Merkel, Schulz reach deal for German coalition talks after all-night marathon
Posted January 12, 2018 5:24 a.m. EST
BERLIN (CNN) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her liberal rival Martin Schulz reached a deal Friday to begin coalition talks in a breakthrough that moves the country one step closer to a new government after months of political deadlock.
The agreement, reached after 24 hours of exploratory talks that stretched through the night, should pave the way for negotiations between the Bundestag's two biggest parties to resume the "grand coalition" that has governed the country for eight of the past 12 years.
Speaking at a joint press conference on Friday morning with Schulz, the leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party, Merkel hailed the deal as a "new start for Germany."
"We've been here for 24 hours and I wasn't sure we would succeed," Merkel said. "I knew it would be difficult. But we carried out the talks in spirit of finding a solution."
SPD party members still need to formally approve coalition talks before they can begin. If that happens, it could still take several more months of negotiations before a new government would be in place.
Friday's development will come as a relief for Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union / Christian Social Union alliance, which remains the country's largest party but was left weakened and unable to form a government following a disastrous showing in September elections.
But party leaders were in a buoyant mood on Friday morning. Schulz admitted to "turbulent moments" during the talks, but said negotiators "never faced the risk of failure".
"We want to ensure economic and political power for Germany is put towards creating a stronger Europe," he added.