Germany’s SPD debates Merkel deal

Leaders of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) are meeting to discuss forming a coalition government with conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mrs Merkel’s centre-right bloc won recent elections but fell short of a parliamentary majority.

The centre-left SPD is expected to demand a national minimum wage as part of any negotiations.

The party also wants to move away from tough austerity measures and focus more on growth and job creation.

In 2005-2009 the SPD formed a “grand” coalition with Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian allies the CSU. But correspondents say the experience has made them wary about working with the CDU/CSU again.

About 200 leaders and senior party members were attending Sunday’s talks.

An internal SPD document seen by Reuters says the party will insist that 10 demands are non-negotiable.

They include a minimum wage of 8.50 euros (£7) per hour, equal pay for men and women, greater investment in infrastructure and education, and a common strategy to boost eurozone growth and employment.

The party will also demand equal pensions for the elderly in the former West and East Germany and measures to make it easier to combine work with family life, Reuters reported.

SPD Chairman Sigmar Gabriel, centre, says he will honour his election pledges

No mention is made of tax increases for the wealthiest, which the SPD had campaigned on during September’s election.

Allies of Chancellor Merkel have said they could live with a minimum wage but not with the higher taxes.

A draft of the declaration that SPD Chairman Sigmar Gabriel will ask SPD leaders to sign on Sunday says the party “agrees to enter formal coalition talks with the intention of forming a government”.

If he secures party backing, talks on coalition policies and cabinet posts would begin on Wednesday and could last more than a month.

The BBC’s Stephen Evans in Berlin says it will be interesting to see if the SPD pushes for the post of finance minister in any new government, as the post is currently filled by the CDU’s Wolfgang Schaeuble, seen as the driver of Germany’s tough economic policy.

Mrs Merkel’s previous coalition ally, the Free Democrats, failed to win any seats in September leaving Mrs Merkel seeking a new partner.

Her options narrowed last week when the Greens announced that talks with the CDU/CSU had failed.

At the polls on 22 September, the CDU/CSU took about 41.5% of the vote, the SPD won 26%, the former communist Left Party 8.6% and the Greens 8.4%.