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Dec 11, 9:10 AM EST

Germany's Merkel presses for quick move toward new coalition


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BERLIN (AP) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed Monday for quick movement toward a new governing alliance with the main center-left party, saying that only such a coalition will bring the "stable government" needed at a challenging time for Europe.

Merkel stressed her interest in bolstering European unity and suggested that it could underpin a new "grand coalition" of Germany's biggest parties - her own conservative Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats.

The two sides will begin discussions Wednesday on a possible extension of their coalition of the past four years. But it is far from certain that a new alliance will come together.

Germany is on course to easily beat its previous record of 86 days - set in 2013 - for the time from an election to the swearing-in of a new government.

After their disastrous election result on Sept. 24, the Social Democrats said they would go into opposition. They reluctantly agreed to reconsider after Merkel's coalition talks with two smaller parties collapsed.

If they don't enter a coalition, the only possibilities would be an unprecedented minority government led by Merkel or a new election. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who alone has the power to dissolve parliament, has made clear he doesn't want a new election.

Germany's political impasse comes at a time when the European Union is considering how to shape its future after Britain's impending departure in 2019, and with French President Emmanuel Macron championing ambitious EU reform plans.

"I favor quick talks. And I think a stable government is the basis on which we can work best with France and for Europe," Merkel said after a meeting of her Christian Democratic Union's leadership.

"I am not exaggerating when I say that the world is waiting for us to be able to act," she told reporters.

Merkel argued that there is a window of opportunity to make decisions next year, ahead of European Parliament elections in 2019.

Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz, a former European Parliament president, last week suggested moving toward a federal "United States of Europe" by 2025, with countries that don't join up leaving the EU. Merkel has made clear that that goes too far for her, but also says there is much common ground on European matters.

The Social Democrats have stressed that the talks on a new Merkel government will be open-ended, and that they will also consider some kind of support for a conservative minority government. Any coalition deal would require endorsement by the party membership, which has shown little enthusiasm for joining a new government.

"A minority government would, in any case, of course not be a stable government," Merkel said.

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