Germany’s budding coalition partners likely to move toward formal talks

BERLIN — The three political parties seeking to form the next German government signaled Tuesday that formal talks could start sooner than expected — a sign that the new coalition could be sworn in before year end.

Top deputies from the parties have been in exploratory talks for a potential “traffic light” coalition — with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the Green Party — since the weekend. In a press conference Tuesday, Michael Kellner of the Greens declared that “the amount of views we hold in common has grown, while the amount of differences has shrunk.”

While some issues remain difficult, the parties will quickly get ready for their next big meeting on Friday, added Kellner, the party’s secretary-general.

“Talking to each other in a polite and factual manner is one thing — turning what has been said into writing, on the other hand, is the moment of truth,” said his FDP counterpart Volker Wissing. He also pointed to Friday as the date for his party’s leaders to decide whether to proceed to formal talks.

This means formal coalition talks could begin as early as next week, making the formation of a new government under the SPD’s Olaf Scholz before Christmas a plausible scenario.

That outcome would be a sharp contrast with the exploratory coalition talks in 2017, which dragged on well into November before the FDP abruptly walked away from joining up with the CDU and Greens. This time, the parties decided to tackle the difficult and important files first.

“It’s a matter of talking about the things that … in the end are really big issues that need to be worked out,” said the SPD’s Lars Klingbeil. “Exploratory talks are different from coalition talks, but the way we’re handling these exploratory talks right now is very important for everything that can follow.”

All three declined to divulge the contents of their meetings, signaling only that the atmosphere was constructive. Asked by a journalist whether he thought a traffic light coalition has now become more likely, Klingbeil smiled. “As I just said, we’re on the right track,” he said.

Reported by POLITICO