- POSTED: 11 Oct 2013 03:40
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Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the Greens Thursday agreed to continue talks on a potential coalition, even as both sides voiced scepticism such an odd couple could jointly govern Germany.
BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the Greens Thursday agreed to continue talks on a potential coalition, even as both sides voiced scepticism such an odd couple could jointly govern Germany.
Their first exploratory meeting came almost three weeks after Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian allies the CSU triumphed in September 22 elections but fell just short of a ruling majority.
Merkel is already engaged in talks with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), who are widely seen as the more likely ally. But on Thursday the conservatives made clear they are keeping their options open.
Emerging from three hours of closed-door talks in Berlin, all three parties praised the constructive spirit of the talks and said they would meet again next Tuesday at 1500 GMT, a day after the second round of SPD talks with Merkel's delegation.
CDU general secretary Hermann Groehe said the negotiating partners had found they shared "common goals" in areas such as eurozone policy, Germany's shift from nuclear to renewable power and social integration, but he also noted "considerable differences" in how to achieve them.
He said all three parties therefore found "it makes sense and is necessary" to keep talking.
The Bavarian CSU's Alexander Dobrindt, one of the biggest critics of the left-leaning Greens, noted that "the distance between the Greens and us is a little bigger than between the SPD and us", but said this made a second round all the more important.
The Greens' Cem Ozdemir spoke of a "positive atmosphere, a friendly mood ... with the necessary seriousness" in the talks on how to govern the world's number-four economy.
"We are not getting through"
But he also said that the Greens had found that on some issues "we are not getting through", and that combating climate change and other topics had not yet been touched on.
Merkel in her first two terms already ruled with two coalition partners -- the SPD and then the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) who crashed out of parliament in the last election.
Some observers say that the famously pragmatic Merkel may be tempted to woo a third partner, the Greens, in her third term -- although the alternative view says she would prefer a far more stable coalition with the SPD.
An Emnid institute poll this week found 46 per cent support for a grand coalition and 22 per cent backing for a conservatives-Greens tie-up. However, asked which scenario was more likely, 79 per cent named a grand coalition and only nine per cent an alliance with the Greens.
Either way, the CDU had signalled it is serious about talking to the Greens, not just playing them against the bigger SPD to gain leverage.
The Greens, meanwhile, have been badly torn about a power pact with Merkel, which the party's "fundamentalist" wing regards as the ultimate betrayal of Green ideals.
The Greens, who grew out of the environmentalist, anti-war and anti-nuclear movements, entered parliament in the 1980s, many wearing sneakers and long hair and handing out sunflowers.
But what started as a protest party has become increasingly mainstream as German society has turned greener.
Many of the Greens' demands, such as greater rights for gays and lesbians and immigrants, are now widely shared, at least in theory. Millions now recycle their garbage, shop organic, ride bicycles to work and have solar panels on their roofs.
The Greens have already had a stint in government, with the SPD from 1998-2005, during which the once avowedly pacifist party signed off on Germany's military deployment to Afghanistan.
Merkel in 2011 adopted the Greens' core demand of a nuclear phase-out, reacting to the public mood after Japan's Fukushima disaster.
Environment Minister Peter Altmaier told this week's news magazine Der Spiegel that "the chances of a coalition with the Greens have risen in recent days from 'theoretical' to 'conceivable'".