Green leader: ‘Long way’ to go in talks to form German govt

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Green party co-leader Robert Habeck, leaves after talks with the SPD, FDP and Green party in Berlin, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. Germany’s center-left Social Democrats and two smaller parties said Thursday they will deepen their talks next week on forming a new government, as the leader of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bloc indicated his willingness to step aside following its election defeat. (AP Photo/Steffi Loos)

BERLIN (AP) — A Greens leader says the multiparty talks on forming a new German government have “a long way to go” and will have to bridge significant policy differences.

The center-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats held their first round of talks Thursday on a possible coalition. If they eventually succeed, the alliance would send outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Union bloc into opposition after her 16 years leading Europe’s biggest economy.

More discussions are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. But the process of putting together a new government can take weeks or months in Germany, and Merkel and her government will stay in a caretaker role in the meantime.

“We have a long way to go, and it will get very arduous,” Robert Habeck, one of the Greens’ two leaders, told Deutschlandfunk radio in an interview broadcast Saturday. “The public will see that there are some conflicts between the possible coalition partners.”

Habeck identified finance as a particularly difficult issue in the talks — including how to fund investments in fighting climate change and approaches for dealing with the debt that European Union countries have run up during the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent decades, the Free Democrats have mostly allied with the Union, while the Greens traditionally lean left. A three-way alliance with the Social Democrats has been tried successfully in Germany at the state level, but not yet in a national government.

If the negotiations result in a coalition, Social Democrat Olaf Scholz — the vice chancellor in Merkel’s outgoing government — would become Germany’s new leader.

The Union is in turmoil after Armin Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state, led the two-party bloc to its worst-ever election result in the Sept. 26 vote. Speculation about who will take over the leadership of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the dominant party, is in full swing after Laschet indicated his willingness to step aside.

Outgoing Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer — Laschet’s predecessor as CDU leader — and outgoing Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Saturday they won’t take up the parliamentary seats they won in the election. That will allow two younger CDU members from their Saarland region, Nadine Schoen and Markus Uhl, to take their place.

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