democrats (SDP), along with her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (CSU) allies, for the exploratory round.

Germany has the lowest fiber-optic coverage in all of Europe.

"It's a good news for European integration, as France and other EU major countries are waiting for Germany to have opinions on it, and on some points like stronger European common budget, is really a big astonishment for me", Prof.

The two coalition partners agreed to the aim as part of their wider talks to form a new coalition government following last September's elections. Some fear further association with Merkel's chancellorship could erode the influence of the SPD which suffered the worst result in September's election since the modern Federal Republic was founded in 1949. That initially led Schulz to vow to head into opposition to rebuild the party's fighting spirit and voter appeal.

AfD leaders wasted no time tweeting their displeasure over the grand coalition deal and its first-ever cap on asylum seekers. But when those talks collapsed in November, she had to once more woo a reluctant SPD for a new power pact.

"Although I have to say, with the the exception of a small group of people around the president - and the president himself - the rest of Washington seems to by trying desperately to maintain relations with Europe and Germany on an even keel", he said.

Instead, they would aim to hit the 40 percent target in the early 2020s, the sources said, adding that both parties are still sticking to their goal of achieving a 55 percent cut in emissions by 2030.

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