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Merkel Sees Germany Split Over Pace of Social Change

Merkel said she took seriously the voters’ mandate “especially when it comes to working on swiftly forming a stable government for Germany in the new year”
Angela MerkelAngela Merkel

Germans have rarely been so divided about the changes taking place in their society, the country’s long-time leader Angela Merkel said Sunday, adding in her New Year’s address that she is committed to helping tackle the challenges of the future by swiftly forming a new government.

Germany has been in political limbo since elections in September, which saw heavy losses for the centrist ‘grand coalition’ that has run the country since 2013. Merkel’s attempt to forge a new government with two smaller parties failed, forcing her to reach out to her erstwhile partners, the Social Democrats (SPD), again, AP reported.

Merkel acknowledged the concerns some in Germany have about the pace of social change, including the influx of asylum-seekers that saw many conservatives question her leadership. But she noted that others in Europe’s biggest economy, which has seen rapid growth and a continued fall in unemployment, are optimistic about the future.

“Some are even talking about a split that goes through our society,” she said of the differing views she’s heard over the past year.

Merkel said she took seriously the voters’ mandate “especially when it comes to working on swiftly forming a stable government for Germany in the new year,” citing among her priorities the need to safeguard prosperity, improve education and the use of digital technology, strengthen families and elderly care, even out regional imbalances and ensure security.

Exploratory talks are set to begin on January 7. SPD’s leader Martin Schulz has promised his party that he will include it at every step, so he wants to hold a congress to get the approval of party delegates before exploratory talks would progress into formal coalition talks.

The bigger hurdle, however, would come after that: The SPD’s 440,000 members will be allowed to vote on whether or not it should enter into another grand coalition. The general prognosis is that there is little chance of a new government being in place before Easter.

Merkel also reiterated the need for European countries to work together more closely and defend the continent’s external borders, pledging to work with France to “make Europe fit for the future.”

Addressing the increasingly tense debate in Germany that’s seen some political opponents describe her as a “traitor,” Merkel urged her countrymen to focus more on what they have in common, and to “respect each other more again.”

 

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